The summer when I learned to look beyond the tedium

Liberation is the belief that we can succeed, a sense of confidence in ourselves and in our collective efforts. Liberation is the knowledge that we are not alone. Raising Voices shares stories of personal liberation written by students, faculty and staff. These testimonies about introspection, challenge and empowerment pretend to foster awareness and understanding about each other on campus. A 66 year old senior advisor talks about the scholarship that changed his life.

This article belongs to the section Stories of personal liberation. Check previous articles:

Read more: “I will feel liberated when I can proudly claim my sexuality.”

Read more: “I needed a new life when I was 20.”

What has been your personal liberation so far in life?

When we talk about “personal liberation” for someone like me, a 66 year old white male who was born and raised outside of Boston, it’s difficult to know where to go with that. I’m not a minority; though not rich, I come from a working class family who always had food on the table and a roof over our heads. I grew up safe and secure, and in the eyes of some, privileged. But I was far from that. My mother was sick with a serious heart condition for all of my childhood. She was expected to live no more than two years after I was born, but died when I was fifteen. My father was a hard working man, but also a hard drinker. Anger, fear and hysteria were normal parts of every day living when I was a kid. When she died, my family told me that it was now my responsibility to take care of my father and the family home. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry, grocery shopped, all while being a high school student, active in many school activities, and holding down a part time job.

Being away from the torment of what my family life had become, meeting new people, and learning about a new culture at sixteen years old was totally liberating.

The year after my mother died, I was chosen as my city’s first Community Ambassador to spend the summer of 1967 in Italy, all expenses paid! Being away from the torment of what my family life had become, meeting new people, and learning about a new culture at sixteen years old was totally liberating. Sure, when I returned, the expectations and responsibilities placed on me by my family stayed with me until I graduated from college and got married, but that summer opened my eyes to life well beyond the drudgery of my every day life.

Along the way, that memory became a permanent motivation to look for better opportunities for me, far away from the tedium, the grayness. That summer showed me that being able to overcome that pain was possible. I learned that there was a huge world outside of my tiny and yes, painful personal circle and I came back determined to not ever be held down by personal circumstances again. Since then, I continue to take the responsibilities of daily life very seriously, but I have also learned to “milk” each day for what it is worth, to appreciate, learn from, and love the people around me, and to enjoy the gift of time that I have been given as much as possible.

What kind of liberation do you think American society needs?

Personal liberation to me is very different than the liberation that I feel American society needs. Our culture, all people need access to the basics, food, shelter, health care and education. Our American society needs fair and equitable treatment regarding job opportunities and the ability to take care of themselves and their families. Most importantly in today’s culture, we need leadership that truly understands the needs of all Americans and works diligently to support the people of this country.

We need an administration who will tell us the truth, one that we can trust and feel secure about. Right now, we don’t have that. We have been stripped of the security of knowing that we are being watched over and taken care of. Our society needs to know that we are safe, that hard work will pay off for all people in this country.

We need to be liberated enough to know that our skin color, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or age will not stand in the way of our ability to live a free, happy and productive life as Americans.

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