How my childhood shaped me

January 18, 2023

Now we all know that our childhood is the most formative stage of our life, but until this year I never realized just how formative my own has been. It’s not just when black became my favorite color or when I learned that I despise eggplant or that stuffed animals are just not for me–those first 13 years of my life have unequivocally made me who I am today, and I can finally see so many of the dots connected.

I was one of those babies and toddlers that are described as a “nightmare” to have. I wasn’t one to necessarily cry or throw tantrums, but instead, I would terrorize the household by unrolling all the toilet paper and pulling the tissues out of their boxes. Now, I like to believe that my nefarious actions as a young child have grown into a strong curiosity and love for exploration. Instead of driving my mom mad “examining” all the things in our house, I now endlessly Google and fall into Wikipedia blackholes to answer all the questions I have about our world.

Whether it was through Sesame Street, or reading George and Martha picture books, what I consumed when I was young also shaped many of my belief systems I have today. Since my days watching Elmo and his friends, whenever I begin to doubt my own capabilities, I hear Diana Ross singing amongst the muppets, “you can be what you wanna be, see what you wanna see, believe in yourself.” Her song taught me to always be the biggest cheerleader for myself. As I make new friendships, I see George’s unconditional love and care for Martha, even when she got an unfortunate bright pink sunburn. Their friendship became my standard.

What I read as a young child also shaped the interests I have today. On the kitchen table, there was always my dad’s weekly Time Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek. First, before I could really read, I was captivated by the photos showing current events around the world. Eventually I started reading the articles, trying to understand them despite the many “big words” to make sense of the world I lived in. Today, I continue to stay interested in global affairs and hope to study it more in college. Chapter books I read like those of Grace Lin and Cynthia Kadohata, representing the experience of being Asian-American, helped me come to terms with my identity and provided a shield against the harmful stereotypes that society throws at people of color.

I don’t know if I have technically lived long enough to be able to say all these things from my childhood have impacted me with certainty, but from where I stand today as an 18-year-old, I feel like I’m not too off the mark. Without some of these experiences, I wonder if I would still be the person I am right now. Also, these of course are all the good examples of how my childhood has influenced me, but there’s no doubt that less fortunate aspects of my childhood have negatively impacted me. As I get older and move on to the next chapter of my life, I look forward to discovering more ways my upbringing has affected me, and maybe something I do now as a young adult will come back to me when I’m middle-aged.