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By Esther R. Starobin

How difficult it is to identify one thing I learned from all the different people who raised me. My parents, of course, were the first people I must think about. My instinct tells me they took advantage of an opportunity, and trusted family and strangers. I think this trust was really learning to adapt to new situations. 

Next I think of the Harrisons. They certainly took a chance by adding a child to their family in difficult times. I wonder if they believed they were doing God’s work as they were very devout Christians. I trusted them completely as I adapted to life in a new family situation. The Harrisons had to learn to help a homesick child while changing their way of life as the war started. 

Adapting to life in the USA was much more difficult. Living in a large, loud household in a city, while experiencing a new religion, a different type of school, and new expectations for my behavior took a while to get used to. Of course, I did adapt because there was no choice. I believe, though, that while I did adapt to the difficult situation, I lost much of the trust I had in people. I became more of an onlooker than a participant in that household.  

Living with my sisters was much better than living in my uncle’s house. I was part of their life but not completely. It was difficult for them to raise and support a teenager while trying to make a new life in this country. I did not know other students at the schools I went to who did not have parents to take care of them. It made me a little different, at least in my mind.  

By the time I went on to college and had a career, I was quite good at adapting to whatever situation I found myself in. I think, though, I often have not totally felt a part of any group to which I belong.  

Now the benefit of being good at learning to adapt to new situations is that when we needed to take our daughter to the University of Iowa hospital for surgery, I quickly learned how to live in a hospital day in and day out. I learned the rhythms of the doctors’ visits and how to make the experience interesting and not too frightening for our daughter.

For the most part, the trait of adaptability has been useful to me. I do think it keeps me from becoming fully involved in some activities and groups. Moving on to something new, I tend to drop previous associations. This may not be a good way to be. Somehow in adapting to the new event, I cannot seem to hold on to previous ones. It makes life a little disconnected.

It has been the many changes I have experienced in my life that have made this trait a part of me. No one explicitly tried to teach me to adapt. I believe watching the people around me and making the necessary changes to live comfortably has taught me this.

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