All I wanted was some Moore like Ashton I ain’t the coolest but I know I got passion I got passion!
- Chidish Gambino, All The Shine
Life as a dad is always a struggle for balance.
Am I doing enough? Am I earning enough? Am I spending enough time with my kids? My partner? For myself? What more can I do right now? What job should I be pursuing? What should my kids be doing in the evenings and on weekends. What's that other dad doing? How are they making that work?
The questions, the doubt, the struggles, the insecurities, they're endless. And most of us aren't comfortable talking about them. But it's okay to be human and have feelings. I promise.
Social comparison theory states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others. This is nature and intrinsic and without conscious effort, this is really out of our control.
Without this natural instinct to compare ourself socially, the self-help industry doesn't exist. The self-help industry is also MASSIVE. Multi-billion dollar massive. Mark Manson, he of "The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck" writing infamy, wrote a great article called "5 Problems with the Self-Help Industry", an industry that you might benefit from like I have, but also one to be taken with a grain of salt as it is people trying to capitalize off of your own insecurities in order to buy their next fancy car or vacation property.
A desirable state to exist in across multiple disciplines of science is equilibrium. Equilibrium is defined as:
a: a state of intellectual or emotional balance : trying to recover his equilibrium
b: a state of adjustment between opposing or divergent influences or elements
2: a state of balance between opposing forces or actions that is either static (as in a body acted on by forces whose resultant is zero) or dynamic (as in a reversible chemical reaction when the rates of reaction in both directions are equal).
For myself, pursuing and maintaining equilibrium has been HARD.
A big part of never feeling in equilibrium for me had been a long-term pursuit of feeling accepted and the push and pull between the urge to be more like other people you see being welcomed and accepted and not rejected; and the urge to want to feel like being you is good enough.
Along the way, I've picked up some habits that for better or for worse have made me who I am today.
I can't really empathize or relate to the privileged experience and what it creates in others who have taken that path, other than to identify and be more forgiving and discounting when it comes to their obvious natural entitlements and difficulties in processing adversity and finding resiliency.
I do feel lucky in some respects that I've overcome challenge and adversity in every step of my life, as I can absolutely spot someone from a mile away that had a stable home and a normal upbringing by how they respond to significant challenges. When times get harder, I get stronger while they might be more likely to fold to pressure and flail under scrutiny.
Like they say, old habits die hard.
In my relatively fancy community of Old South, dominated by two parent families and a consistent multi-generational lineage in the neighbourhood for many, I do feel like an outcast quite often. Like I don't belong.
I took someone telling me in a neighbourhood Facebook group that "your opinions don't matter because your family hasn't been here for five generations like other families" totally to heart because of that impostor feeling. Like my family does belong in a lower income more transient area. But at the same time, fuck that. I earned my spot here by hard work and consistent effort and a refusal to quit or cater to others, every single day. We belong here because we are good, hard-working people that set a high bar for others in terms of how to live with love and selflessness. If that doesn't work for those people, maybe it's time to find a new neighbourhood.
This is one of many examples of that ongoing struggle for balance. The ability to let go of old habits, experiences, and memories that created scabs on my personality and callouses in my soul.
Some of these scabs hardening into callouses have entirely suited me for the better. I will never forget or discount that. Because I have grinded through the toughest times, I appreciate the best ones. Abuse, neglect, poverty, hunger, isolation led to gratitude, love, loyalty, passion, and resilience. I wouldn't necessarily say that I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything, as they were pretty awful, and I would be a total buffoon experiencing Stockholm syndrome if I did think that, but I'm also glad that I survived and became a fiercely loyal and strong person as a result as well.
I don't necessarily have this balance thing nailed yet.
I could be better with money because I haven't fully adjusted to not always being broke and subsequently having more choices than I ever did previously. But I also have learned good habits on saving and prioritizing from my lovely wife, and I do spread the love with money far more often than I spend it on myself anyways. Whether it be hooking up the guy on the median with change, or making ninety different charitable donations in the last four years, I do spread love (it's the Brooklyn way, right Biggie?).
I could be better with telling others how I feel. Surprising to read given how vulnerable I make myself and how openly I share in this blog, right? That's the problem. I never had an opportunity to share my feelings with anyone until I met my wife when I was 26. Because I never felt like anyone cared enough to hear them. Writing them was easy because for the longest time, they were only for me to lay out, process, and ponder. This started when I was nine, at my dad's encouraging. It was so evident how quickly my brain worked due to how much I had read and learned, but I also couldn't speak clearly or coherently because I really never spoke. It was a mixture of mumbling and stuttering and getting flustered and clamming up. SO, I always tend to express myself better in writing, but I am always working on being a better communicator verbally. Speaking slowly, openly, clearly, and from the heart.
I could also be better at keeping my emotions in check. I am a passionate person. As a passionate person, I am loyal. As a loyal, passionate person I am fierce. As a loyal, passionate, fierce person, I am a strong advocate. When you wear your heart on your sleeve, and act with integrity, fortunately you can usually get the benefit of the doubt from most people.
But, anyone who takes the time to not take a knee-jerk reaction will always benefit in the long run, as long as no one's safety is at stake. I speak from the heart and from a good place, but listening and thinking before I speak will always be to my benefit, even if speaking without doing those things might not necessarily always be to my detriment.
I always need to remember the word PAUSE. I'll fight to the bitter end for anything or anyone I believe in strongly enough, but as Sun Tzu has indicated in "The Art of War", "All warfare is based on deception. Hence when able to attack we must seem unable. When using our forces we must seem inactive. When we are near we make the enemy believe we are far away. When far away we must make the enemy believe we are near."
These areas where I strive for more balance are also the areas which make me such a unique and effective person. I wouldn't change me for anything, but can always do better. Kind of like when Michael Jordan developed a reliable jumpshot as he approached 30 and unleashed an all new kind of devastation on the NBA. Through continuing to pursue fiscal responsibility, emotional vulnerability, and the pause and patience to not always rush into things with good intentions, I will always continue to achieve good in my life and set the bar high for my family and for my peers.