Childhood is arguably the most important period of life.
It’s the time we learn the fundamental behaviors that define us as people.
Whether you turn out to be a CEO or the primary subject of a true crime documentary has a lot to do with how you grew up.
So if you want to gain deeper insight into your present, start looking towards the past, specifically your formative years.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some childhood experiences that shape us more than we realize.
Once you get the idea, you can gain a deeper insight into your behaviors, putting you in a position to make adjustments, if necessary.
Let’s get it!
1) Your first day at school
Think about the first time you walked into a classroom.
Were you jittery? Excited? Afraid?
You may not remember your first day of school with pinpoint precision, but you might recall some of the emotions and feelings involved.
Entering school is after all a major milestone in any kid’s life.
It’s your introduction to both education and, in a way, real socialization.
If you were well-received by students and teachers, then chances are, you’ll carry this healthy attitude well into your later years.
But if you, being an impressionable youngster, were mistreated or bullied by fellow students, you’d be surprised how this too can impact your life and self-esteem, sometimes even indelibly.
2) A memorable trip
Do you have a wanderlust for life or are you more of a homebody, preferring the comforts of familiarity?
You see, when we’re in our formative years, even seemingly routine events can shape us.
A trip with the family isn’t just a trip with family when you’re a kid, it is an opportunity to form core, foundational memories, both good and bad.
So if you were exposed to new cultures, food, and experiences in a constructive way on those trips, you might maintain that adventurous, adaptable energy throughout your life.
This can even pertain to a singular trip that was especially special.
I remember my first family trip. I was seven.
We went to Disneyland in Anaheim, then drove to Vegas, San Francisco, and around the Bay Area.
I won’t lie, I had a bit of a turbulent childhood. But I can say with relative certainty that this month-long trip was a happy one.
And what stood out to me the most was all the amazing food I consumed.
I distinctly remember my first bite of a medium-rare cheeseburger in a stall along Venice Beach; my first taste of a carnitas burrito in the Mission District of San Francisco; and my first Red Lobster experience (I was seven, folks.)
I grew up with a fondness for eating; or more specifically, traveling to eat.
Twenty years later, I began a moderately successful career as a restaurant owner.
Whether this chosen path was initially sparked by that momentous family holiday is up for debate–but one thing’s for sure, those mouth-watering memories will never leave me (or my palate.)
3) Losing a pet
When it comes to pets dying, some people just don’t get it.
They’ll say something blatantly insensitive like “It’s only a dog/cat, just get another one.”
For anyone who has owned and loved an animal, you’ll know that a pet is a legitimate part of the family.
And hence, losing a pet can be profoundly difficult.
This is particularly true for the child, who is still emotionally raw with presumably limited life experiences, let alone tragedies.
So when you lose a beloved pet as a kid, this can ultimately shape your long-term understanding and coping mechanisms regarding loss and grief.
4) Parental separation
I come from a long line of broken families.
Practically every relative in my direct and indirect kin is divorced or separated.
So, I grew up witnessing these types of contentious relationships firsthand.
When my parents finally split, I transformed from a cheery, upbeat ten-year-old to a perpetually angst-ridden and sullen one.
I would misbehave and periodically get suspended from school. My grades were regularly horrible.
As an adult, I became someone who was downright terrified of commitment.
I wouldn’t even be able to go on multiple dates with a woman, even when I liked her–the prospect of anything remotely resembling a relationship was enough for me to permanently fade into the abyss.
And though I’ve mostly gotten over these unhealthy habits, I still feel them creeping up from time to time–something that I have to consciously fend off.
5) Being reprimanded by a teacher
While praise will reinforce self-worth, being harshly reprimanded as a child can result in both self-doubt and an almost built-in resistance to authority.
Not all teachers are created equal. Not all teachers are John Keating from the Dead Poets Society.
I think it’s common knowledge by now that some teachers are just plain ol’ assholes.
This was especially true before the internet and cancel culture, an era when they could get away with unprofessional behavior far more smoothly
And being a 90s kid, I’ve had my share of lowlife educators.
I remember one in particular; a math teacher who we simply called “Mr. A.”
He would yell, curse, and berate my nine-year-old classmates and me, in a fashion more jarring than any military drill sergeant.
I remember sneezing and he would often scold me for that.
I’d be so terrified of him, that I would occasionally stutter when he spoke to me.
This perceived weakness would prompt him to angrily humiliate me, questioning my manhood in front of the entire fourth-grade class.
The rest of my grade school, middle school, and high school years were marred by some real anti-social behaviors on my part, regularly lashing out at academic authorities and even my parents.
Even today, I instinctively approach authority figures, aka ‘The Man’ with caution–which in all honesty, given the state of the world, isn’t a hugely terrible thing.
Thanks, Mr. A. The abuse has had a silver lining.
6) Helping people in need
To the parents of young children out there, remember: your kids are blank slates. Please approach this opportunity responsibly.
We can indoctrinate our children with bad things like materialism or religious fanaticism, or we can expose our kids to good by helping the needy and less fortunate.
When you teach your kid compassion, this is something that will almost always persist well into adulthood. This is a phenomenon also known as “great parenting.”
Just earlier today, my grandmother was recounting how her mother used to take her at age six to the lot across their sprawling home, where an indigent community lived.
This experience exposed her to a harsh reality outside of her bubble. A block and a half away, to be exact.
They donated clothes, toys, and books, and buddied up with these seemingly foreign, but gracious people.
She cites this specific childhood experience as the driving force that made her the compassionate, charitable 87-year-old woman she is today and has always been.
Although our childhood experiences can undoubtedly influence who we are as individuals today, that doesn’t mean change is out of the question.
Your childhood provides you with your foundation; it’s up to you how you live the rest of your life.
You can have the greatest, most stable upbringing on Earth, but after a series of bad life decisions, you can end up down in the dumps.
Conversely, you could’ve grown up with a negligent single parent in a rough community, but you can still rise above that and become a remarkable person with achievements through the roof.
Trust me, I’ve witnessed both cases transpire countless times in my life.
In this world, our journeys are almost never linear.
So keep respecting and appreciating your childhood memories, but don’t limit yourself because of them.