What I Learned From My Moms: Finding My Imperfect Self

For the longest time in my life, I thought people could only be all good or all bad. Slowly the two moms I had and lost taught me value in seeing how people are imperfect creatures filled with good and bad.

I had two moms of sorts. I had my biological mom, and then another mom who sort of took me in when life was hard. I've lost both; one to death and one to abandonment. Both were strong women and have added to my life in different ways.

My biological mom, Mona, had difficulties when it came to parenting. She was hard and screamed and could be physically abusive. I spent a large portion of my life being angry and frustrated with her. When I was 17 she kicked me out of my home and all I could feel was anger. I had support in that feeling from many around me who had difficulties and/or very uncomfortable encounters with her. She died April 30, 2013.

My second mom, Suzanne, was a youth worker in my church. When my mom kicked me out, she graciously welcomed me in. She supported me in many ways and almost never yelled at me. I spent most of my life with her and her family believing she was perfect and what my mom should have been. She abandoned me earlier this year.

What I've learned in the time that has passed, and with hours upon hours of conversations with many of the people I know, is to really look for and see the imperfect in others. The only way I understood the world and my mom figures was to see Mona as all bad and Suzanne as all good, but that's not always accurate. I look back on my relationships with both and can now, with some distance, see more of each. When you have the chance sit with your thoughts - it gives you the opportunity to see the world in a new way. My mom, although abusive and angry at times, taught me some amazing things. She taught me to be a strong and independent woman. She also taught me fierce loyalty. My mom was harsh and could be awful at times to my sisters and I, but God help anyone else that even looked at us wrong; my mom would go straight into protective mama bear status to defend and protect us. She also taught me to be kind to animals and love them. I'm sure my two cats Otis and Lizzy can attest to how strongly I've held that lesson.

With Suzanne, I could only see the good. It didn't matter what seemed unfair or how distanced I felt from the family, because she treated me better than my mom did and at the time that's all I needed. But as I started to heal and gain confidence in myself, being treated okay wasn't good enough- I wanted to be treated fair and equal to the rest of the family. I'd ask for that. With Suzanne, if she was angry with me, then the whole family stopped speaking to me. In essence, every time we'd have an argument I would lose an entire family over and over again, which made me feel like I wasn't really a part of the family. I was constantly balancing whether to say something about this feeling or not because I was always fearful if I did I would lose a family forever. Eventually those feelings happened more often than not so I did bring it up and was the preceding factor that ended our relationship. But just like my mom, there were amazing times and great memories. Christmas is one of my favorite seasons, and with Suzanne and her family, Christmas was like something you see in the movies with family coming together and lots of love and laughter. She taught me style and to understand the importance of quality versus quantity. She also gave me hope for myself and my future. Perhaps this relationship can be mended some day, but it would take her growth and ability to accept relationships don’t come together or fall apart because of one party.

What both of these women taught me is how our world is not black and white; how people are complicated creatures filled with goodness and failures. Through this, I’ve been able to really find myself. I am neither always perfect or always terrible. I am imperfect and can be loving and kind at times, opinionated and strong at others, and angry and self deprecating at other times. But most importantly, what I’ve learned about myself is that it’s okay to be all of those things; it’s what makes us human. I spent so much of my early life trying to be perfect and hating myself every moment I wasn’t, but through these women I’ve learned how to be okay with fault and realizing no one is perfect, and that is the best lesson anyone could ever teach. 

-Krystal Woolston 

Krystal lives in New Jersey and works in higher education, specifically in the community engagement field. She is currently in a doctoral program studying civic engagement and positive youth development. She's passionate about helping others to see how they can make a difference in their world.