If I try to trace it back to a sad or emotionally damaging childhood memory - I can feel the sun on my skin and the grip of my handle bars. I was standing on the corner of our street on a summer day. My parents had announced their divorce. My father was living with another woman. He'd come to see us on Wednesdays and every other weekend. Most of the time he'd just cart us over to the woman's apartment, picking up fast food and movies along the way.
We had just gotten into a huge argument. He was hooking up his boat for a ride out on the lake. I was deathly afraid of water and couldn't swim. He knew that.
I didn't want much. I wanted just a day without the other woman, without the facade of a normal Wednesday or weekend. Just a day where he hung out with us - to be with us and not to fill some sort of timely obligation.
He pulled up to the corner and looked out at me, my brother in the front seat next to him - annoyed his sister was causing more drama for daddy.
"Last chance," he said. "Coming or going?"
"Why can't you just hang out with me?" I asked him.
He shook his head and drove off.
The need grew from there. An unbelievable need for people to find value in me. Value enough to stay. Value enough to befriend. Value enough to love. And it twisted and turned and grew up with me.
I imagine people do walk the earth who know how much they are worth. I tend to imagine it's everybody but me.
I find my mother the other day sitting at a small table in the center of the mall. She knows the value of time. She has a 15 minute break and while most people would wander aimlessly, picking up a cup of coffee and then returning to their sales counters - my mother sits with a cup of tea at her own table, munching on a snack of almonds or apricots or if the day has been long, chocolate.
She'd been down the day before. A disagreement. A bad day. She tells me about it and we talk and I joke and she laughs. We laughed until our sides ached and our eyes watered. She went 15 minutes over her break.
It's nothing exceptional. Just another day. But as I walk away from her, I start to think. What if something horrible happened to me and I were no longer in this world? There would be no other girl, to mosey on over to her on a break and make her laugh like I do. No other daughter to hug or to vent to or to call every day.
And the thought twisted and turned and grew. If I were gone, my friends would miss me. If I weren't here, there'd be no more visits to my grandmother - no quick jokes between us at other people's expense. No stories to tell the way only I could tell them.
Those moments are my value. I no longer have to look for it.