In this paper, I will describe my life and how my life experiences have shaped the person that I am today, how they have impacted my dreams, and what I intend to do in the future. In this paper I explore my childhood and how the difficulties that I encountered in that childhood have helped shape the woman I am today. The woman that I am today is a mother, a wife, and a student working towards admission into the respiratory therapist program. Generally, I have worked hard to put a difficult childhood behind me. As a result, I have to acknowledge that an autobiographical paper was very challenging for me. I do not like to think about how my childhood has impacted the woman that I am today. While I am generally self-confident, I realize that the things I like the least about myself are those things that remind me of my father. As a result, while this paper was a challenge for me to write, I believe it has served its purpose and provided insight into my own social background. If I do not understand that background, I do not think it is possible for me to bring understanding to future clients.
My name is Iviannette Figueroa. I am a 37-year-old woman. I am married with four children; a 19-year-old son, a 12-year-old daughter, and 5-year-old twin daughters. I am happily married, but my husband and I are currently living apart while he works as an instructor in Afghanistan. This has placed me in the role of a single mother, which has proven challenging, especially as I am a student and pursuing my education has been difficult while simultaneously trying to pursue my own education. We currently live in a normal middle-class household, though having my husband absent has led to prioritizing things so that not all of our chores are always done and our household might be messier than we would like at times. Despite the challenges I face every day, I am very happy in my current life. In fact, even though I faced difficulties in my childhood, I feel as if everything in my life has brought me to where I am today. Because I am happy with where I am, I would not change anything about my prior experience, even if there are negatives in my past experience. I think that this ability to acknowledge that even negative experiences can turn into positive learning experiences is one of the reasons that I am an optimistic person.
My current middle-class existence is significantly different from my childhood. I was the oldest of three siblings. My little sister is 32 and my little brother is 28. We were raised in a wealthy dual-parent household. We lived in a large house in the city. While both of my parents were present, we were primarily raised by a nanny. My nanny was a loving caregiver, and I believe that I felt as if she were more of a maternal figure to me than my own mother was. I know that I had a great deal of affection for her and that she still occupies a very important place in my heart. I think that much of my affection for my nanny was because she provided such a stark contrast to my parents. My mother was not very affectionate. Looking back, I believe that she was scared of my father and that her fear dictated much of her behavior, but as a child I simply experienced her lack of affection as coldness. In contrast, my father was not cold. Instead, he was a very hot-tempered alcoholic man. He was verbally abusive to every member of his household, constantly insulting us and treating us poorly. His abuse was not limited to verbal assaults; he hit us frequently as well. However, the status of the family was important and we were all expected to keep his abuse secret. It was a very stressful childhood. What is ironic is that because I do not see abuse as discipline, I would characterize the household as one that was undisciplined. My nanny tried to instill us with a sense of right and wrong and teach us how to behave appropriately, but my parents were so wrapped up in their own personal drama that they generally failed to import any moral goals or guidelines to their children.
Obviously, I had a strained relationship with my father because of his abuse, and I also had resentment towards my mother because of my belief that she failed to adequately protect us from him. However, I had a very good relationship with both of my siblings. As the oldest child, I felt largely responsible for their safety and well-being, and I tried to protect them as best I could. I would try to attract my father's attention when it was clear that an outburst was coming, so that he would target me instead of my siblings. At times this strategy was successful, but it was not successful all of the time, and some of my most painful memories from my childhood are of him abusing my siblings and being helpless to stop them. To this day, I enjoy close relationships with my brother and sister, and we have formed the cohesive and loving family that we did not have when we were children.
One of the things that my father did do as a parent was to encourage his children to play sports. For him, it was a competitive venture, and there are many ways that his behavior impacted us negatively, but I still had a love of sports when I was a child. I was involved in karate, track, and softball, and I did well in all three of the sports. I found that they were a place where I could be in control of my body without fear. They also took me away from my family. I tried to engage my little brother and sister in sports as well, though our age differences meant that we could not really play competitive sports together.
I think that the best way to describe my academic experience is that it was conflicted. I was very excited when I began school and really relished the experience of learning. I remember feeling nothing but excitement and a little bit of nerves when I began school. I had a great relationship with my first teacher and I remember working very hard to please her. I exceled as a student in my younger school years, and I found school easy. However, my troubles at home bled into my school life, as childhood abuse frequently does to children. I began to be belligerent to the other students. While I respectful to teachers, I begin getting in constant fights. Soon, I was no longer considered a blessing in the classroom, but a curse. As one might imagine, this eventually led to a significant decline in my grades. Of course, the decline in my grades exacerbated an already tense home situation. Margaret DiCanio describes the relationship between child abuse and poor academic performance by children in this manner, "Bad grades remind parents of their anxieties about their own social status and their children's prospects in the future. Poor parents envision school as a route to escape impoverished lives. Middle-class parents push their children to surpass their own accomplishments. Wealthy, well-educated parents routinely expect first-class performance from their children" (DiCanio, 2004, p.46). My family was upper middle-class, and I was pushed to surpass my parents' accomplishments, and, because those accomplishments were significant, if my performance was less-than-perfect, there was tremendous anger about my grades and disciplinary issues at home. It was very cyclic behavior, and my school performance declined as my anger towards my parents grew.
Experience Related to Psychological Development
In all honesty, I must admit that I am still developing as a human being, perhaps in a more dynamic way than most people in my age group. I do link this delayed development to my childhood. According to Deaux and Snyder, "With respect to self, the focus on "self-construal" reflects and reproduces the tendency in psychology to locate the source of action and experience in internal essences that crystallize during early childhood, persist throughout the lifespan, and direct experience as a trait-like structure that one can measure with an individual difference variable" (2012, p.187). In my early childhood, I had no example of anger management and was taught that explosive outbursts were an excusable and permitted way to deal with emotions, particularly towards the people we are supposed to care for the most. Unfortunately, I struggle with this tendency to this day. I have an extremely bad temper and really have to struggle to control my own outbursts. I try to keep in mind how I felt when my father was exploding at me or my siblings, and I believe that I am far more successful than…