Needing You To Need Me

Have you ever felt like you missed your calling? Yesterday, my daughter said to me, “Mommy, you should be a doctor because you are so good at taking care of people.” There was a time when my mom and sisters joked that I thought I was a doctor. (In reality though, I am doubtful that I would be equipped in this lifetime to actually make it through medical school. Although I believe anything is possible, the med school struggle would be real; because me and math and science sometimes be like…yeah, no. Hence, the choice of law school for me.) But I have been told many other times, not just by my daughter and son (whom I was put on this earth to care for) that I am really good at taking care of people. Being a caretaker though, can sometimes be a fault.

What is this need inside of me to be the fixer? It doesn’t take Freud to figure out that being given up by my mother at the age of three was without a doubt the jump off of my somewhat Nightingale-esque aspect to my personality. If you need me, you won’t abandon me the way I thought my eomma had. As a small child, I can only imagine that my brain and spirit tried fiercely to process why, although I desperately needed my mom, she must not have needed me. Otherwise, why would she have given me up? Having my roots cut out from under me at such an early age has created an internal well of being needed. This well fills and empties and fills back up again.

Having self-awareness of this fact can be a struggle. It is being aware that my understanding of love, friendship, relationships is based on an insecurity. An insecurity that was seared into my soul, forever leaving a scar. And while the scar has faded, my knee-jerk reaction is still to help, to be the healer. To be sure, I gain great pleasure in being able to help those I love. I do so without wanting or needing anything in return – perhaps, other than the self-satisfying knowledge that I’ve helped.

Part of the dilemma in this self-awareness is that I also truly believe in kindness. There are a handful of things that I truly, truly believe in in this world and kindness is at the top of the list. Imagine if people believed in kindness as much as we believe that youth equals beauty or that money equals happiness. I know most people would say they believe in kindness but often times the stresses of daily life can make us relegate kindness to the proverbial trash, at least temporarily. Which is why I try (sometimes with more or less effort) to use kindness as a way of life, a practice.

Having such a strong belief in the power of kindness, yet also having a foundational understanding of relationships via insecurity, via needing desperately to not be abandoned, makes for an interesting self-analysis within my mind. Am I doing this because I am simply being kind? Or am I doing this because I need to be needed? Sometimes the answer is not always clear. Most times the answer is a little bit of both. Knowing is half the battle, and so, my struggle continues. One thing is for sure though, I won’t be going to med school anytime soon, at least not in this lifetime.

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Julie Young is a former litigation attorney and currently works full-time in the nonprofit sector.  Additionally, Julie is a writer and speaker. She serves on the Board of Nazdeek and is an Advisory Board Member of All Together Now.  Julie holds a B.S. degree in Psychology from Fordham University and a J.D. degree from Cardozo School of Law.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and twins.