Our motivations are what get us up in the morning and get us through the day. They are also more long term in that our specific motivators may determine the direction in which we take our lives and what we decide to do with our time. It can often be difficult to identify these motivators in ourselves. One way to see these motivators is to compare and contrast oneself to others. In Liz Murray’s memoir Breaking Night, she describes her hard and challenging life up until the moment that she was accepted into Harvard University.
Although Liz’s life is quite different than mine, some aspects of ourselves and our motivations are the same, but of course there are also differences between them as well. At one point, Liz says that she will never do drugs because she saw what it did to her parent’s lives and will not do that to herself (Murray 168). This topic is extremely relatable for me. My two older half-brothers, Josh (31) and Dave (34), had problems with drugs when they were teens. They were always in trouble and neither actually graduated high school, but got GEDs instead.
I remember being really little and knowing that my brothers were in jail and it had something to do with drugs. I later found out that they were not only doing drugs, but dealing them as well. Thankfully they are now doing better; they are both married and each have two boys. Josh has even graduated from college. However, they still deal with addiction every day. Both have relapsed since rehab and that has been hard on everyone involved. From a very young age, like Liz, I have been able to see what drugs do to families and how they tear people apart.
I, also like Liz, have told myself that I will neither do drugs nor will I even touch them. In that way, Liz and I have extremely similar motivators that came out of similar situations. Another important aspect of myself is that I have always felt like there was nowhere that I could really be my complete and true self. In high school, and even at youth group, I always felt like I had to be a different person in order to fit in with my friends, and that I was never able to be who I truly am. There was always some aspect of myself that I could not show because I was in a certain place and I was with certain people.
My experiences are similar to Liz’s situation when she was younger. She “found that [she] was always hiding; there wasn’t room for [her] full self… anywhere [she] went” (Murray 77). Liz and I felt the same kind of distance from the people and places that we went. Fortunately for both of us, our circumstances made us want to find a place where we really could be ourselves. Prep was a place where Liz was able to become the hard working, academic person that she is today, and it is where she found that she could be who she really is.
Liz states, “With the Prep staff, my negative feelings about school began to dissolve, replaced by an actual love for learning, and with it, at last, a tangible hope for my life” (Murray 285). Although she may not have realized it, Liz was becoming and expressing her true self. I had this same experience coming to college. I feel as though I can express outwardly the person that I know I have always been on the inside. I also no longer have to hide parts of myself away. I am able to just relax knowing that these people and this place accept me and allow me to be my true self.
Although some of our motivations are similar, Liz and I also have some differences. From a very young age, Liz has had so many responsibilities. Not that she always did what was required of her, but just the fact that she had so many responsibilities as a young child. Her parents relied on her for so much. Among other tasks, she cleaned up after her mother (Murray 164), helped her father sneak out of the house (Murray 53). She was also responsible for getting herself to school because neither of her parents knew that she was not going and really were just indifferent.
Although she was responsible for it, she never based her actions on that responsibility. Nonetheless, Liz had a lot of responsibility thrust upon her at a really young age. On the other hand, I have never really been responsible for much more than my school work, which may have come from the huge emphasis that my parents put on academics. My parents took care of me; they fed me, took me to school, and pretty much did anything that was needed for me. I never had to worry about anything, except for school work. These different levels of responsibility have caused Liz and I’s lives to manifest themselves differently.
When Liz finally took charge her responsibility for school, she was able to handle it fairly easily because she was so used to handling different kinds of responsibility. When I finally was forced to be independent in coming to college, I had to make some adjustments because I had to accept responsibilities that I never had to worry about at home. Liz’s excessive amount of responsibility prepared her for the life that she is living now while my lack of responsibility at home required a significant lifestyle change. In this case, Liz is motivated to be responsible for her life because she has always been responsible for it.
On the other hand, I am motivated to be responsible to show that I can be, but I have to work at it because of my inexperience. Another difference between our home lives is the relationships with our fathers. Liz and her father always had some connection through the books that he would read to her, but that was about it. They never really interacted more than just ding the times when he would read to her. He seemed like he did not even care when Liz was taken to a group home, “Sorry, Lizzy,” was all he said” (Murray 130). He never really took interest in her or her life and because of that, they did not have a close relationship.
There was even a huge gap where they did not see each other until Liz needed him to sign papers so she could go to Prep (Murray 258). Also during this ordeal, it can be seen that Liz’s dad was not really that concerned with Liz’s life because he asks minimal questions and does not really focus on what he needs to do for her. In contrast, my dad always asks so many questions regarding everything I do. This constant questioning sometimes annoys me, but it always reminds me that he really does care about me and what I am doing. It has created a close relationship between us.
We bond over many things that he has shared with me over the years; he even helped kindle my love for science. Being so close already makes me want to stay close, and motivates me to keep up our current relationship. Liz’s dad and their relationship has the opposite effect. He never paid attention to her nor pursued a relationship, so she has no motivation to keep a relationship with him. Our motivation to keep relationships with our fathers differs in this way. Liz Murray and I have quite different backstories which lead to different personalities and motivators.
Although our stories are different, there are a few similar situations that are present which provide us with some common aspects of ourselves as well. Our addict family members showed us the power that drugs can hold ever a person and we are now able to freely be ourselves because of the places we are in. In opposition, we have very different relationships with our fathers and our motivations for being responsible are at odds as well. Our experiences lead to similar motivations and personality traits, but two people can never truly be the same, because of that, Liz and I are different people.