This week was Martin Luther King’s day. It’s a national holiday that allows us to reflect on his life and his achievements.
In spirit of his “I Have A Dream” speech, I asked my grandmother a simple question; which was, “Did you have hopes and dreams growing up?” That question subsequently lead into this remarkable revelation of the thought processes we each possess that is influenced by our personal experiences.
You may think I’m losing it, and there’s nothing great about this epiphany right now. Like, duh Jessica, we all have a brain and we all think differently. Yes, yes, yes… I can hear the nagging now. But give me a chance to explain the difference.
How about you think about a pony? C’mon, think about it. Just pause for a second, and think about a pony for 5-10 seconds. You really can’t fail at this. (If you’re Asian, I know how much relief that may be. Haha.)
Got the image? Cool. Keep thinking about that pony for a second.
Now explain to me how that pony looked when you imagined it. Let’s be honest here… No judgement.
Was it a colorful fluffy long haired pony dancing in the meadow with a beautiful rainbow off in the distance? Then you were thinking, “Wow, I want to keep thinking of more beautiful places to place this pony!”
Or did you imagine something more along the lines of this; a small miniature pony with stubby legs. Nothing more, nothing less. Then you were thinking, “Wow, this is stupid. Is that all I need to do?” (Ha. If you thought this one, I’m sorry, but it’s over now. I promise.)
There are a variety of things that influence our minds to think the way that they do.
- Some of us may be more educated.
- Some of us may daydream a bit more.
- Some of us may have had more experiences.
- Some of us may have mental impairments.
- The list goes on…
You could agree, we all think differently to a certain extent. Right? Either way, you thought about a pony. Some more elaborate, and others very straightforward. Nonetheless, there is a pony somewhere in your mind. That wasn’t the case for my grandmother…
What I never thought about was how my grandmother’s answer would make me question my own understandings of this pony concept. She said, “I never thought about hopes and dreams.” (Of course, spoken in our native language.)
I was taken aback by this whole statement, and I even asked my mother to further elaborate exactly what my grandmother was saying so that I could understand her better. My heart sank at the thought of someone not being able to hope for a better future or anything in that matter.
My mother was able to expand on what my grandmother meant when she said she didn’t really have hopes or dreams. My mother kind of explained it as, my grandmother never had an opportunity to have hopes or dreams as a child.
They were so poor that all they imagined, day in and day out, was how they were going to get their next meal, or how they would survive the next day. Survival was the only concept they understood, and was the only concept they were allowed to think about.
If my grandmother, as a child, had said she had hoped to one day live in a huge beautiful house with 3 bedrooms and a large kitchen; they would have bashed on her for thinking anything other than surviving. I’m sure they were thinking, why would you even think of such luxuries when you can barely even make it?
Due to this survival mentality, there is no thinking about hopes or dreams. So there weren’t many people back then even imagining such odd luxuries.
Although it was years ago, that mentality is still sketched into my grandmother’s brain. She still has moments where we notice that she is still acting like she is dirt poor. Of course, we find the humor in it now, and we can’t blame her for that.
When you’ve lived a certain lifestyle for so many years, and you’ve gotten so much taken away from you, it’s hard to come back from that. You find what works to survive, and you keep doing just that.
What blows my mind is how it’s still unfathomable to my grandmother to be hopeful. It makes sense in a way, because she has never practiced that concept in her mind.
Of course she doesn’t want to be poor again, but the concept of hope is hard to explain to someone who has never had it or practiced it. Which once she gets it, she will be able to practice it.
For instance, something we don’t practice, like imagining ponies, will be bizarre concepts for us. It is bizarre, but it is something we have seen or thought of at one point in time. So if we continue to think about hopes and dreams, it will begin to feel normal to think of them.
I tried and will continue to try to explain to her what it means and how to hopefully develop that hopeful mentality, and I hope one day she will realize how hopeful I am for her.
Have you ever had the chance to ask your grandparents about their hopes and dreams? If so, ask them other in depth questions and get to know them better. If not, ask them and see what kind of conversation sparks from it.