A peaceful balancing act
My parents, the most important factors in shaping who I am, are a mosaic of juxtaposed perspectives — a tribute to the notion that "opposites attract." Dad once tried to explain their differences in the language of the Myers-Briggs personality inventory; his introversion versus mom's extraversion, his thinking to her feeling, etc. Labels aside, the consequence of living with their differences was balance and an ability to place equal value on both breadth and depth in any aspect of life.
Nothing underscored competing parental influences in our household better than the typical dinner conversation around the events of the school day. I'd usually lead with news of some test result. Mom would be quick to congratulate my good work while deflecting the conversation toward upcoming social events or some drama involving my friends. Dad preferred to discuss the specific problems I missed, even if 97 percent of my answers were correct.
Over time, I came to realize that mom's seemingly dismissive attitude toward academic achievement was not meant to minimize its importance. To her, what went on in the world of human relationships beyond the classroom was equally important. Similarly, dad's insistence on reviewing every incorrect problem was not indicative of some ridiculously high standard of achievement. Instead, it was his way of communicating the value of always striving to be better and the importance of treating every mistake as an opportunity to learn.
Extracurriculars, like sports, were also illustrative of this household dichotomy. Mom would encourage me to join as many different activities as possible, just to give them a try. In the heart of the spring club soccer season, she'd sign me up for golf lessons, a charity 5K run, or volunteer my time to tutor a neighbor's friend. Dad cared more about mastery of specific sports. Quick to point out areas for improvement, he pushed me to excel through relentless practice and total commitment.
It was often difficult to reconcile Mom's push for diversification and Dad's push for focus, but I eventually realized that each was acting in what they perceived to be in my best interests. Mom wasn't tired of sitting on wet, soggy sidelines, she wanted me to have a broad range of experiences so I could find my true passions. Her mantra was that you couldn't know unless you try. Dad didn't push me to constantly practice because he expected me to get a soccer scholarship. Rather, he wanted me to understand the work that it takes to achieve excellence.
Much to Dad's vexation, Mom often scheduled activities that interfered with practice times. We'd routinely go on vacation a few days early or to take a night off to see a play. Summer vacations were sacred and trumped any other commitments. The day school was out we would leave for the East Coast and not return until just before school began. Lengthy absences meant leaving all commitments behind, including summer training seasons.
Dad never overtly opposed Mom's summer plans, but I knew he was troubled by them. Excellence required a commitment that was not compatible with being absent for several months each year. Mom was not against sports or the commitment they required, but she placed supreme value on the exposures and experiences that a summer of travel could offer.
Over time, I learned to live fully in each of my parents' worlds. When it was time to study or practice, I gave everything I had. Equally, I joined mom's adventures with eager eyes and a full heart. I learned there is not just one way to be raised or a single way to approach a situation. I was never made to choose between competing views in my household, I was challenged to fully embrace each. My parents' perspectives are less conflicting and more complimentary. They are two halves of the person I aspire to be: A thoughtful person committed to excellence in each of her areas of passion, who is hungry to build upon the extensive base of experiences that she has acquired to date. I hope to be as deep as I am broad, to be extremely flexible and to be comfortable in the gray areas between the black and the white. Like my mom, I engage the world around me and am fed by its energy, and like my dad, I am introspective and fully at home in the world of ideas.
Samantha Monello is a senior at Wilsonville High School.