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We are shaped by people, experiences

In many ways, our lives are shaped by our experiences and the people who come into them.

We have a tendency to learn, not only from books, school and other similar opportunities, but from what happens to us. You get burned on a hot surface, you learn not to touch it again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of these ideas lately, as I reflect on all of the people who have spent even a little bit of time in my life. We have family and friends who stick with us, and those who might drift in and out. They all leave a mark in their own way.

The last year, especially, hasn’t been an easy one for many of us. We have temporarily lost those in-person social connections. Some of us have lost loved ones. We have been left with our thoughts and memories as our lifestyles have changed.

We’ve probably all become a little more introspective as a result.

Take some time to think about those who have influenced you. It could be a favorite aunt or uncle, or maybe a cousin who was more like a sibling. Maybe there was an adult from your church or from a community organization such as Scouts or 4-H who became a mentor.

Perhaps you had a chance to step into that mentor role yourself, and learned from the individual you were trying to assist.

It could be a colleague you’ve met through work or through a community activity.

Every person who steps into our lives leaves an imprint on us. Sometimes it may just be a memory or a name, while others may lead to us rethinking long-held beliefs.

Think about what changes have been made to your life because of the people around you. How have they affected you? What have you learned through your experiences together, or from those on your own?

Maybe you’ve tried a new type of food, or read something from an author recommended by a friend. It could be discovering an enjoyment of the outdoors or of an activity you had never tried before. You see yourself looking at the world through a different lens and your perspective begins to change.

Do we really go through our lives with the exact same thoughts and beliefs, mannerisms and habits or attitude?

I suppose it truly is a part of the whole “nature versus nurture” debate. Two people living in exactly the same lifestyle can still grow up to be completely different based on how they are treated by family and others around them, as well as the paths they take.

I’m not the person I was as a child, or even five years ago for that matter. Life is about constantly learning and reassessing where we are and where we could go. Staying in the same place, mentally or physically, does no one any good when you really think about it. We have to be willing to look at other options and opportunities or, eventually, we all get left behind in some way. We look at the world around us. We learn from it. We adapt in the hopes of becoming better for ourselves and those around us.

I’m grateful for all those who have been in my life, in one way or another, for good or bad. Sometimes, it has taken a while for the lessons from them to sink in, but without those experiences and interactions I wouldn’t be who I am today.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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