I shaved my beard, tonight. Funny way to start a blog on speaking up, but you will see the point in a minute. But, first, a little background.
I grew up in a little backwoods town in Southeast Oklahoma. To say that I didn't fit in that well would be an understatement, but who fully does. However, I knew I wasn't like your average boy. Yes. I did like to explore and got hurt enough times to definitely qualify, but I was just not into the same things that other boys were into. I avoided the football games on the lunchtime playground. I didn't like to wrestle or any form of violence. So, it didn't help when my dad was always trying to get me to go hunting with him or help him build buildings. I am pretty sure that all of that was meant to make me more...manly...to be like him. However, I didn't let that difference define me. I just found places that I could fit in NEAR what they wanted. So, for example, by my senior year I was the bookkeeper in basketball or baseball, and I was the sports photographer for the yearbook. I excelled in my studies and got a lot of awards in many subjects, and that caused my critics to pretty much leave me alone...especially if they wanted good stats for their plays or good pictures or such. However, I found myself being happy with taking a good shot or making friends and school achievements.
Indeed, achievements made it pretty easy for me to distract myself from being different than most guys, all along the way, and ....because I was very friendly and supportive, I had a lot of friends that liked to have me as a friend. Even as I was at work and starting a family, there was always those that I could relate to....and a lot of time they were women. No, I am not saying I am gay..stay with me, though. If you thought that was what I was about to say, this post is for you.
I joined the military and served with honors, along the way. However, I must say that being around a bunch of guys that talked about their trucks and football and shooting and using women only made me feel very different, again, and I was back in that school in my mind or with my father in the woods hunting. Then, as I was leaving the military, my ADHD daughter was having issues with her schooling, and they were isolating her. My ex (we were married then) wasn't about to give up her management job, so I took the initiative of homeschooling her. And, it provided me with years of self exploration. As I schooled her, I also did everything that went along with it at the home, and I wrote freelance and read books and had LOTS of time to think and along the way, I learned that I LIKED myself, as I was, even if others around me were still determined to make me fit their mental mold.
But, I was still confused, and here is where we hit the meat of this blog post and how it relates to both society and recent news from the President and the military. I knew I wasn't like most men, and I felt pressure to just force myself to be like them. However, I chose to start loving MYSELF for who I was. It wasn't a clear path, and I didn't have anyone with which to discuss all of this so I questioned things like my sexuality...I felt that if I wasn't like the majority of guys then I must be gay...only I wasn't sexually attracted to men, only women, which made me all the more confused.
Now, I will pause my story to ask you to participate. In your lives, do you know people that might fit this struggle? Do you know others (or perhaps yourself) that do not like doing the things that the stereotype of that sex does? Do you know tomboy girls that hate wearing dresses, or do you know guys that would rather go to an artistic event or go to a coffeehouse or walk in the park over going to a football game and who never say anything when you talk about who will win the next major fight that will be on tv? That is called...GENDER, and it doesn't mean sexual attraction. And, most people don't understand the difference, so when...for example...the President commands that all men who are not like the other man or women that are not like the other women should be expelled from the miliary, it only reveals their ignorance.
So, I resume my story. As I learned to love myself and make myself happy, I found those that resonated with that person and those that wanted to change me. I chose to cut off those that didn't support me and surround myself with those that do, and in the process of that surrounding, I met my wife...who GOT me and loved me for who I was. We connect BECAUSE I am not a man's man...if I was, she wouldn't like it, and if she wanted me to be different, I wouldn't like her.
But, every now an then, I still fall back into the temptation of thinking she would like that kind of man, so I do things like grow a beard or act more directing and being the "hard working man" figure that I am told in the media that she must like...and in so doing becoming less of the man that she fell in love with and less of the man I had learned to love, myself. But, eventually, one of us will start a conversation that leads to open discussion about how we feel (we both like these conversations to help us work it out mentally), and we go...oh, right...duh, and we make corrections...like shaving a beard.
So, I know it is hard to not be influenced by the world around you, but I would recommend that you take the time to keep yourself centered in remembering what YOU LIKE about being you and what you do not like....and then communicate that to others, around you. Only then, will you be able to filter out those who really like YOU for YOU and give them enough feedback to know what you really like. Only then, will you be able to find true happiness.