I am supposed to write a paper that describes a time when I have felt “less than” as a person. Needless to say, with the history of my life I don’t even know where to begin…
I suppose the right place to start would be February 6th, 1976, which is my date of birth. Born to a young mother who was married to an older and abusive husband, I was born with a job; save their relationship. I was the result of an accidental pregnancy, which would expose the sins of my Irish Catholic mother and my Greek Orthodox father; I led them to marriage before I was born. *Even in embryonic form I was to save them. They were divorced by the time I was two years old, of course after many restraining orders, arrests and other dark happenings.
After their divorce, that I did not prevent*, there were years of hiding and being on the run, at times my mother even disguised me as a boy by cutting my hair and dressing me the part. However, my father always found us, no matter what part of the country we were in.
My thoughts are that this was probably a living hell for my mother. A young woman, fearing for her life, running with a child, turned away by churches, feeling hopeless and scared. She was afraid of seeking help because she did not want anyone who helped her to be punished also when she was found.
After my mothers life settled down a bit (mostly because my father found another hostage, my step-mother Linda), and my mother began to live what she thought was a normal life. She began to take classes and work toward her education; she became employable and little by little was able to retain some financial independence. Normal life was beginning to happen for her, even the ability to go out with her sisters and drink and club, and enjoying her young adult life that she could not have earlier. There was only one problem, I was in the way, or was I?
I was home alone a lot, all except when my grandmother was there. There was a shortage of food, love, hugs, supervision and some other things that are considered basic needs as well, but I never held my mother responsible for that, it was just the life we had. The part that I actually noticed that was lacking was love, and supervision. I never even related those things to touch and nurturing until way later on in life. I never even knew there were feelings, or feeling words to describe feelings. However I did know that there was never a good enough reason to cry, and that this was the life I was dealt, now deal with it. I never even knew any different.
I remember times when I would wait up at night watching from the window to see that my mother came home. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I remember her high heels clicking on the floor, looking up at her in awe of her beauty, she really knew how to look fabulous. Her hair was always beautiful and up-to-date, her make-up was as well, but I will say that she did wear a lot of blush. Her eyes were so intense, yet soft! I love that woman.
When she would leave to go out I would beg and plead with her not to go, I was just so lonely. But as I usually did, I took residence in the position that would be most comfortable until my mother came home which was in my grandmother’s bed or in the close proximity of a window that exposed the driveway so I could see her pull in.
You see, I chuckle when people say that they wish they could go back to their youth, I would never! I am ok with my past, in fact I am grateful. And trust when I say that my life got harder and darker as it went on. Luckily for me, and my offspring, at the age of 24, the law intervened and I was given the gift of a second chance at life.
I am now 37 and I wouldn’t change anything, not one mistake, not one ounce of pain, one lonely night, one hopeless prayer, and not one single lesson I had to learn. All of those things bring me to where I sit today, writing this paper about feeling “Less Than”.
With the amount of education and life experience that I have now, it is clear to me how less-than really feels, for it motivated almost all of my decisions and my self-imagery for years and years without me over knowing.
As far as family goes, needless to say that the lack of the meeting of my basic needs made me feel less than, not loved enough, not good enough. As a mother of two daughters 12 and 17, I cannot imagine not meeting their basic needs, nor do I think they could survive one day week without me. I cannot imagine my girls going hungry, feeling lonely. As a child when my family spoke of my father right in front of me, they would always belittle or degrade his family name, and it happened to be my name too. I was always looked at as “one of them, the Koutroubas”. That reference alone led to an innermost identity of shame and less than. Less than the Callahans’, less than the kids at school with their nice clothes and two parent families. Feeling less than in my childhood took a toll on my self esteem, as I got older, it took a toll on every single area of my life.
When I was young, feeling less than led me to seek attention in all the wrong places. I discovered drugs and alcohol, which substituted for many of the gaps that the less than emotions had filled for so long. I settled for less then because it matched what I thought was my worth.
I settled for less in school, never thinking I was smart enough. I settled for less with my peers and my choices, because I thought I was less popular, less attractive, less fun, and never good enough. Let’s face it, my feeling of less than made me settle for less of everything.
I only attracted what I put forth into the world, which was my opinion of my own self-worth. Some of the choices included but were not limited to, putting myself in bad situations, not finishing school, not staying with guys who were good guys, and staying too long with no-so-good guys. Being friends with people for the wrong reasons, just to gain their acceptance, because of course their opinions of me were more important to me than my own. Those feelings led to a lifetime of pain and suffering that I would never tolerate today. I remember the way some people would look at me, when I would be walking around with Kelly Ann, my daughter who is racially mixed, and the judgments in their eyes. Feeling less than, yes I know that feeling, I hope that I never participating in making anyone else ever feel that way. When I see someone who appears to look or sound like they carry the “less than” self-image, I try to left them up, and help them see their assets or help them turn their attitude from scared to grateful. Turn their scars into building blocks, it’s the best thing I can do today to help anyone feel that they are never alone, that sometimes, everyone feels less than, but no one need ever stay in that feeling.