Saturday, October 22, 2011

On being an 'only'

Last night at a party, some new friends were talking about birth order and how it has affected their lives. When the question came around to me, one of my friends was shocked to hear that I'm an only child.

"How did you get to be like this??" was the gist of her response. She was flabbergasted, even though she only knew me through sitting next to me at an event a week earlier and asking me to come to this party. In studying counseling and having dated an 'only' for 3 years, she considers herself a little bit of an expert at reading 'onlies'.

It's true, I'm not the typical mold-fitter in this respect. Typical only children are more selfish, maladjusted and unable to make friends easily, like to be in control, dependent, and lonely. Now it's true that I sometimes don't empathize with people who are making stupid choices and this is a typical only child response of misunderstanding motive; but this is one of my few 'only' extremes.

It was a combination of growing up as an adult and having a sense of taking care of my parents in childhood (don't read too much into that, it's simply some of the ways I grew up and how little me saw the world) and after high school going to work at a camp. In camping, you don't have to wear the mask of 'fitting in' like you do in the non-camp world. You can, of course, but it's often seen and derided. Who really gets all dolled up every morning when they're camping with every hair in place and wearing spotless clothes? When you're living with people day in and day out, they see you in tons of different situations, moods, energy levels, and levels of intimacy. A moment of silence for the death of the acceptability of the scarf on one's head..

There are lots of aspects of this experienced as a week-long camper, but as a counselor it's zoom-focused. Being a person who loves the outdoors, camp brought out an aliveness in me. For the first time, I was with people who all had one goal: loving kids for Christ' sake and wanting to help them grow. That first summer on staff I was considered one of the young counselors (a new enterprise for little me, who always felt so grown up when with my peers) and was also one of the new counselors. I'd been a little leery of being 4 hours' drive away from my friends and family in Michigan, but being a camp counselor was something I'd always wanted to do. And this job providentially came into place through

So I took the leap. And in that huge cannonball splash I found out I was more extroverted than I realized. I was good with kids. I was invigorated by living outdoors. There were people like me out there and some of them were here; this is where my core friendships in early adulthood were solidified.

Anyway, how I got to be such a well-adjusted only child? God's grace and mercy is the short answer :)

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