Maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had, and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated. – Anon
July 6, 1998, was the day that I enlisted in the Army. On that day, I said goodbye to my mother and father, for it would mark the last time that I would ever live with my parents. I did Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; nine weeks of the most grueling summer heat that I had experienced up to that point in my life. I completed that phase of training and moved onto Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
The time spent there wasn’t as grueling but it was challenging nonetheless. In total I spent 21 weeks away from home for the first time. My mom and dad came and picked me up after graduation and I saw how proud they were of me. The child that left a few short months ago was no more. I felt like a new person. I felt like a man at that point but as I think back on that day and where my life actually was, I was far from being a man….
October 26, 2003, was the day that an 8lbs, 7oz. being was bought into this world. It was the birth of my first son. I felt like I was on top of the world. Felt like everything in the world was just right. I held my son, for as long as the doctors would allow me to, and I wept. I was holding something that was greater than me, something that I helped to create. Not even a year later, a second child was born. I’m thinking “how could I be so lucky to be blessed with two beautiful baby boys”.
One birth wasn’t greater than the other to me. They both had their special places in my heart. They both served as pivotal points in my life. There I was, a father of two little boys, a husband and a soldier. I had what I believed to be a picture perfect life at that point. Again, I felt like a brand new person, this was it for me, I am finally a MAN!!! But sadly, I was not even close to being a man at that point in my life….
The years went on by, each one seeming longer than the next. I’ve been through many struggles and have had to battle many personal demons. I was way out there, lacking respect for myself and others. I found that I really didn’t care for myself, that I was projecting this false image to the world. Not to say that I was a liar but I wasn’t completely honest, or forthcoming rather.
People had their own perceptions of who they thought I was: “Oh he’s such a great person, he’s a great father to his kids, he always takes care of his responsibilities”. I mean, for the most part I am a very insightful, dignified, well-spoken, mild-mannered, responsible man. But nobody really knew the struggle that was going on inside me. The whole world was thinking that I had it all together, despite leaving the military early, going through a divorce and other things. But all in all I had a great career, was a homeowner before I turned 30, was in a decent general state of health, but I still didn’t feel like a man.
Now that I think about it all, I was getting “being the man” confused with “being a man“. I thrived off the attention. I was a social magnet, I felt like I needed to stay connected, needed to stay relevant. I wanted people to like me, I wanted people to relate with me and to me. Again, I didn’t have a very favorable view of myself, so to get outside recognition and validation for my life was something big for me; it was something that I thought I needed.
It wasn’t until I met someone that made me look at things differently; that genuinely cared about the struggle going on inside of me. This person saw through the façade, peered into my soul and awakened something deep within me. This wonderful person loved me like no other person has ever loved me, to include myself. They made me believe in things again, made me whole. But despite all of that love, I almost jeopardized it all because I didn’t realize that I was still holding onto parts of my past. I was still holding onto relationships that I thought were important, thoughts of a single man, memories of what was. I was clinging onto my youth not realizing that those days were long gone.
Today I stand a man. Not because I’m of an adult age, not because I’ve been in the military, not because I’ve had kids, been divorced and got married again. No, I say that I am a man because I can look back on my life and know that it was not lived in vain; that I actually learned from my past mistakes and transgressions. I can take responsibility for all that I have done. I can be completely honest with myself and others. I recognize that I am liable to stumble but as long as I keep my head up and stay focused, I won’t fall on my face.
I realized I was a man when I finally put my past behind me, cutting ties with people and deciding to move forward in life. I am a man, not because I say that I am one, but because I live my life in accordance with being one. I am a man and I am a very happy man to be able to share my life with an amazing woman, because as they say, behind every good man there is a great woman and without her I would probably still think I was a man rather than knowing that I was one….
I’ll still luv ya tomorrow…..