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Anonyst Man

Bold Honesty

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future

Dear Self: Define Success

As a child, I knew that my father’s artistic career goals and ambitions were not going as well as he had hoped, and somehow sensed that it was coming at the expense of our whole family. At that age, I thought about how I was going to somehow avenge my father and my family’s struggle against the world by succeeding, either where he failed, or in whatever I went on to do.

When I was a little older as an adolescent, I recognized how our limited financial resources kept me from trying new activities that I was interested in and could have been a great bonding experience with my family or given me a positive outlet to learn discipline and grow as a person.

In my teens I went through a phase of rejecting worldly ambition, preferring to help other students by inviting them into the supportive family that I had obtained in a Youth Ministry community. I did well in school but made minimal effort and planned on making a career in the organization that I found a family in.

Graduating college I had left my plans for a career in ministry and while struggling to get my foot in the door and start a career, I thought about my future family and how I wanted to provide them with the all opportunities that my family couldn’t provide: able to afford trying any new activity as a possible lifelong rewarding activity and a family bonding experience, to travel and see different parts of the world, to have the best education possible.

My need to be prepared to give my future family what I wanted to be able to took me over in many ways. I remained radically frugal. Even as my career progressed and I began to make more money than my family ever had, I continued to live about the same as I did in college with the only exceptions being that I starting giving better gifts. I felt I couldn’t afford to let myself enjoy the present because I had to save everything to afford the future that I wanted for my family.

This line of thinking is part of what kept my attention in the future and distracted me from being present to cope with mounting stresses when life got very hard. All I could see was losing the future I had been working so hard and sacrificing so much for.

While I’ve had time to reflect on what is really important to me and in life, I have been seeing the error in my ways and have been reshaping my definition of what it means to provide for a family. On multiple conversations with family and friends recently, I’ve learned that regardless of the financial situation, relationship is really what they felt deprived of as a child. Amid financial trouble, they would have been happy to accept a modest lifestyle if it meant their family would have been all together more instead of spending all their time working for extra money. Those who had been very well provided for financially felt that their parent(s) worked so much in the name of providing for them, but had never asked what it was that they really wanted, which was more time together.

These conversations really shifted my perspective on what successful parenting is, and the few days that I just spent with my friend and his family have been an inspirational example of really living the values of putting your family first in the decisions you make about career and time and money.

It’s always been easy to play the comparison game and try to “keep up with the Joneses,” but it’s also gotten more difficult to provide the same level of comfort for a family without having a dual income family. My friend Andrew has felt called to the meaningful profession of teaching, and even though it’s not lucrative, he and his wife have committed to only having one of them work full time. That means more financial management and gymnastics, more do-it-yourself, and not being able to put up the appearances or do everything that wealthier families can. It also means that their children are given more of the attention required to be better understood by their parents, supported and encouraged emotionally, in an environment that feels stable and safe for them to be themselves, to take risks, to learn, and to have a surplus of love to be able to pour out onto others and have a meaningful and rewarding life.

Watching Andrew with his kids, I was able to see the fun and the love, but now also to see beyond it, to how valuable it will be to his children’s own success and happiness more than any financial resources would be able to and I thought “These kids have it all.”

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Journal: 12/26-28/16

26th – Met up with JJ and Brandon in the morning. I didn’t talk too much about how things have been going. I mostly just talked about being on an extended break and going back in March. As much as I tell myself that I just didn’t want to put all the attention on me and start a long conversation that might come up again at lunch, I can feel a part of me that is still afraid that people will think less of me if I tell them what happened.

I should be secure. I will be secure. I will not be afraid to talk about my story. My story may be able to help someone else, so I am not going to shy away from sharing what I’ve learned about mental health and hopefully reduce the stigma of talking about it honestly.

At lunch with the rest of the Arkeologists, I glossed over the real story as well for the same reasons as above. Hanging out was ok, I didn’t really even get quality time with hardly anyone except maybe Savvy and JJ after most of the parents had left. Getting to help Lepsch announce their pregnancy was an honor, but the reaction was pretty disappointing.

While I was lingering and playing with the kids, Arie asked if I could stay the night there. That made my heart so happy. I talked to my Andrew and Kyria to make sure that wouldn’t be a problem and agreed to stay, although I would be visiting another friend that night before coming back. Before I went out, the kids dressed up and performed a play for me. It was long and chaotic and adorable. Their personalities are almost identical to Rachel and mine so much that it kind of freaks me out.

After the performance was over, I headed to Whitney’s. It was the first time I saw her in 7 months. It was just like every other time we hung out: easy, comfortable, meaningful conversation while she putters around and I watch her while I lounge and talk. The conversation was great, and then I helped her make some new furnishing decisions which was fun, and kind-of relationship-y which I think is what got me thinking. While she was doing some stuff I got the urge to walk up behind her and kiss her on the shoulder. That surprised me but it was a nice feeling. I started thinking about how intimate our friendship is already, how much trust I have in her, and admiring the person that she is. These thoughts made the prospect of being in a relationship again feel real. I knew and know that I’m nowhere near ready or in a place to have any kind of relationship with all the work I still have to get to know and love myself. However, there are parts of my friendship with Whitney that I really like that weren’t there with Carly. That gives me some validation that breaking up was the right thing, and also confused me about my friendship with Whit and if I would ever want to try being in a relationship with her down the line.

27th – Waking up at the Helmlinger’s was a pretty magical thing. Their house is beautiful and getting to hear and see the little ones in the morning is so precious. Little Cullen’s first word in the morning is “Coffee” and is super snuggly. I love it. Seeing Andrew with his kids helped realign my understanding of what’s important to provide for a family. As much as I can say it, being able to see and feel and be part of it brought a connection to that truth that makes me feel more comfortable with pursuing a lower paying career in social impact. Andrew is a teacher and Kyria stays home, but they are able to give their kids much more than any preoccupied businessman could.

After some nerf gun fighting, the kids left while Andrew and I made some barn doors for his closet. It was fun and I got to learn and help. It felt good to make something material since I usually just create musically. I wonder if I would like getting into some kind of craftsmanship like woodworking or leather making at some point since I do really like those materials.

During dinner, Arie told me to “sit up straight” and Kyria got her talking about whether we were going to get married. Arie went on to plan our wedding guests and arrangements. Our cake will be white with blue polka dots. Cullen also decided to call me his boyfriend a couple times.

While the kids were taking their baths, Andrew and I had a conversation about God and what my beliefs are now. I didn’t hold back and hope I didn’t come off condescending. He asked me what I do believe and that was a good and difficult question which I didn’t have a very good answer for. He also asked whether I consider myself a christian and I said that I still see something in it and that I consider myself a extremely minimalist christian, but thinking now I’m not sure if I would really say that or how to know. I’m not sure how important my spiritual beliefs are to my personal values or core identity.

I was able to meet up with Stacy later that night after dinner. The conversation was good, and she actually had some topics on her mind which I wasn’t expecting but enjoyed. We talked about parenting and how she feels like she doesn’t have a choice but to yell at her boys all the time. She asked me how my parents screwed me up and she was able to relate with hers also. I wonder if she’s working through some larger things right now and is evaluating her life in general.

28th – Another beautiful morning with the family. This time we played with the silly string in the yard and played checkers. During the day we went for a walk and jumped on the trampoline. I snuggled with Arie on the couch while we watched Bob the Builder. She made a move on me and put her arm around my shoulder. Being able to give the kids innocent affection was really good for me to be able to do since I haven’t been able to express my affections as a single guy. I also took a nap since I’d been out late and had trouble getting to sleep.

After dinner and getting the kids to bed, I hung out with just Andrew and Kyria for a while and got to ask about Kyria’s interests in functional medicine and what all that means. I see value in it, but I don’t know how much of it to fully buy into. Driving home wasn’t too bad, and I’m looking forward to get working on the practical side of things more now.

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