I am one of the lucky ones. Blessed beyond measure, I grew up with two loving, supportive parents who, to this day, continue to enrich my life. I lived in a comfortable suburban household, safe and stable, and never wanted for anything.
As a youth, naturally, I took this for granted. I never really considered my auspicious lot in life. Living in a mostly homogenous, upper middle-class town, I just assumed everyone shared similar experiences.
I first started to realize the extent of my good fortune when I got to college, where my interpersonal relationships increased exponentially. Penn State had a huge campus, and joining a fraternity further fostered friendships with people from a greater diversity of backgrounds. Unlike my high school crowd, where almost everyone came from two-parent households who were financing their secondary education, some of my college friends had divorced parents and, more significantly, had to pay their own way through college. This meant loans and jobs, where I had no such obligations and responsibilities.
My eyes really opened after college, when I started taking acting classes in New York City. Our training entailed a lot of exercises that prompted us to dig up painful memories. Sometimes, our activities would require participants to address people who had hurt them. Frequently, these imagined dialogues, usually with a former lover or parent, revealed sad, scary, at times brutal experiences from my classmates’ pasts.
Some of my fellow actors could easily drop into a state of despair, terror or rage, but, thanks to my truly charmed life, I had to fabricate hypothetical anger and hurt and would really struggle to reach dark places. What a problem to have – not enough harrowing ordeals in my past to tap into to elicit emotional upheaval. No wonder why I preferred comedic acting to drama.
Over the years, I have sadly encountered more than a few people with far less fortunate upbringings, some downright disturbing. And as an avid consumer of both fiction and documentary television and film, I am continuously bombarded with horrific stories of poor parenting, arduous lifestyles and difficult predicaments. All of this has collectively served to elevate my level of gratitude immensely and teach me one simple truth: the most integral ingredient to a joyful life is a parent’s love.
I can’t begin to thank you, for raising me up
I can’t begin to thank you, for showing me true love
A fathers words will help you grow
A mother’s touch will help bestow
A foundation of love, to give to the world
Guidance through this life, a story foretold
Sure, there are many elements that contribute to good parenting to varying degrees, such as providing financial and emotional support and instilling proper morals and values. It also involves nurturing creativity, athleticism, and other interests, balancing the right amount of guidance without being too controlling and enforcing a sensible amount of discipline. Ultimately, however, feeling loved and protected, especially as a child, provides a critical foundation which underlies our self-confidence and general well-being for years to come.
Life is not a feather, it’s blunt and heavy
But with good perspective, your balance will be steady.
My father once told me, to laugh at the little things
My mother always taught me to be kind and spread my wings
Not to say that people can’t overcome a lack of these things, but success comes way easier for those who had caring and attentive parents. Over the years, some of my closest peeps have had childhoods riddled with obstacles. Each one of them has dealt with those challenges differently. Some have successfully processed what happened, put it behind them and lead fulfilling lives. Others, sadly, have never moved on. It continues to plague them, both subconsciously and conspicuously, miring them in psychological quicksand, hindering their happiness and preventing their progress.
Don’t let your let your past define your current state
Don’t let anyone decide your fate
Be strong and grow, let your light glow
live for yourself today
These ruminations are addressed in the song Rootfire premieres today by Virginia’s One Culture reggae band. Written, produced and mixed by singer/bandleader Kurt Jansohn in his home studio, “Raised to Be” gives thanks to his parents while at the same time acknowledging the role we all play in creating our own realities.
“The song is basically about how my friends and family have helped shape who I am, but I also hold myself responsible for who I continue to become,” commented Jansohn.
A straight-up roots reggae track with a chorus that will get lodged in your consciousness, the song’s inspiring sentiment features fitting brass structures courtesy of horn players recruited from the jazz band at Jansohn’s alma matter, Old Dominion University.
“Raised to Be” releases on streaming platforms tomorrow, appropriately just in time for Father’s Day.