Despite both having grown up in Phoenix, AZ, attending the same high school (and soon the same college!), and being raised by extremely well-educated, liberal parents, my boyfriend, Alex, and I grew up pretty differently. That’s not to say that there weren’t many similarities, such as those listed above, but I believe that we were raised to have different ideals.
Alex told me that upon choosing a college his parents said to him, “It’s really important to always show up. This is when it counts,” to which Alex replied, “I’ve shown up for pre-k, elementary school, high school…when is it okay to not show up?” And that’s a pretty great insight into his upbringing.
Walking into Alex’s home, everything is in its place. The interior is modern and everything matches. The walls and shelves are decorated with various family photos from over the years, allowing me a glimpse into what he was like as a child. My home on the other hand, is a mix of modern art and historic charm. While our house is far from cluttered, it does have a lived-in feel, which most people find inviting. Our walls and shelves are covered with paintings, sculptures, pottery, and photography, with a small shelf in the corner of my parents’ bedroom filled with our family photos. Alex had no idea what I looked like when I was young until I pulled out old photos to show him.
Now, back to his original question: when is it okay to not show up? The truth is I don’t know the perfect answer, but I’d like to think I was raised on the right track.
I wasn’t ever someone who loved school. I was good at it, and completely understood why education was important, but I didn’t love attending. And when I was young, my parents didn’t always make me. If I had a show or a conference or needed a mental health day, I was always allowed to take one, with the assumption that I would make up whatever work I missed. For me, it wasn’t so much not showing up as it was choosing my opportunities. I feel lucky that I was allowed to make many of those choices. My parents treated me with respect and never made me feel less-than, which is something I will definitely strive to do with my own children someday. In turn, I’m still ridiculously close with both of my parents.
Alex has a great sense of what’s right and what’s important, which is part of what I love most about him. He’s extremely smart and rational and always thinks things through before taking action, which is something I lack. He’s also in tune with others emotions almost constantly, which is another thing I often struggle with. Despite how much he complains about the lack of choices he currently has, I tend to feel that his parents did a pretty great job.
As far as showing up goes, I don’t think anyone gets it totally right. Sometimes I don’t show up enough, sometimes Alex too much. But regardless of that, we found each other in the same place, somehow making up for what each other lacks. And for that, we can only thank our parents.