“She looks so beautiful, doesn’t she? Smart, with ambition and passion,” my mother sighed deeply – her tears crashing down onto my 5th grade picture. After a slur of words muddled with tears, my mother put the picture back on top of the fireplace, and turned to me. “Oh, how much I miss you,” she whispered in my ear amidst a hug that expressed, ‘I do not want to lose you.’
I embraced her back with force and passion, as if to say, ‘I am not going anywhere.’ In that brief moment, I understood that while growing up is not easy, growing apart is even harder.
My entire life, as far as I can remember anyway, my family and I shared the same values and characteristics – we were all very Egyptian, very Muslim, and very emotional. However, going through the American education system, and then off to the big city for university, I came across various people and engaged in a multitude of experiences.
Without fault or intention, my personality and ideals began to change throughout my time away from home. When I managed to return home for holidays, I noticed that my attitude and understanding of life, clashed with that of my parents. Usually – at least in our household – that is normal. However, what happens when the choices I make may not align with those of my parents?
Growing apart in a way where your value systems change due to having lived and reflected upon various experiences could potentially cause emotional strife between you and loved ones. I know for me, that challenge presented itself when I still love my family and their values, but found that their values no longer reflected the life I lead.
Throughout this emotional struggle, I lived in a constant state of self-doubt intertwined with anxiety. While the emotional turmoil ate away at my convictions and – in my case – my identity, I found some useful advice to weather the storm. The following tips (I hope) should serve as an emotional guide through these rough moments of change and growth:
1. Accept that forming your own ideas and value systems is normal.
In the midst of an emotional storm, our brains tend to react defensively, therefore causing us to become guarded and afraid. However, the emotional strife that occurs when breaking from values that you used to hold is a part of the growing process, and it is totally normal. I like to call it growing pains.
2. Respectful communication can help guide you towards peaceful resolutions.
How many hours have you spent fighting your way through screaming matches? Hopefully, none, if any. However, when it comes to breaking away from family values, it’s not unheard of that some anger mixed with certain choice words gets in the way of real communication. In those moments, and in every difficult situation, practicing honest communication will prove to ease tense emotions and pave way for understanding. Remember that change is hard for all involved. Whilst you may fail to understand why your loved ones can’t accept you as you are, your loved ones may see changes in your perspective as a symbolic rejection of them. Communicate that this is not the case, that your love for them remains intact, and runs concurrent to your newfound perspectives.
3. Love yourself, your experiences, and your values.
Self-love can not be more valuable than when it comes to navigating emotional and social mine fields. Loving yourself gives value to the experiences and opinions you have, regardless of what others may believe.