Growing up in a dysfunctional family isn’t pleasant and definitely doesn’t help as I grew older. I never felt that I was good enough. No matter what I did or how I did things, my father wasn’t pleased. He always commented on what I didn’t do versus praising me for what I did right. It was a challenge, hurtful and mentally draining. I always did what he told me to do even though he never explained how to do things.
My dad owned a small business as a diesel mechanic but also maintained, painted, and fabricated additions to all sorts of equipment. A real-life example was fabricating a flatbed for a brand-new diesel truck. He placed metal beams on the back of the truck and told my sister and I to place it equally to equal a 24’ flat bed, so we did. He praised my sister at the same time asked me why I didn’t add the other metals so there was less to do to complete the flatbed. I looked at my sister and cried. She told me not to cry, that we did what we were told. But that wasn’t my point. My dad was always hard on me and kinder to my sister. He never offered to help me although I was still a kid doing what adults would normally be doing. It was his job to fabricate this metal flatbed truck, not mine, let alone how young I was. As we did more fabricating and maintaining other vehicles, my confidence kept going down, I was constantly getting my feelings hurt. As years went on, I always second guessed myself and questioned my results even though they were good. I just didn’t understand why I was constantly criticized and never praised for doing anything. My mom was my angel and always comforted me when I was down. She supported me when I didn’t do as well in school or other activities. My mom always reminded me that I am still learning and there’s nothing wrong with mistakes, but to learn from them and don’t repeat them. I love her for that.
When I was a teenager in high school, I didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities because my parents were so strict and wanted us home right after school. We worked with our dad on the weekends, so we grew up feeling robbed from our youth. My siblings and I were learning how to fabricate flatbeds, mixing paint, and painting heavy duty equipment, operating equipment, or maintaining them. The older I got, he was more critical of everything I did and how my thinking was. As time went on, I started to realize why my dad was so critical of me. I was approaching 18 years old, and he was dying. I learned then, he was setting me up for my future at the same time he crippled my sister. Prior to his death on his hospital bed, I asked him why was he so mean to me and nice to all my other siblings. He told me even if I did things right, there are always room for improvement. When I asked him why didn’t he help me when I needed help but offered my sister help… His response was “You didn’t need the help and I was teaching you how to learn your worth.” I didn’t believe him at first and called him a liar. My dad reminded me of some situations explaining how I had more common sense than my siblings and how he raised me with tough love. I cried and told him all this time I thought he didn’t love me and just wanted to hurt me. He said I was the youngest and he knew I was planning to do something very difficult but meaningful in life, so he wanted to prepare me. My dad always knew that my childhood dream was to join the military and sure enough, he prepared me well. When I cried to my mother about how mean my father was, she always encouraged me to be strong and not give up. My mom always told me how worthy I am in this world, and I am strong enough to face anything. Now that both of my parents are gone, I have a clear picture of why both raised me with tough love. I survived the military, both deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. My life after the military is still serving the military and veterans by turning my negative experiences into blessings to help those in need to recover. I am proud of the woman I am today and knowing my worth to keep on living my best life.
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