Alena's Life Journey

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Alena's Life Journey by Mind Map: Alena's Life Journey

1. Infancy (Birth-3)

1.1. Physical: Most babies are born weighing 7 pounds. I weighed in just under this statistic at 6 pounds 5 ounces. Babies double in weight after only 5 months of living and triple in weight by their first birthday. This is the fastest period of growth in a person’s life. My mom says that she remembers not being able to believe how incredibly fast I was growing during the first year. I walked for the first time at just under the age of 1, but it was only a distance of 4 steps from my mom to my dad with outstretched arms. As a baby, my sense of taste and smell were well developed. My mom said she remembers giving me a little taste of lemon and I’d crinkle my entire face with disgust and bitterness. Also, since the sense of touch is highly developed in babies, my mom said that she had to keep everything off the floor because I’d try to place whatever I could in my mouth. One time, I swallowed a small marble and my mom said she had no idea until she changed my diaper the next day!

1.2. Cognitive: During the first 2 years of life, baby’s brains develop billions of connections between neurons. These are responsible for the electrical transmission of information from and to the brain. The sensorimotor stage takes place during infancy. Reaching this stage directly correlates with a child’s level of physical maturity, though it is the earliest stage of cognitive growth. There are 6 sub-stages of this period including Simple Reflexes, First Habits & Primary Circular Reactions, Secondary Circular Reactions, Coordination of Secondary Circular Reactions, Tertiary Circular Reactions, and Beginnings of Thought. My mom said that whenever she left my sight, I’d cry like I thought she had disappeared forever, I was obviously lacking object permanence at this stage. When I started talking I would overextend meanings of words, like “dog” and call every animal at the fair “dog.”

1.3. Socioemotional/ Personality Development: My mom says I was a very happy baby. She said that I always tried to impress people and always had on my “social smile.” I’d smile at anyone and anything just for the sake of smiling and being happy. A little later on, she said she put a mirror in front of me and I crawled toward it looking at myself first strangely, but then as I came closer and sat up, I began to touch my nose and eyes and watch as the baby in the mirror did the same things as I did. At this point in the mirror, I gained self-awareness and recognized myself as an animate object. She made it seem like I had a secure attachment pattern, and that I was daddy’s little girl. My mom said I was somewhere between being an easy baby and an easy to warm baby because I was either very positive, or I showed calm reactions to changes in my environment.

2. Preschool Years: (3-6)

2.1. Physical: At the age of 5, (preschool age), I weighed around 45 pounds, with the average being 55 pounds and less. During these years, my body became more slender. My arms and legs lengthened, and my stomach also flattened out due to having more room for my organs in my newly lengthened body. I took swim lessons and remember getting many earaches. This was partly due to the bacteria in the water, but more importantly, the fact that the Eustachian tube in each ear was changing its orientation during these years. My parents were never worried about obesity because we went on daily walks, and ate only the best organic foods prepared by my wonderful mother. I rarely ever remember being sick in the preschool years, nor was I ever vaccinated as an infant. I actually never even got the chicken pox until THIS year, when I wore my roommate’s dress that had shingles the week before.

2.2. Cognitive: Brain lateralization becomes more obvious during this time. This means that different functions of the brain are located in one hemisphere rather than in another. For most, the left-brain is mostly associated with speaking, reading, and thinking whereas the right brain is more creative and associated with things such as music, and emotional expression. Children’s attention spans lengthen causing them to be able to listen better and pay attention in school. My mom said before this time that one moment I’d want to color, and the moment she got all the coloring supplies out, she said that I’d want to play with my dolls instead. Growth in the brain, particularly the cerebral cortex, is actually highly associated with the growth in ability to carry out advances in motor skills. For instance, (by this time my little sister was born), while I could easily run around and climb on things, my sister was still figuring out how to walk and keep balanced. Preoperational thought comes about at this period and I remember playing in my toy kitchen and pretending it was the real thing. It’s really funny actually, I also remember fighting with my little sister over who got more juice when my mom poured seemingly different amounts into different sized cups. I remember my mom yelling at us that they were the same, but we just didn’t believe her because we hadn’t developed the idea of conservation.

2.3. Socioemotional/Personality Development: I remember developing “friends” during this period of life. Before this time, my best friend was a dog, Bruno, a giant black lab. I used to talk to him, but this was most likely a form of private speech in which I just wanted to hear myself talk and try out new ideas. After Bruno died, I began growth toward social speech where I actually talked to other people in order for them to understand me. I began making decisions of my own, such as what to wear, and I look back on photos and ask my mom how she let me out of the house in such horrendous outfits and she simply replied, “you wanted to wear that, you begged me to wear that, you were realizing your self-concept and identity and you wouldn’t have it any other way.” My idea of being a boy versus being girl (gender identity) had been well developed by this age. In fact, my preschool had 7 boys, and me as the only girl. One day I came home from school and told my mom that we did the play of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs and she asked who played Snow and I replied snobbishly, “Hello mom! I obviously played Snow White, I AM a girl.” I was definitely not androgynous because I would play “house” and dolls with my girl friends and we thought of the boys as “icky.”

3. Middle Childhood: (6-12)

3.1. Physical: In elementary school, I remember being taller than virtually all of the boys in my classes. At age 11, on average, girls are 4’10” and boys are 1/2” shorter than that. This is because girls, at this age, have entered their adolescent growth spurt. During this time, I lost all my baby fat and was more muscular, especially considering I participated in gymnastics. I ate very healthy, though I wished at school that I could have more of what my classmates ate. Many of them ate cookies and drank soda, however I always had sandwiches, dried, fruits, and veggies. Looking back on it, however, I’m glad that my parents served me what they did because I had no chance of having a bad diet and being physically and emotionally unhealthy since diet not only effects physical health, but also social and emotional functioning at this age. I participated in school sports such as baseball and soccer because my gross motor skills had developed enough to coordinate catching, throwing, and running. At this age, I learned how to write in cursive and had very good handwriting skills that I remember my parents being very impressed with. Also, at this age, my dad taught me how to use the computer, and I came up with my own 65-page story that I typed. My dad actually had it published! It’s called the TLYTIETTLYM Tree, which is an acronym for The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You Make.

3.2. Cognitive: In my middle childhood years I had no trouble learning. I was not diagnosed with any speech, literacy, or attention disorders, so I was very lucky. Learning always came easily to me, however, my little sister had troubles distinguishing certain letters and numbers from one another. She was labeled as dyslexic and my parents put her in specialty classes to help her learn and escape the learning disability. Since she was caught at an early age, it was easily fixed with extra intensive classes. I was able to form logical thoughts to problems. I realized that my mom was not actually giving me less juice, but that the classes we were using were different sizes and shapes. This logical thought process is called concrete operational thought. I also developed the thought process to feel whether I was doing something right or wrong—almost that little devil or little angel on my shoulder whispering to me what I should and shouldn’t do.

3.3. Socioemotional/ Personality Development: During middle childhood, self-esteem is relatively high. At the age of 12, this positive view of oneself usually tends to slump. I remember feeling pretty highly of myself, especially since my parents were so supportive. I was good at seemingly everything I did, and my parents encouraged me to try my hardest in order to experience the most positive results. I won the girl’s 10 and under swim meet and had my first book published, so I felt pretty highly of myself. I understood my strengths and weaknesses at this age. For instance, I was not a very fast at runner, however, I could swim like a fish. I had my first boy tell me that I was pretty, and I remember my girlfriends and I would gossip about which boys we thought were cute. I remember blushing when talking to boys, so apparently I was in the stage in which I recognized chemistry between people of the opposite sex. I also remember talking to my friends about my “secrets” because I trusted them with whom I was crushing on or what was going on in my family life, so in this case, I was in Stage 2 of friendship. They provided me with emotional support and taught me to manage my emotions and how I acted toward others. Friends also taught me that the way I acted, affected others. For example, when I was mean to my friends, it affected our friendship and trust between us.

4. Emerging/Young Adulthood: (20-40)

4.1. Physical: I am at the very beginning of young adulthood. I am 20 years old currently and have just left the adolescent world behind, hopefully. I have attained my full height, 5’8” tall and I weight just over 140. I am physically active and go to the gym on a regular basis because I care about my body and being physically fit. Though in the late part of this stage, we’ll get into the senescence decline, I feel like I’m at my physical and mental peak. I maintain a good diet of small portions, however, I eat what I want, when I want, if I’m hungry. I have never been one to starve myself or been an exercise freak, but if I notice I’m putting on a few pounds more than normal, I don’t hesitate from hopping in the pool or eating a salad rather than a full plate of lasagna. My senses are also fully developed, and I have perfect vision. I feel blessed physically with great vision, great health, and easily maintained weight. I feel as if I’m sleep deprived, however, because I have a very heavy class load and rarely time to sleep a full 8 hours a night, and this definitely affects my ability to stay healthy more than my diet. The stress of all my home work, prevents me from sleeping sometimes and definitely affects my health. After this semester, I’m only going to take 16 credits to tame down my stress levels. I have many stress-related colds and sometimes back aches from it.

4.2. Cognitive: I have started thinking about the future more in this stage. I realize now that the things I do will affect my future either positively or negatively. I understand how reputations matter and that I need to keep my Facebook pictures and other websites clean in order to get a good job later in life. I pride myself on being classy and realize that my actions have consequences. I am able to determine right from wrong and always try to make decisions based on the right. Postformal thought has kept me from making bad life decisions. Because of this more logical thought process, I recognize that I need to get good grades, leave unhealthy relationships, make positive friendships, and gain experience in internships that will strengthen my future success in my career choice. I have realized that you can challenge authority and that my opinion matters. I’ve learned to think and research things on my own rather than simply trusting authorities such as teachers, doctors, or my mother. Currently, I’m in the achieving stage, where I care about my future career, family, and my contributions to society. I’m currently searching for an internship this summer in Milan—the fashion capitol of the world.

4.3. Socioemotional/Personality Development: I can tell that I have definitely started to seek intimacy. I have found it several times, but at this stage in life, we’re growing and changing spiritually and emotionally, so we may fall in and out of relationships due to differing viewpoints. I believe that I have been in love 2 times in my life and have had 2 long-term relationships. Both of them ended because of proximity, because long-distance relationships are too complex, especially when it comes to jealousy and attending college and meeting new people. I am currently single, however, I don’t feel lonely. I like having freedom within my relationships and not having to feel like one of us is being unfaithful. I enjoy my single life by making lots of new friends of both genders. I feel as if you lose your friend relationships when in an intimate relationship, it’s hard to keep a balance of friends and lovers. I learned to live with many new people and have found that it is important to create friendships that will hopefully last the rest of my adult life. I live in a sorority, and absolutely love the wonderful woman I have met through this college experience. I plan on finding a great friend and lover to marry and start a family with. Hopefully my children bring me life satisfaction and my husband and I have great commonalities.

5. Middle Adulthood: (40-60)

5.1. Physical: My physical abilities have declined. It’s harder for me to exercise and I don’t feel as fit as I used to. Sometimes waking up in the morning is even hard because I feel stiff and tired. My children have begun to notice that I’m declining physically and have began to ask me why I’m tired all the time. I do manage to run with my husband every day and keep up with my children as best as I can. I wish that I hadn’t have cracked my knuckles as much as I did in earlier years because I am beginning to feel pain in my fingers and wrists, the doctors said this is probably an early sign or arthritis and he told me to make sure I’m eating less acidic foods. We just took a trip to the eye doctor to get my husband fitted with his first pair of reading glasses as his vision is declining due to presbyopia. I feel more fit than most of my friends and family members around the same age, perhaps this is because I’ve had great hygiene, eating habits, and exercise routines through out my life. At 48 I started going through menopause, where I got hot flashes and no longer can reproduce. Sometimes I feel dizzy and get hot flashes, but now I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant!

5.2. Cognitive: My memory of past events is fading slowly, but my short-term memory is staying relatively the same. I forget about events that happened in the far past such as my childhood and my college days. I tend to lose my keys often, so I was given several ways of remembering including being more organized, and paying more attention to the small details of life. I feel as if my intelligence has declined over the years and I can’t pick up new things with ease as I used to. My husband and I went to France, and it was hard for me to pick up on the language, though we went to French classes for 6 months leading up to our travels. Though my fluid intelligence has gone down (in terms of memorizing) has gone down, with my life-experiences, my crystalized intelligence has increased. This intelligence relates to information we have learned through experiences and the people I’ve met/places I’ve been.

5.3. Socioemotional/Personality Development: Sometimes I look back on life and wish I had done more things with it. At one point, this pattern of thinking threw one of my friends into a midlife crisis. Not many people experience these, however, my friend had trouble realizing and accepting that she was really aging and that death would eventually be upon her. It was a hard time for all of us, and she actually needed to be hospitalized to deal with her depression. My husband and I have managed to maintain a sexual relationship. Now it’s more about cuddling and feeling love than the actual act of having sex. I think that continuing to have sex has really helped our relationship stay stable in these later years. I’m feeling a little empty now that my children have moved out and went to college, however, when they visit, it makes me feel young and full of life again.

6. Late Adulthood: (60-Before Death)

6.1. Physical: Primary aging has definitely set in, this I was told is normal. I have been diagnosed with no horrifying diseases largely because I have been healthy and active my entire life, so secondary aging has not had time to set in yet. Many of my friends have broken bones doing seemingly easy or not strenuous activities such as golfing. Their brittle bones are an outcome of osteoporosis, and I am hoping that this painful disease doesn’t affect my family or I. My husband and I both got fitted for hearing aids because our hearing has declined to where we can only hear if we’re looking directly at the person talking, or when people talk quite loudly. I have a slowed reaction time, so if I’m spooked by something, it takes me longer to shudder or turn away than it used to. The most common way of death at this age is cancer and stroke. I had a mild stroke in my late 70’s which led to my husband calling an ambulance, however, I was fine and I am still physically stable for my old age.

6.2. Cognitive: Several of my friends have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease where they remember long-term things, but have trouble remembering things that happened in the recent. Some of my friends, it seems, have even lost their minds due to dementia and they think that they are seeing “old friends.” I do believe in God, but am not one that believes in ghosts, so I believe the doctor’s diagnosis of dementia in those friends. My short-term memory has decreased and I often find it hard to remember what I had for dinner the night before. My husband and I talk regularly about religion and are hoping to make it into the gates of Heaven. We have accepted that soon, we will pass like many of our friends have. We have come to terms with death, and though we may not be ready, we have come to terms with the fact that we will all eventually pass on and leave our brittle bodies behind. I have become too old mentally and physically to work, so my husband and I retired at the age of 65.

6.3. Socioemotional/Personality Development: I feel as if people, including younger family members are a little afraid of me, like I remind them of death or something. I think this stems from ageism, where especially in our country, elderly people are looked to as dumb, and smelly, and unable to function fully. I feel the looks that some people give me and it hurts my feelings, but I am still comfortable with myself. I am one of those elderly women who go to a pool locker room and strips down nude without a care in the world as to what other people think about me. At this point, it’s virtually impossible for my husband and I to engage in sexual activities due to our brittle bones. We have come into companionate love, where it is satisfying enough to simply be close with one another and feeling each other close. We were moved into an assisted living community, but we live in our own little condo. On a regular basis someone comes around to make sure that we’re doing okay and medical help is administered when needed. Sometimes, my grandchildren visit me, however, this does not occur often because they have their own lives and I understand that.

7. Adolescence: (12-20)

7.1. Physical: This stage starts before the teenage years, and ends after them. Physically children are going through sexual maturation. The onset of puberty usually begins around the age of 12. I remember being annoyed when I started developing boobs and I even cried when I got my period. I reacted negatively to my changing body because I have always had a fear of growing up. My mom and dad educated me and told me what was happening to my body, but it still scared me that I was beginning to change so much. I feel as if I developed at a regular pace with most of my friends, however, some of them developed faster, and some developed slower. I got my period at the end of 8th grade and was physically able to have babies at this stage, however I was nowhere near mentally or emotionally stable enough to have a child. Beginning to menstruate marked a primary sex characteristic whereas my armpit hair and breasts marked the secondary sex characteristics.

7.2. Cognitive: At this age, I remember feeling more independent from my parents. Before this time, I was scared to spend time away from home with my friends, however, at this stage, I wanted to spend as much time with my friends as possible. The brain develops so that teens can think and evaluate more complexly. At this age, I remember getting mad at friends or my parents, however my prefrontal cortex had developed enough not to act on my emotions, and to deal with stress and anger in other ways rather than lashing out such as writing in a diary or yelling into a pillow. I felt as if everyone was watching me at times, and looking back on those days, nobody really was watching me. This idea was part of my personal fable and I’d have dreams that I was going to school naked and being panicked because everyone was laughing and pointing at me. This was just a dream, but it proved that I really cared what others thought of me, and that I thought I had an imaginary audience. Though I fell into this personal fable, I do not think that I was an egocentric individual because I often put other’s well being over mine as a good friend.

7.3. Socioemotional/Personality Development: By this stage, I knew what others thought of me. I was a friend, a leader, a quick learner, and high-strung. I cared a lot about what my friends thought of me, since I was not especially comfortable with my growing and changing body. If I got a zit on my forehead, I remember feeling very embarrassed about it, especially if someone brought it up to me or in front of another peer. During this time, I remember feeling the need to go to college. However, I don’t remember feeling pressured by my parents to attend college. Before this age, I never really thought about my college plans, and I felt a little lost and thrown into the “big pool.” At this age, I remember caring about money and how much school would cost, more than I ever had cared about money earlier in life. I remember discussing my preferences with my friends more than I discussed them with my parents, because for some odd teenage reason, their opinions almost mattered more. I definitely noticed the different cliques in high school, and though I did not like the idea, somehow or another, I developed my own reference group. I committed to going to college because I felt the need to better myself for the time being and also for the rest of my life.

8. Death, Dying, and Grief

8.1. Physical: I am 99 years old. My husband had a stroke 3 days ago and was coined Brain Dead. The only thing sustaining his life currently is a tube with meal supplements entering his body. I don’t want to diminish my children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance, so after long and hard thought and much crying and debate, my family and I decided to pull the plug. I regularly get checked by the doctor for cancers and heart disease. I was diagnosed with cancer from smoking in my early years, and this is very normal in later life the Dr. said.

8.2. Cognitive: Since I’m largely unable to think and act for myself, I have written a living will in which contains a document called the durable power of attorney. My daughter will make decisions for me if I am rendered unconscious. Many of my friends are in the phase of denial about their nearing death, but I have reached the acceptance stage and simply wait for the time when I can join my old friends in heaven. I hate that my state is causing my stress and grief, but I can’t help that I am nearing passing.

8.3. Socioemotional/Personality Development: After the death of my husband, my family wanted me to live at home with them. They were worried that I would be depressed if I lived alone, or lived at a home or hospice. I’m glad that they wanted me to live with them because the most important thing for me at this point in life is love and being surrounded by family. Dealing with my husband’s death was very hard for me and I’m glad my family was there for me through it all. At first I felt numb inside an couldn’t believe that I was experiencing the death of my life-long partner. Due to the fact that people are more likely to die when widowed, I am ready to go and leave my painful and sluggish body behind. Death at this point is what I want. I want to rid my family of my burden on them and see all my old friends and faithful husband in heaven. All that awaits me is just too great for clinging on to my current state, so I am letting go.