Why didn't I recognize the failings of my parents sooner?
Well, upon reflection I see that children of my generation were conditioned to never question the odd things our parents did or said. My father set himself in the family as the final authority on all matters. He was equal to God. As children, we were told in no uncertain terms that God gave him his patriarchal authority. Because of that, he was infallible, like his God. As children, disobeying our father was tantamount to disobeying God.
Nevertheless, there were some things we took for granted as children. As farmers, we had plenty of food year round. My parents had approximately an acre of garden space and fresh food was bountiful all summer. When winter arrived, we had much food preserved to see us through till spring. Also, we had plenty of firewood to keep our furnace stoked all night. My father saw that our home was always toasty warm through the perishing-cold Manitoba winters. He enlisted the help of my brothers to keep a large supply of wood on hand. In fact, we had cords of wood stacked directly behind our house. We also had a "wood room" in our basement, which was well stocked during winter months. The wood was chopped, dry, and ready for the furnace, as needed.
Clothing was an issue that divided our family into "boys" and "girls." It seemed that it was more important to clothe the boys because they worked harder on the farm than any girl could. Especially me, because my interests were more creative. I preferred to write, draw, dance, sing, or play the piano — like was I in the wrong family??? My parents always emphasized there was no money to be made in those trivial pursuits which I found so alluring. Therefore, boys were more valuable, according to my father. Mom usually sewed our clothes, at least while we were young. I always had to wait until my brothers were clothed before Mom would outfit me. Sometimes Mom remodeled a piece of clothing that the neighbors handed down, which their children had outgrown. The neighbors noticed and responded to our need, especially after our house burned down. As I got older, Mom taught me how to sew. As a result, I began to sew my own clothes out of recycled cloth. For example, I would cut the bottoms off of long, full, ruffled skirts or dresses. Often that was enough to create an entirely new outfit — a dress, perhaps. In high school, I took the home economics program and sewed myself a new skirt one year and a new jumper the next year. "Every bit counts!" That seemed to be my parents' definition of financial health. They took great pride in their resourcefulness, as a kind of compensation for being cash poor.
So, when you grow up feeling devalued, how do you rise to that challenge? Some people become aggressive and set out to prove their parents are "wrong." Unfortunately, I was too brainwashed to question that concept until many years later — well after I had entered the work force.
Fortunately, I elected to learn typing in high school by enrolling in a business program. Yes, the high school education system in Manitoba offered subjects in basic accounting, shorthand, business practices, and typing back then. Now, at great cost, students must attend a business school, a college, or a university to obtain what used to be taught freely in high school. As a result, I became a brilliant typist — I was top of my class. Once my father knew I could type like a demon, he enlisted me to type all of his business letters and opinion editorials. He had many strong opinions — did I tell you?
I can laugh about it now. My father, no matter how gruff and grouchy he was, secretly appreciated my brilliant office skills. He never complained or criticized these, as he could find no fault. My work was consistently professional and impeccably polished.
So, when I left high school, I always knew I could make a living using my typing and business skills. And I did just fine with those skills. I maintained my own apartment for many years on my administrative and creative projects income. At last I had my own financial health — an improvement over that of my parents.
Then, Microsoft computers appeared on the business scene. After I divorced my first husband, I found myself temping in Saskatoon after a move from Lethbridge, Alberta. I learned that the agency offered free classes for their staff to become proficient users in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher. The temp agency had good business sense, ensuring continuous business for themselves as a credible supplier of cutting edge, computer-savy users. I signed up every spare chance I could to sharpen my computer skills. In a short time, I succeeded in obtaining a couple of certificates in proficiency. Those skills helped me land a permanent job in a research venture at the University. That served me well until lately, when I had a longing to advance my skills again. This time I wanted to learn the Adobe Creative Suite of programs (CS5) in order to lay out print materials and build websites, among other things. Well, I successfully accomplished that goal within two years. As a result, I gained wonderful experience in producing books, catalogs, newsletters, posters, conference programs, business cards and stationery — and even some art!
So, again, I believe that once we are adults, we can sift through the beliefs about money to eliminate thinking errors put upon us by our parents. When I think about my folks, it is easy to understand why they thought the way they did. They survived the great depression — the "dirty thirties" — and as a result they believed life would be difficult and they would live poorly. On the other hand, they were diligent to ensure their children had a better life. Yes, even for me, the one girl in a family of six brothers, I grew up with a strong work ethic!
Certainly now as adults, we face some of the same challenges that our parents did. Nevertheless, I believe all the lessons we learn as children provide the exact experience that we need to live this life fully. Success is assured if we remain true to our soul's yearnings.
When I write about the "soul's yearnings" indeed I realize that financial success depends on all the other factors such as spiritual health, physical health, as well as mental and emotional health being in balance.
Thankfully, I am learning to follow my heart and soul on all levels to my next adventures. After all, my soul is in charge!
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