It’s often you hear people say, “I’m working on who I am,” but how often do you hear someone say “I’m working to understand WHY I am the way I am?”
With 32 years of life under my belt, I finally feel as though I have a good grasp on WHO I am. I’m a daughter to two wonderful human beings. I’m a giving and attentive girlfriend to a wonderful man. I’m a friend to some really freakin amazing women. I’m a mommy to the cutest fur baby in the entire world (though I may be biased!). I love the feeling of a workout that makes me want to pass out (maybe I’m a bit of a masochist as well?!). I’m career-minded and driven as hell. I’ve built walls thanks to some painful past experiences. Despite those times, I have a resilient and loving heart. I can be fiercely independent (sometimes out of necessity rather than choice) and I strive for greatness in all aspects of life.
But the real question is – WHY am I the way I am?
I’ve given a lot of consideration to this lately. And I think I may know the answer. A little background…
Growing up, I was extremely close to my maternal Grandmother. Lillian – a spitfire redhead (whom my Grandfather so kindly nicknamed “Red” even though she hated it…), raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan was quite possibly one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever know (tied with my own Mom, naturally). I truly could go on and on about all the reasons we all loved her so – but for the sake of brevity, I’ll say that I believe a majority of why I am the way I am, is because of her.
As I was approaching college graduation, my Grandma (Grammy as I loved to call her) asked me what I wanted. Most of my friends were asking for money, new cars, wardrobes for their new careers, a place to live if said career didn’t pan out… but not me.
I asked for letters.
“Write me letters, Grammy.”
“About what, Madela?”
“Everything. Write to me about growing up. Write to me about your love story with Poppy. Write to me about how you felt when Mommy was born. When I was born. Write to me about how it felt to lose Poppy after more than 50 years. Just write to me.”
And write, she did.
It was just this week that I decided to take down my memory box I store all things of sentimental value – and pulled out the one and only letter my Grammy wrote to me.
After reading it, I have no doubts about WHY I am the way I am. I am me, because she was she.
“My little Jenny asked me to write. So here I shall.
Born in the early 1900’s on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, NY. My parents were immigrants, my mother came from Russia and my father came from Lithuania. I remember living in a tenement house where the toilet was in the hall. We had electricity but we also had a coal stove to cook on.
My father died when I was very young, 12 years of age and my mother though she had no skills did not go to work, as she was not a citizen of the USA and could not read, so she depended on her brothers to support her.
We moved to Brooklyn when I was 13 years old and decided then that I was going to excel in my schoolwork. My favorite subject was math and then I decided to become a bookkeeper. I married young, but because of Pearl Harbor my husband was drafted into The Army. I took a position working at the NY Port of Embarkation for the US Army.
After the war and having 3 children to raise, I decided to make something of myself. When my youngest was 12 I went back to work and together with my husband we started saving money and built up our nest egg. I believed working was good for ones mind and self respect.
My motto is to be accomplished even in old age. Keep the mind going, don’t become lackadaisical. Give a good appearance of one’s self, be friendly and make a living based upon accomplishments. At present, though I am in my late 70s, I am still active as Editor and Vice President of my temple’s newsletter. I am respected, acknowledged by the congregants and am happy that in my latter years, I keep myself active and enjoy my family and friends. I am a grandmother of 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.”
I hope reading this inspires you to find out why you are the way you are, and I hope your journey is also full of love and wonderful memories.