By Troy Headrick
If you read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a book I’ve alluded to in at least one other piece, you’ll see that “Book 1” is a collection of acknowledgements and thank yous. For example, Aurelius lists family members, friends, “the gods,” and others in this opening chapter. He thanks each one of these individuals and entities for helping him learn, grow, mature, and become the person he is.
As I’m writing this, I’m reminded that tomorrow is the last day of October. That means Thanksgiving (if you’re an American and living in America) is just around the corner. In a sense, we’re approaching the time of year when we’re supposed to do what Aurelius did in his “Book 1.” We’re obliged to reflect on everything we have to be grateful for, including those individuals that have played pivotal roles in our lives.
I consider this blog to be the first in a series of “thank you” pieces. Like Aurelius, I’d like to identify people who’ve helped shape me and to thank them. I don’t think we do that sort of thing nearly enough. I don’t think we spend adequate time and energy remembering those influential others and showing appreciation for how they nurtured us. If the “self” is simply a construct, then it is at least partly built from those who’ve helped us become who we are.
The first person I’d like to thank is my mother, Joanne. We have not always seen eye to eye, and in fact, we’ve often had something of a tumultuous relationship. Despite this fact, I will very happily admit that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her wonderful influence, especially during my earliest years.
My mother finished high school and that was it. She never enrolled in a college or university, but she is one of the most well-read people I’ve ever known. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that she’s read as many books—both fiction and nonfiction—as your average tenured professor. There is almost no subject she isn’t interested in and unable to discuss in a learned way.
So I grew up around books and witnessed my mother read them as voraciously as a person starved for information and wisdom. This certainly made an impact. Because she had such a strong influence on me at that time, I absolutely learned to believe that reading was something a person had to do, no ifs, ands, or buts. In my mind, there seemed to be almost no difference between having an empty bookshelf and an empty refrigerator. Both would likely mean that a person would end up going hungry.
I am also told that when I was an infant, the woman who gave birth to me would carry me around the house and show me things—she’d point at a flower or at tree bark or at a toaster—and tell me the names of these things. She would have me touch them and smell them. She’d talk about their colors and their uses. In this way, I began to understand words and how they worked. Without words, none of these objects could be named or spoken about.
When I look at the person I am now, I see my mother’s influence everywhere. I am so blessed to have been born to a woman who helped me observe deeply and get started trying to make sense of things.
Mom, I know I haven’t said this nearly enough to you in recent years, but I love you for all the ways you encouraged me and helped me become the person I am today.
Is there someone you’d like to say thank you to? If so, why not take this opportunity to do so?
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.