One of the oldest debates in Psychology is that of nature versus nurture, the significance of our genes as opposed to our environment in our development into the people that we are. I believe that although our genetics play a noteworthy role in our growth, determining some of our traits, it is our experiences that shape us. Some experiences might appear negligent at first sight, but following a kind of personal butterfly, theory creates a large ripple effect on us as individuals. On the other hand, other experiences might be grand and show their significance boldly. Throughout my life so far, I have lived through many of these small and big experiences, and any other combination of them would have changed me as a person, for better or for worse. However, I would like to speak about one experience, in particular, that has impacted me and my development as a human being.
When I was little, my parents used to work a lot, so oftentimes I was left to take care of my younger siblings. Although I was only a couple of years older, I was deemed responsible enough by necessity, since my parents could not always afford to hire nannies. Either way, it was not a problem for the small and lovable child that I was, I adored my little sisters and spending time with them. Even more so, I liked to feel trusted and valued in the eyes of my parents. However, as I got a little older and started going out to parties with my friends, I began to feel annoyed about the responsibility that was put on me by my parents. I could not understand why I had to sacrifice my teenage years to babysit my siblings who, in my eyes, were old enough to take care of themselves. The oldest ones were only a little younger than I was when I was first left alone with them for the evening, and we lived in a pretty safe neighborhood by that time.
Long story short, when the opportunity presented itself, I would sneak out of the house instead of babysitting my sisters and spend the evenings with my friends. Most of the time, I would put some movie on for the children, or put them to bed a little too early, and then proceed to enjoy my free nights. My parents would often come home very late and tired, so it would be easy to hide my shenanigans from them, so for months, I felt like the smartest person in the world. However, it could not have lasted forever, and my Mr. Hyde eventually caught up to my Dr. Jekyll. One night, I came back from my usual visit to some schoolmate’s house, and when I went to check on my sisters, they were nowhere to be found.
I have never been as terrified as I was at that moment. It was as if a big red “alert” button had been pushed, causing a siren to sound amid flashes of light inside my head. I knew that if I called my parents, telling them what had happened and what I had done, I would not have any freedom for as long as I still lived under their roof. However, even more so, I was terrified at the thought of what could have happened to my sisters. I was maybe 14 or 15 at the time, and teenage emotional maximization was at its highest. In my head, I was imagining the worst possible scenarios, from the little girls falling out of the window to them being kidnapped by a malevolent neighbor.
Although this incident ended well and now, years later, my sisters tell this anecdote to their friends, I never forget the panic that I felt. If things were a little bit different, if we all got a little bit less lucky, I could have been the reason my parents lost their children. I could have been the reason I lost my sisters. Instead, it turned out that they had wandered out of the house, following me, and were taken inside by our elderly neighbors, who played board games with them until they saw me come back. Even though our parents never found out what had happened that night, I never snuck out of my house again. I learned what the responsibility that I was given meant and understood the consequences that could have occurred due to my carelessness.
I will always be grateful that the story ended the way it did, and that I am now able to laugh about it with my sisters. However, I know that I would never have forgiven myself if something had gone wrong, so since then I have always made sure to earn the responsibility that I am given and take it seriously. What it taught me is that it is always easier to do things right the first time rather than struggle with the consequences.