How bad your childhood had to be before you pretty much became toast for the rest of your life?
I was probably a happy embryon. Still, as a human being, I was a crawler in the depths of darkness and on the edgy sides of life. I have no knowledge or memory about my original wings and colours, if any. It’s still a mystery where is my bit of humour coming from.
Have you heard of Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES)? The people doing that study worked up a definition of exactly how bad your childhood had to be before you pretty much became toast for the rest of your life.
They named ten severe risk factors, like divorce, an alcoholic or drug-abusing parent, sexual molestation, violence at home, as well as mental illness in a family member, and then, followed thousands of children to see what the impact of these risk factors would be.
They found that if you had four or more of the risk factors, your chances for a happy life were low, and your chances for a lousy life were high, including having a short life.
I have nine risk factors according to this study. By all books and voices, my chances to beat the odds were/are practically under the sea level. Still, if you bet against me, you would have lost your fortune.
Can rough childhood survivors beat the odds against a lousy life?
Sometimes they can, but I think that more often than not, they can’t. Truth to be told, it is very hard. It’s the kind of effort with your self that reclaims everything you are and beyond.
I told a part of my story in my writings. Many parts of it are yet to be told. Living to beat the odds is what my life is about. I don’t know if I really beat the odds, but I think I beat more odds than many from my tribe. And this is the kind of performance that doesn’t make me happy, because I wish we were more.
I am looking at two friends of mine I met on the bottom of a hell time of life. That kind of time when between everything and nothing there is no difference. When between you and everyone else there is no difference.
One fell from skyscrapers, the other fell from sanity and I fell from an upper level of the underground. Down there, in that particular spot we all ended up, you could not tell the difference between us. You could not say which one was the nutter, which one was smarter or richer, which one was from Romania, Spain or United States. Poverty and living beyond the margins of life made us all look the same. And even think the same.
We all had in common three things: a devastating childhood, a painful life as young adults and a ridiculous desire to live.
Still, I am the only one from the three of us who hasn’t lost yet her working capacity. Because down there, when you reach so deep in the psychic catacombs, insomnia and losing your working capacity are the first red flags that something happens to you in the wrong direction. But since you don’t hear a click in your head, you may realise it when it’s too late, when the psychiatrists tell you or when it is very hard to reverse inertia.
I’ve thought a lot about it and I wondered why. Why my two friends lost it so much and I haven’t (at least not yet or at least not that much), on the contrary, my most significant achievements happened when my life was at its worst levels of adversity. I also think a lot about it because my heart bleeds for each adult defeated by his or her childhood, for each soul crashed before it even had a chance.
Living to beat the odds. Building resilience.
There are 4 things I did and still do differently:
1/ Self approach
I accepted my “imprisonment” condition and I treated myself accordingly. I’ve learnt you cannot conquer something that you do not accept as being precisely as it is, but as you would have liked it or dreamt it to be, or as it was (if your point of reference is your glorious past).
I’ve learned new skills and things, I read a lot, I did everything I could with whatever I had at hand to grow, to create something, to keep myself updated, hoping that when better times come to be as if I was never out of the game.
If I couldn’t sleep, I learned to not allow my brain to melt in despair, anxiety and depression. I always do something when I cannot sleep.
My entire focus goes on building myself, or let’s say upgrading. No matter the place, the circumstances and the time.
When it comes to spending money, I always ask myself “Is this an expense or an investment?” Does it hold the potential to save me time and money? Does it help me to solve a real problem or does it facilitate my endeavours in any way? If it’s not an investment, I don’t buy it.
I respect money and with time it became mutual.
3/ Talking, gossiping and making random or too much sex
I graduated Mathematics in highschool and Economics in college. In my work, operations are my life. Crisis, change, the unknown and the unpredictable are on my daily agenda. Basic and fast calculus is a reflex.
When you spend your time on too much talking, gossiping and melting your brains in too much sex and pornography, all that time equals several hours a day when you consume your energy, vitality and life. Irreversibly. Many times you also alter your character through this type of focus and actions. By consuming, you’ll naturally become weaker, not stronger. Of course, if you don’t turn that into some sort of performance or business.
When you are in an unfavourable position of life, you need all the energy, focus and vitality you can get to push yourself and your life forward. You need more time to invest in work, study and opportunities than people with better or luckier lives. You need more or more powerful engines.
Choosing quality over quantity, listening more over talking, knowing each other better and developing a strong friendship before jumping into the sheets…these are things that not only save you time and vitality, but they can also substantially improve your life’s quality.
Do the Math. At its core, it’s an algorithm.
4/ My People
I surrounded myself with better balanced people. People who know what good is and looks like, who practice it, who share it, who design it, who continuously learn it. Stronger and even smarter. To teach me, to show me more about the things I don’t know. The kind of “boring” ones after the “cool” standards.
Most people fear the smarter ones. I’ve seen that in all the places I’ve worked. They fear they’ll take their jobs, life partners, businesses … or simply, their ego can’t take it. Many people can only “love” people they can control or people who don’t challenge them, because they hate feeling insecure or pushed out of their familiar corner.
I need to grow to rise above my condition. I need better and smarter people than me around to learn from.
So, how rough childhood survivors can beat the odds against a lousy life?
There are some interesting pieces on the topic like Surprising Benefits for Those Who Had Tough Childhoods or 8 Unexpected Strengths That Come From A Tough Childhood, but if you dig a little, you may find more and even better others.
In my case, I live to beat the odds. It’s almost like a game with endless levels.
I may also be very proud because I could not digest the idea of other people, even strangers or nutters, determining my faith and the course of my life. I cannot accept the scenario of not playing the main role in my story, of not being able to positively influence the course of it.
In this type of battlefield, we are pretty much on our own. At least for a major part of the journey. At our best, we can only share our stories and insights when we can, hoping it will mean something or that it will help someone, somewhere. Happiness does not come naturally to people coming from these places, we have to design it.