Adrian Stobbe

Exploring my childhood distortions

5 minutes (1167 words)

I avoid thinking of my past, I rather look forward. I am avoidant, because I believe I did not spent my time well. My past feels empty, when I hear other people talking about their childhood. I also don’t remember so much. What was I thinking, what were my dreams when I was 10? I don’t really know. I have a hard time accessing old memories. Photos are a key to unlock them, specific questions can trigger them. But they are deeply hidden behind my preconceived, negative notion of my childhood.

A video from the School of Life made me question my view. Childhood shapes how we see the world. It shapes how we feel about relationships, work, love, self-esteem, strangers, friends, happiness and so much more. Over time we acquire expectations and patterns from these experiences and it becomes hard to change. Since our early experiences are mostly limited to a very small environment, mostly our parents, we however have a very isolated view on the world and likely get a partially wrong understanding of what is normal. The School of life phrases these departures from reality as distortions. Motivated to find my childhood distortions, I took some time today in the morning to dig deeper into my memories - to explore how my young life shaped me.

I was suprised how I could connect to the past by just sitting alone in the sun and thinking without distractions. I surfaced how I got to be conforming, passive at times,introverted and my distortion of friendships.

I got to relish memories of my short but great time at my first secondary school. I laughed so much and fooled around with my old friend Nico. I remembered my old teacher. Being a teacher was more than just making us learn the school curriculum to her. She was full of love and dedicated to make us feel like a big family. Yet I changed schools after moving away to the outskirts of Berlin. I remember that it was a tough choice for me. On my last day, our social pedagogue took me to the side and reflected with me on the time we spent as class together and asked how I was feeling. I got very emotional and I believe to remember how besides my two best friends, Natalie and Lena (pardon, if I got your name wrong :/) hugged me and weeped tears when saying farewell. On my way home that day, I was super sad and was sure to come back to see them again. Yet I never went back. Why? I thought of going back several times afterwards. On the first opportunity, a free day in my federal state, I did not go. My mom discouraged me, because she suggested to let go and focus on my new friendships. It’s not fair to only blame her, in the end I was probably also a bit lazy and anxious about how it might me. Time passed and I still thought about it in several occasions, but I was too ashamed already for not coming back earlier and eventually gave up. I regret this a lot today. I reached out to my old class today, after more than 10 years. It might be too late, but I can’t turn back time.

My mom convinced me to change schools to find friends at my new home and how I could fullfill my dream to learn Spanish at the new school. Today I would have made my decision differently. I can see know that my mom just did not put much importance on relationships. That’s why she was not supportive about keeping my old friends. She thought practically. I think my parents notion of friendship shaped mine a lot.

I always had friends but we never got really close. On many weekends, my parents would say why don’t you meet with friends. I think video games had their fair share on this, but I am not sure if my introverted nature was always the reason for this or that a lack of deeper connection shaped me to desire to have time for myself today. What do I mean by deeper connection? I almost never felt like sharing feelings or personal struggles.

I did not learn it at home. Talk at home was factual and unemotional. My parent’s never had a strong dispute in front of me, they never expressed discontent. They are problem avoidant. I got to believe that showing myself vulnerable and talking about problems would come off as whiny and self-pitying. I grew thick skin and isolated in my own little world.

I realize that my young childhood friends were dominant to express their opionions and to talk a lot. I think this made me repress myself more and devote more energy to listenting and being nice. A lot of people have described me as nice. Last year, someone even described me as the most polite person he got to know. I think this comes from my notion to always be nice and positive on the outside and to repress and hide the rest. This might make a good impression on new people, but I think it was also a barrier to building emotional friendships. By not showing myself vulnerable and just presenting the good side, I maybe did not make it feel safe to share. With one friend I even got to talk about it and she confirmed that I come off a bit cold and distant.

I built a reputation to be the nice, obedient boy and that’s why I kept acting like it. Being who others expect me to be. I have changed my beliefs and want to have a fluid personality today. But stepping out of my old image with people I know since many years is still a struggle.

I see know why I tend to be passive with old friends and in groups. Compared to other children, I spent a lot of time being with older people: my parents friends and our neighbors. I was always submissive to let them lead and talk when asked. I think it impacted me to make it my automatic response to such situations, but I know this behavior is not set in stone. In fact, my brother who went through the same became very talkative in such settings.

I still have many more thoughts on this, but I see this as the beginning of acknowledging and understanding my past. I have grown as a person and feel that I am living a more fullfilling and richer life today, but my childhood shaped who I am today. My superficial view made me blind to see the nice memories and how my experiences impacted me. I think this happens a lot. We form a notion and feeling about something, a much more simplified version of reality though, and then we don’t dig deeper. This is yet another thing we can learn from children. They don’t yet have preconceived notions and opinions. They are genuinely curious. I want to be more of a child again and unlearn the patterns of my distortions.