I don’t like to talk about how I grew up. When I think about my childhood, I have this weird mixture of feelings that swirl around in my stomach. It’s safe to say it’s a topic I have safely avoided until recently. Which in and of itself is odd to me. I suppose it is due to the fact that the majority of my friends now have only known me since adulthood, post college years, only as a married stay at home mom. You start making friends with people and you naturally get curious, how did they grow up? I realized not that long ago that part of the reason I hate talking about how I grew up, is because I had to explain my life to strangers on a consistent basis growing up. Someone recently described me as a reserved person, imagine that in child form, having to explain to every cashier you met that you had already finished school for the day, and no, it wasn’t a half day.

I grew up home schooled. I grew up home schooled when no one else seemed to be home schooled. My parents were some of the first to take us out of school, teach us at home. We were outcasts. That might sound dramatic now, everyone knows someone who is homeschooled now. But not then. Not twenty-five years ago. Although I enjoyed staying home, and getting done with a school day by noon, going all over St. Louis on field trips, and spending a lot of time doing things I loved. I hated every minute of explaining to every person we met that I was homeschooled. I have never enjoyed calling attention to myself.  

Now I meet parents who are homeschooling their kids and they want to look at me, and my friends, and see that it all turned out all right. Yes and no. Gah. Now I have to explain more of my childhood… My family lived in the suburbs until I was nine. We moved to the city of St. Charles until I turned twelve when we moved to a municipality in St. Louis County. I was a home school kid though, my friends didn’t change based on geography, because all my friends came from church. Our small little church that consisted of other home school families, and I was the city kid of the group. I spent a lot of time in the country, in the woods, ice skating on ponds, and swimming in creeks and rivers. We were some of the most sheltered kids you would ever meet. For real. What is funny now is when I hang out with my old friends and hear how my family was the “liberal” family of the group and all the crazy things the Miesner kids were allowed to do that no one else would dare ask their parent’s permission for. Need an example? I watched Disney movies. Need I say more?

Are you getting a picture of my childhood? Sheltered, homeschooled, parents who allowed us a little more freedom than our friends had, lived in the city. Lets add another piece. My oldest brother was from my mom’s first marriage. He never was homeschooled and went through private schools his whole life. There were always kids from his school at our house, he at theirs, their parents around. It added a different dynamic to our lives. Like MTV.

At some point during this history, we all turned into teenagers and had raging hormones. It was a disaster. There seemed to be a group of parents who had not realized that the natural progression of childhood was to hit teenage years. Oh man, did some of those parents hate us. They had raised us in a bubble, and the point of the bubble was to be perfect, never to act out, to never rebel. That bubble burst and it burst pretty badly. There were the token kids that stayed perfect and then there were the rest of us. Did we rebel the way you often think of teenagers rebelling? Some of us yes, some of us not so much. Times like those are when I hate being an empath. I watched it all, I absorbed it all, and I tried to save everyone. I spent most of my teenage years hearing everyone and not having people hear me.

The final piece of the all of this is that I grew up surrounded by addicts. I honestly don’t know how much the outside world knew about what went on inside our lives. There were some especially dark years that I pretended didn’t happen while they unfolded around me. Even typing this puts me on the defense. It’s a confusing place to live, in your head, alone, wanting to save everyone, and repeatedly getting hurt, intentionally and unintentionally. I don’t like to draw attention to myself, and I fear being a burden to others, but I absorbed it all. Those bad years are tucked away somewhere in my head. Some of them I remember vividly, they replay in my mind often, more often than I would like to admit. Others tingle at the back of my brain. Something might happen, someone says something, and a feeling of something comes to my mind. I carefully but forcefully push it back down, knowing that I don’t want to think about whatever it is in this moment. Forgiveness is long and slow. Those are the times I really don’t want to talk about, you probably shouldn’t ask about it.

Did my friends and I all turn out all right, after having been sheltered and controlled? Yeah, we did. Most of us fucked up in a big way. But doesn’t everyone? We all came out on the other side of it. We navigated a lot of territory on our own. A lot.

What’s my favorite childhood memory? Playing in the river, letting the water run around my body, holding my breath, going under the water, letting the current sweep me towards the bridge, and plunging out the other side, falling down around the rocks, and coming up for air a moment later. There was no time to worry about anything other than hoping you made it out from under the bridge with enough air left in your lungs to live. That was all that mattered. Learning to inhale deeply and hold onto it with all your strength.