We just came back from a mountain bike ride. The bikes were covered in mud. The sun was slowly drying up the mud that was on my legs, and the coffee on my side seemed to be heating up instead of cooling down. My dad’s coffee was on the other side of the coffee table, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was already cleaning up the bikes and checking the breaks.
His coffee remained untouched for about an hour, whilst he was fixing the bikes and making sure they were ready for use the next time we’d go for a bike ride. “What a waste of a perfectly fine cup of coffee,” I thought to myself. “He always does this…” I thought, but then I smiled. I realized something that instantly changed my entire relationship with my dad, not just my dad but my both of my parents.
They Tried to Control My Life, and I Hated It
“I just don’t understand why you don’t want to finish college?” My dad said furiously. “You are all caught up in your dreams! Be realistic for once.” He added, without giving me a chance to respond. All I could do was be silent. I had just poured out my heart, by sharing my deepest fears, and biggest dreams with my parents. I wanted to quit college to pursue my dream as a writer and storyteller. I shared with them my fear of them getting angry with me, and I also shared the reason behind this dream.
I had been writing and telling stories on the internet for more than 4 years then, and a small group of people was religiously following me. They have been the reason I do all of this. One simple message made all clear. That message went something like this:
“Thank you so much Daan, for the message your share, and the lovely check-ins you do. You have truly helped me with my life, you and your stories have made a difference for me. They made me feel alive”
Just three lines of text, but those are three lines of text that capture the essence of why I do what I do. I do it to help people feel alive. It’s the reason behind my dream, it’s why I wanted to quit college. I see a potential far greater than a college degree. My parents didn’t see that opportunity, they didn’t believe in that dream.
Our conversation lasted for almost another hour, in which we didn’t get any further in our argument. I still wanted to pursue my dream, and my parents still wanted me to finish college and get a steady job. To me it felt like they were trying to control my life, to them, it felt like I was being irresponsible and unrealistic. The conversation ended and I didn’t have the guts to quit college. I didn’t want to upset my parents, because I knew that that would be the rudest thing I could do towards them. They paid for my college, they made sure I had food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in, and far more than I could ever desire.
I didn’t leave college, instead, I continued for two more years. Which became an agony. Because I didn’t quit college that day, because I chose to push on, a feeling of resentment and anger towards my parents grew. My relationship with them was clouded because of the hate within me. I felt locked in a cage. On the one hand, I wanted to quit college and pursue my dream. On the other hand, I knew that I couldn’t do it without my parents to support me. I knew that this was gonna be a tough journey and I wanted them to be there with me.
Sometimes there is no other option than go for it.
When the end of college came into view I once more had the thought about pursuing my dream. I wanted to quit college again just months before graduating. Again I stepped up to my parents and told them what was going on within me. Yet again we got into a fight, we clashed, we got mad at one another. Yet again I decided to continue, acting like nothing was going on, acting like everything was fine. But on the inside, the resentment grew even larger. They became monsters in my head. Just weeks before I graduated I made the decision. I gave them two options. Either they’d allow me to work on my dream for a year at home, or I’d find a place for my own and leave home.
A drastic choice because I know how much they love me. Forcing me out of the house would have made our relationship even harder. My resentment would grow, and their feeling of guilt and also anger would grow. We would drift apart. I knew that, and they knew that. So they decided to give me a chance. We are now well into that year. I am working on my dream, but something within me hadn’t been resolved yet. Something within me was still clouding our relationship and my experience of life. I knew it had something to do with my parents. Yet I didn’t know exactly what it was.
We Don’t Understand
It was not until last week when I watched my father clean the mountain bikes that I realized what it was that was picking away on me. The feeling of resentment, but also fear was still there. Even though they gave me the chance to pursue my dream I still feared that at any moment we would get back to where we were. They would be mad at me, we would get in a fight, and I would leave home. That fear hadn’t left me. It was still there, and just like any other fear that we don’t release, it will pull you down. Any fear that stays unresolved is a weight attached to our legs, it stunts our growth and our enjoyment of life.
Any fear that stays unresolved is a weight attached to our legs, it stunts our growth and our enjoyment of life.
I wanted to find out what this was, but like anything that we pursue to resolve, it only floated away further out of my reach. Instead of resolving it the feeling of anger and fear remained. It numbed my senses. I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand my parents. That was what this entire problem was about. I didn’t want to understand where they were coming from. In my eyes, they were trying to control my life. I never placed myself in their perspective.
Placing ourselves in someone else’s perspective requires us to let go of everything we believe. That’s scary. We’d rather not do it, because what if their perspective would be the right one? What would that mean? We would have to admit that we were wrong and that would make us feel bad about ourselves. Being confronted with a mistake is always painful, especially if your personality is deeply attached to it.
“Our parents never want to control our lives”
As with any truth in life, it’s often hard to accept, it’s often painful to see the truth. In this case, the truth was, that my parents never wanted to control my life. They weren’t the monster I made them out to be in my head. All of those beliefs came crumbling down like a brick wall that was smashed with a sledgehammer. When I watched my dad clean our mountain bikes that crumbling began, the bricks were falling one by one as I slowly sipped away at my coffee. I couldn’t take my eyes off what he was doing. It became clear to me that I had never understood where they came from.
So where do all of our parents come from? Why do our parents, almost always, try to control our lives. Or at least why do we feel like they do this.
What Changed Me
All our parents want for us, at least most do, is that we are happy, that we are safe, and that they do not have to worry about us anymore. They love us, they want to protect us from any harm. They try to control our lives because they try to protect us from uncertainty, which to them is a potential threat to the health of their kids. All they try to do is protect us, they are just following their parental instincts. All of this makes it sound really static and straightforward. But what it comes down to is that your parents love you. Ever thought about that?
“All our parents want is for us to be happy. All they know how to do that is for you to follow their life path. But times change. Life changes and those choices they made are different now.”
Well, I knew they loved me, but I never looked at all the things they did for me out of love. We forget this as teenagers, as kids, we try to live our own life. We want to make our own choices, and those will often clash with the choices of our parents. That’s totally normal. That’s okay. What’s not okay is resenting them, hating them, or being angry with them. Why? Because it makes you dull to the beautiful experiences you can share together. It makes you unconsciously resist so many beautiful experiences in your life.
All our parents want is for us to be happy. All they know how to do that is for you to follow their life path. But times change. Lives change and those choices they made are different now. We have more opportunities now more than ever. We should follow our own choices, always, but never at the cost of a good relationship with our parents. Never at the cost of our love for them. We can both chose our own life path and love our parents, even though our parents don’t support us. We have a choice to at all times love our parents, just as any good parents would do for us. A parents-kid relationship should always be unconditional. It makes life so much more beautiful that way. I did. I walked that path of resenting my parents. I can tell you, it didn’t give me much in life. It made me numb to the beautiful privilege it is to have loving parents. It made me numb to all the things they did for me.
I stopped loving them for all they did for me. For my dad cleaning our bikes, for my mom cooking dinner every night, for them taking care of me. For the vacations together, for the nights watching Tv, and so many more blessings. Our parents can be a pain in our asses, but so are we to them. What changed it all for me was daring to take their perspective. To see where they came from. Why I felt that they were trying to control my life. They love me, and they want me to be safe. My life choices may not always be safe, but that’s mine to fix. Comfort your parents that everything will be alright. Nurture your relationship with them.
“Everything we can learn to love will benefit our experience of life.”
All they do for you is their way of loving you. It might not be the way you want to be loved, it might not be the right thing for you. That doesn’t mean that what they do isn’t from a place of love. Never forget that. Let go of your resentment towards them by seeing and appreciating everything they do for you. Nurture and cherish your relationship with your parents. It will only benefit and improve your life. Respect your own choices and follow your own life path, but don’t let anger, resentment, and hate towards your parents settle in your heart. Let it flow freely. Love your parents. If you love them, you will love your life even more.
Everything we can learn to love will benefit our experience of life. Everything we do out of love will make us end our day and say Today I Lived! I made the most of it.