For years and years I struggled with my identity and who I really was. Up until the age of 30 I felt pretty lost and a little insecure. I grew up in rural Ireland with very few kids around to play with and as a child I stuck to myself. My parents had split up when I was just a year old so my mother wasn’t in the picture at all and my Dad was not around very much. I was left to my own devices a lot and I developed quite the vivid imagination.
My first 3 years of high school I went to my local school and there I was introduced to and tried to figure out girls. They were scary in that they were totally foreign to me. I had 4 older brothers growing up. I couldn’t control my emotions around them. I couldn’t figure them out, how to converse with them casually or how to make them laugh. I was extremely shy. If it was a girl I liked forget about it. One girl in particular that i had a crush on made me physically ill when I saw her.
Yes, I went to bathroom and threw up, sorry for the TMI but that was the profound effect she had on me. Everything about her, her look, the way she carried herself, what she wore, how she smiled, how she talked, how she smelled. It grasped every fiber of my being and pulled so tight that I completely could not handle it. I couldn’t even look at her. We ended up dating later on, it got a little better. She would be thankful to know now that every time I saw her I didn’t hurl, just at the beginning a little.
At 19 I emigrated to the USA and moved to New York City. I lived there until I was 29. I definitely came into myself a little in NYC, you kind of had to. Things moved very fast. I got my first apartment and full time job at 19. I lived in Hells Kitchen and worked in Brooklyn. I was on my way in life. Legal drinking age came about and I took full advantage. I definitely partied a lot but looking back on it, I only had maybe 2 or 3 people whom I’d call true friends and that i truly enjoyed being in the company of or had fun with. In those 10 years I was haunted by my past in Ireland and struggling to come terms with who I was becoming. I always wanted to fight the good fight.
I always swore I would never make the same mistakes my parents made, like them getting split up or having a broken family, or my Dad regrets on not starting a business when he was younger. Funnily enough, I ended up getting into a really bad 5 year relationship with a girl who was very broken. I guess I was attracted into trying to fix her. It never worked out. I also tried numerous times to start my own business but it never worked out also. This flung me into this state of depression without me being really aware of it, I self medicated with alcohol and just went thru the motions of my job and everyday life.
At 29 I had enough and said I wanted to go back to school. I moved to Hartford, CT and went to culinary school. I found a new lease on life away from the drag of the city. It certainly felt like a fresh start. I felt like a new person, like I had awoken. All of a sudden I was brimming with confidence, biking to school, getting myself a job, putting myself out there. I was a little older so now the kids in my class looked up a bit to me. I realized my identity and it was fun to release it with more and more confidence.
Through this experience I met my future wife. We got married, now have 2 kids and a home together. I finally started my own business and it is growing. Over this period it has slowly dawned on me that what I was experiencing was the definition of becoming a man. I think its a question we have always subconciously asked ourselves and you continue throughout your life to ask…what is it to be a man?
As a boy you look at your elders and you want to be a man. As a teen you rebel, you think you are a man and act out your definition of what it is. Sometime after your teenage years, it happens, perhaps quicker for some than others. Maybe sometimes for some of us it doesn’t happen at all…but life has a funny way of throwing obstacles at you to make you realize what it truly takes to be a man.
Being a man means taking control of yourself and your emotions. Being a man means being truly honest to yourself and those around you. Being a man means recognizing the faults within yourself and your willingness to accept those faults and to strive tow ork on them. Being a man means having balls and having the conviction to use them, not to show bravado but to stand up and be heard when the time is right.
Being a man is about having strength, not to bench 250 pounds but to have courage and belief when in times of darkness or danger. Being a man means being supportive in every way to your significant other and taking care of your home and your children. Being a man means being there, always…and when you are there be there 100%.
Having said that, I am not naive enough to think that I have it all figured out. I’m still young and have a lot of life left to live, maybe my definition of what it is to be a man will change but for now, I’m happy with my take in it and that I am in a good place to have that kind of take on it.