“There is not Nature versus Nurture. Nature versus Nurture is stupid. Really it’s Nature AND Nurture working together,” so said my college genetics professor. In truth, I hated genetics class—the subject material was so microscopic and complicated that I just couldn’t get my head around it. My professor explained that in high school, we learn just enough about genetics to make us “stupid” regarding the subject. (She REALLY liked that word.) I passed, in the end, but I swore never again would I take another “microscope class”. The whole Nature + Nurture thing actually made sense to me though. Even after graduation, I’ve thought about it a lot.
The way I see it, Nature is a combination of your physical self and your personality. It is the part of you that cannot be controlled. For example, I am 5’2” high. I LITERALLY have a different perspective from someone who is, say 6’2”. When I say “personality,” I mean how you inherently react—like fight or flight. I would describe myself as a “by-the-book rebel,” in other words, I follow the rules, but I strive to do so in my own way. Ella from Ella Enchanted is my hero. My classmates all thought of me as a goody-two-shoes, but my teachers didn’t see me that way. On my sixth grade report card, my teacher described me as “belligerent” and when on to say I had my “own mind—good and bad thing”. I did have my own mind. My classmates thought I was a “good girl” because I did my homework and didn’t party. I saw myself as a quiet rebel because I did the exact opposite of everyone else. Even though I’m now in my twenties, that drive to be my own unique self hasn’t gone away.
My definition of Nurture is your environment—the place you live, the people you interact with, the things you read or watch or listen to, the way you spend each day. I grew up in a small tourist town in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Our population would double from June to August when the summer people would relocate to their cabins Up North. For a long time, I was a waitress at a year-round resort. It was through this job that I learned to cut a pineapple, clean a bathroom, properly make a bed, and interact with customers. I went to college in the small Iowa town where my father grew up. This meant that even though I was technically on my own for the first time, I was actually surrounded by more family than I had left behind. After college, I returned Up North and became an AmeriCorps member for a school on a nearby Ojibwe reservation. I had thought, before my AmeriCorps experience, that I knew about Ojibwe culture. After one day at the school, I realized that I was completely mistaken. This epiphany opened my eyes and allowed me to become an eager learner.
Who I am today is not who I was in the sixth grade, or when I graduated high school, or even after I had finally earned my bachelor’s degree. Every single experience I’ve ever had has been filtered through my eyes and my ears, my heart and my soul. Someone with the exact same life experiences as me would not coalesce into the same person I am. I know this because I am the oldest of four children and even though we grew up in the same environment, we are each our own person. Sure we share similarities, but we are not identical. And so, even though I only ever half-understood anything my genetics professor said, I do agree with her that Nature and Nurture are both factors in the “making” of an individual. Moreover, because each day is different and brings with it new experiences, I believe that who we are is constantly changing. I am not exactly who I was yesterday. I am not yet quite who I will be tomorrow. All I can do is experience each day and discover who I will become.