When I was a little kid, I not a particularly brave child. I was afraid of bullies, afraid teachers, and afraid of my parents. I worried about consequences, I worried about getting beaten up.
I didn’t know who I was either. I mean I knew something’s that I liked but I never felt like I had a clear identity. No group really wanted me, and I desperately wanted to be in any group that would have me.
Then in high school I had a group, and I found some form of identity. I was still completely spineless, but at least I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, and between writing and trying to film with friends I had some sense of self.
So where I guess my point that I’m trying to get to REALLY starts in college. When I went off to college, within a month I met my first love. It took off quickly and she loved me back. For those first few months I felt untouchable.
By spring break, we were still doing great, we had met each other’s friends and families. I was already pretty convinced she was the one.
During spring break it became apparent to my family that our relationship had progressed faster than anyone was ok with. To put it plainly, I was sexually active and both religiously, and logistically they thought it was a bad idea. I had parents, grandparents, uncles, and a sibling telling me what I should be doing.
Like any teenager, I was pissed. The difference this time, was that for the first time in my life I HAD to stand up for myself, but mostly because I had to stand up for her. I didn’t tell anyone to ‘fuck off,’ or anything like that, but I did what I wanted, despite the consequences. I made it clear, if the money for college was conditional that I’d rather live the way I wanted than take the money.
I moved in with my girlfriend during the summer despite their objections. (I should mention that most of my family was trying their hardest to do what they felt was best for me. I never doubted that, in fact at one point I helped my father with construction work when I was unemployed because he knew I needed a job/money. But knowing that wanted what was best did not help at the time.). Eventually I moved to Colorado, which really strained my relationship with them all.
During this relationship, I was ballsy. I would tell bosses when they were wrong, customers when they were being assholes. For a three and a half year period I took very little shit.
Anyway, in the end my relationship with my girlfriend failed. For a long time I blamed my families interference, but now I think it wasn’t meant to be. But that relationship in many ways is exactly what I needed for that period in my life. It made me fight.
Then I moved home, and my family was great. They helped me get back on track financially, they helped me when I had a few significant psychological episodes, and we slowly built our relationships back to better than they had ever been before, I’m not sure that could have happened without nearly break either.
Between the time when I moved back, and the time when I met my wife—which was coincidentally about three and a half years as well— I maintained some sense of the ballsy attitude at work.
Then I met my wife, and I quickly knew I was going to marry her, and this time knew that feeling was real. Then I got laid off. I hated my job, but I was so devastated by the idea that after five years they were getting rid of me. My dad calmed me down and told me it was all going to be fine.
I decided to go back to school full time. I had been wanting to, and saving to and I decided it was time.
My wife, Sarah, and school gave me a sense of identity and confidence. She encouraged me to work towards my goals even as they changed, and I found quickly that I was excelling at school for the first time ever.
After my first year back at school, I decided to do an advertising internship. I had heard about an advertising company that had given a friend good experience. I started and found out that despite the name it was a marketing agency but I was ok with that not entirely knowing the difference, and I learned a lot. I had a boss who I really couldn’t stand but needed to finish in order to get credit for the internship. So despite the boss being a complete jerk, I kept my mouth shut. I couldn’t mouth off the way I had before.
I was finally starting to feel a sense of who I was, but I was losing the ability to stand up for myself. It was the beginning of reverting back to the scared little boy who couldn’t stand up for himself. I had had my ass kicked before and I couldn’t bare the thought of going through it again.
The internship ended, and I graduated, and got a couple of crappy jobs and again was crippled with fear. I was getting married and had responsibilities and had to keep up.
In the song Renegade, Eminem and Jay-Z take turns saying “never been afraid to say what’s on mind, at any given time and day, because I’m a mother fucking renegade!” I used to hear that and think it described me. I really felt like a renegade, but now I’m not sure I ever was one.
I am confident in beliefs, I voice my opinion and my thoughts on political and social issues, you might even say I’m a big mouth, but there is a difference between saying what I think in the abstract, and standing up for myself and my wife and son. For a long time now, I’ve felt like a coward. I was not sure I had it in me anymore.
So here I am, a husband and a father who is afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing everyone, who got laid off—again. I have been given the gift of no choice. I have had to actually follow my dreams because everyone else’s have failed me. I may get another job and if I do I will work hard, and try to provide for my wife and son, but I’m not sure I can do the biting my tongue ‘thing’ anymore.
To quote a different Eminem song, “to think I was afraid to make a single sound,” “I didn’t want go another round.” (Guts Over Fear)