Eduardo Garcia reflects back on his old writing to see the man he was and the man he has become.
Every once in a while, I look over my old write-ups just to remember where I was in my life at that time. I came across this one, a reminder of why I had to re-evaluate how I looked at my role as a Man, a Husband, and a Father. This was a few years ago, right before I hit bottom and remade my life to one I am pretty happy about right now. I feel like it is something that I should share with you all, since I have noticed that almost all men go through this at one point or another in their lives. That being said, I present to you who I was at one time in “The Dangers of Growing Up” with comments and a conclusion from my present self.
Introduction – from my Past Self
For the last month, I have been going through some serious self-evaluation. Maybe I hit a midlife crisis and I stopped recognizing the man I see in the mirror every morning. Since I don’t have the money to buy the sports convertible, I did the next best thing, wonder Who am I and How did I get to this point in my life?
Sure, I became a professional (to this day, I still have no idea of what that even means?), I married an incredible woman, and I am raising two amazing sons. So why is it that I don’t feel like I have succeeded in life? Why do I feel that there is something tragically wrong? If so many people respect me for my ideals, intelligence, marriage, kids, achievements in life, and simply because of whom I am…then why is there this nagging feeling that something is missing? Shouldn’t that be enough? For a long time I thought reaching these goals would give me a feeling of achievement.
Maybe it began when I caught myself acting like my father, but not in a good way. I found I was becoming the side of him that I resented when I was growing up. My eldest son is now finishing high school. That got me thinking about who I was during that time in my own life. I was a social rebel and was pretty sure I tried to appear as an intellectual rebel as well, although if I succeeded in the latter can be up to debate. I would dress my own way, act my own way, and create my own path. I never understood why all my “weirdness” worried my parents so much. Was being a misfit, a weirdo, or simply different so bad? Apparently so, because now I look in the mirror and see this guy in comfort khakis, a generic polo shirt, and casual shoes looking back at me. Gone was the earring, the long hair, the funky tinted glasses, the black clothing, the boots, the silver rings and punk chains.
Were my parents right? Was conformity really the way to go?
Development – from My Past Self
Two personal events stand out during this time of self-analysis.
My mother passed away last October. During her funeral, the church was not even big enough to hold all the people who went to say their final goodbyes. There were more people who had to stand outside the church than those that fit inside! I saw how many people cared for her and wanted to show their respect and support. For me, she was just a simple stay at home wife who wanted to help others, evident by all the community service she did. I know she was not perfect, far from it, but for her entire life she put everyone and everything before her own needs. And yet, those closest to her are left with a feeling that if she would have taken care of herself as she did for others, giving herself the respect she deserved and the self-love she needed, maybe we would not have needed to be at her funeral so early in her life. (To this day I still think that all those things she did to help others was because she never had the confidence to help herself.)
The time following the funeral, my big sister and I became closer than we have ever been, something I am really happy for. Life has thrown her (my sister) a few curve balls that she has been forced to deal with. She once told me about how she started questioning how she had been living and how she had assigned her priorities. She had spent so many years trying to reach that brass ring, that feeling of success, that she had realized how many things got lost along the way.
The Warning I Gave All My Friends Back Then
Let’s review my previous question. Was conformity to the social ideal of a successful man really the way to go? After some hard time looking into that damn mirror, I came to a realization that what life told me about becoming a man was wrong.
I, as many of you, put the brass ring first. I focused on finishing my university degrees, telling myself I was doing it to give my family the best life possible, but I stopped listening to everyone around me along the way. I focused on making my kids get the best grades possible so they would have a better chance at life, but along the way I stopped listening to them. I focused on giving my wife everything I thought she needed, but along the way I stopped listening to her. I focused on making myself a success, but along the way I stopped listening to ME. And at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, I realized how lost I really was. I kept saying to myself, “I am doing this for my family, for the ‘greater good.’” The truth is that it does not change the final outcome. I came to finally understand the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
So, what now? I have to find myself. I have to rediscover my family. I have to re-learn what is really important in life.
Conclusion – from my Present Self
At that time, I was convinced that I needed to find myself. I was convinced that at some point I would have this world altering epiphany that would give me all the clarity I needed to move on. I thought that the clouds would part and some magical light would guide my way, lifting away all the desperation and sadness from my soul, as presented by every cheesy feel-good movie Hollywood had regurgitated for our consumption. The truth is I did not have to find myself. What I needed to do was to define and create myself. I realized, with some help from those around me, that the first thing I needed to do was to understand how wrecked I was, take responsibility for my own life, and give myself the respect I deserved.
How? First off, by understanding that it was more important to listen to someone than to think I could fix them. Men are told that they have to fix things and conquer challenges. We spend most of our energy going after a solution for problems that might not even be there. Sometimes we just have to listen and try to understand, and nothing else. Sounds a lot easier than what it is.
Second, I identified what I wanted to become, made a plan, and began executing it every day, which I’ve done to this day. Life is not about reaching a goal, but about defining the path you want to walk and walking it. For me it was to become a proper Caballero, the Warrior-Gentleman, as I have expressed in a previous Manifesto.
Sure, you will make mistakes along the way which is expected. I will be the first to admit that going out and buying the sports convertible a few years later would seem like this kind of mistake and it just screams mid-life crisis. I bought a white one and got it at a good price, can you blame me? Just make sure you keep walking forward every day. A day that I can look at myself in the mirror and see a better person than the one I saw the day before is a successful day. THAT is the brass ring: not the destination, but the journey. And now I get to take that journey in a sports convertible.
–Photo: Cuito Cuanavale/Flickr
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