That Awkward Moment You Realize How Embarrassed You are By Who You Were 10 Years Ago

I’ll start by pointing out the obvious. This is 2022. Nobody reads blogs anymore. I know that.

And that very fact likely reveals how much time has passed between the version of myself I do not wish to remind anyone of (though ironically, that’s what I am doing here), and the now 40 year-old version of myself who is finally beginning to process the shame, fear, and anger that I didn’t realize has been here this whole time.

Would it be silly for me to apologize to everyone who knew me during the most challenging and darkest time of my life? I can if you need me to.

Because trust me- I don’t like that guy from a decade ago!

He came across as very self-righteous, eager to prove others wrong, and way too caught up in conspiracy theories.

At the time, I was Parents magazine’s official Daddy Blogger; a side hustle that lasted a solid 4 years. During that time, the plant-based trend was really picking up. So naturally, I found myself exploiting the fact I was a hard core vegan, in my blog posts. Sure, it helped my views. But my vegan lifestyle also served as an avatar to reveal my anger and confusion.

If it wasn’t me being a vegan, it would have been something else. My subconscious would have found an alter-ego to demonstrate what is completely obvious to me now:

I was not at peace. I was reaching.

I was reaching for the idea that I could be in control of… something.

Because during that time, I felt like my life was out of control.

My wife and I had moved from Nashville (where we had decent jobs) with our newborn son, back to my hometown in Alabama. Keep in mind, this was shortly following the Financial Crisis of 2008. And not knowing better, we moved there without securing jobs first.

Unlike now, where people my age are migrating back to their hometowns because so many of us are working remotely anyway, it proved impossible back then to find a decent job where I could support my wife and newborn son.

So after nine stormy months, we had to swallow what was left of our pride and ask for our old jobs back.

We moved to Nashville again, but not before our car broke down on the way up.

And of course, we had been living off our savings the whole time we were jobless in Alabama.

That means we returned to our life in Nashville, with no savings- and for me personally, very little dignity. Starting over.

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but I was very angry and was living in much fear; in addition to the shame I felt, for years following our move back to Nashville.

It was about four years ago that I began to wake up from the fog. The company I had been working for all those years shut down their branch where I worked, which forced me to find a new job.

That new job as a recruiter, where I still work today, would prove to be the best place I have ever worked. I became part of a team for the first time. I polished my leadership skills. I felt good about my life again, finally.

Subconsciously, I was beginning to find my inner peace again.

The biggest epiphany began to present itself a just few months ago, after I became inspired to earn my certification as an Enneagram coach.

I learned that I am an Enneagram 7. I am the optimist and the extrovert, out of the 9 Enneagram personalities.

The downside is, my specific fear as an Enneagram 7 is that my time is being wasted, so I constantly feel I have to keep myself busy all the time- and I have to feel like I’m being productive.

Otherwise, the anxiety kicks in. And I realized that the unsuccessful move to Alabama changed my Enneagram wing of a practical 6, to an aggressive and often angry 8.

I will say- it means I’m really good at my job: Convincing people what to do all day; thanks to my aggressive, energetic edge.

But outside of the character I play at work, it can be challenging for me to feel relaxed. Because I have this angry, anxious energy running through my veins.

For me, this is a year of focusing on mental health. I feel like a lot of people have been saying the same thing, here recently.

As an Enneagram 7, my “growth personality” is an Enneagram 5. In other words, the best version of myself is when I am a more analytical and balanced introvert.

Contrary to that is who I was a decade ago, the self-righteous vegan. That was me in my “stress personality”, which is an Enneagram 1, the Perfectionist. That was the worst version of me, on public display.

Thanks to my new insight, I am able to see progress begin.

As recent as… yesterday, actually… I actually began crying tears of sadness, anger, and shame; as I came to terms with the emotions I repressed for over a decade, from the move to Alabama not working out.

This past weekend, I joined what I am ultimately going to call a “Men’s Support Group”; some of us are specifically there to sort out our repressed anger issues.

And while I haven’t been a vegan for years now, I have been secretly going to the gym 6 days a week each morning before work, to help my mental focus before any other challenges can present themselves.

I’m focused on my mental health, my physical health, and my spiritual health.

My anger, my shame, and my fear from a decade ago are still inside of me; yes.

But I am learning how to unpack all of that. How to manage it. And slowly, to release it and redirect it.

And you guessed it: My typing these thousand words here now is part of the therapy for me.

You’re witnessing the beginning of the release.

 

Dear Jack: You Got Baptized, 2 Days Before Your 11th Birthday

11 years old.

Dear Jack,

The Sunday before your 11th birthday, less than two weeks ago, our church (Southview Church) was having its quarterly baptism service. After everyone who was scheduled to be baptized, there was an invitation for anyone else who wanted to be baptized; right then and there.

You whispered to Mommy that you wanted to! So I took you up right then to the front of the church- and you were baptized for everyone to see.

When the pastor asked you at what point in your life you believed and trusted in Jesus, you replied: “Since I was born.”

I’m sure that’s how it seems to you; as Mommy and I have always done our best to teach you in the Christian faith.

Specially, it was 4 years ago when you were 7 years old, that you officially prayed to tell Jesus you believed in Him.

You have been curious about being baptized, going back 4 years now. But you felt the time was finally right.

I am so grateful you have made this decision! I am so proud of you.

Love,

Daddy

5 Important Life Lessons It Took Me 40 Years to Learn (A Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence)

Having turned 40 this week, I came to the realization I have now learned certain life hacks that… no one ever tells you about!

So for anyone out there still reading blogs in the year 2021, I am going to share with you 5 important life lessons it took me 40 years to learn; most of which relate to the underrated commodity of emotional intelligence.

Don’t Just Be Yourself:

To “always just be yourself” is implying that there is not constant need and constant room for change in your own life and in your perceptions of reality. In order to mature, you must always remain open to, and even crave, constructive criticism.

Plus, the reality is that people don’t simply like you for who you are: Instead, they like you for what value you add to their lives; how you provide for their needs.

So to just be yourself insinuates that you not are empathetic enough to at least temporarily evolve into a version of yourself in order to relate- and therefore to be valued by that person.

Don’t just be yourself. That’s not enough. Instead, be a better and more flexible version of yourself.

Stop Believing That You Are a Good Person:

It’s interesting how many people instinctively see themselves as “good”; which in their minds grants them access to good things happening to them, and not deserving bad things. They compare themselves to people who have different moral struggles than they do; using cliches like, “I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not an ax murderer.”

I feel that culturally, we have bought into this false concept that karma exists. Living for 40 years has shown me plenty of examples where bad things happened to “good” people and good things happened to “bad” people.

Am I a good person? No. Am I a bad person? No. I am a person- and that means both good things and bad things are going to happen at some point. I accept this.

No One Cares About Your Opinion:

What you believe caries no actual weight on the rest of the world. It doesn’t. All that matters is what you actually do.

Yet still, watch how many people express their beliefs on social media as if they were actually changing someone’s mind. Instead, they are only reinforcing what others already believe through a process called Identity Protective Cognition.

Notice how “news” headlines are designed to trigger your tribalism; to get you to take a judgmental side and even get angry and emotional about the other side being “wrong.” This is simply their tactic to sell ads; whether the topic is politics, sports, or entertainment.

Getting older has taught me that I actually only have control over a limited number of things in this world. I have learned to focus on the few things I can control, not the infinite number of things I can’t- like other people’s deep-rooted beliefs.

You Have Complete Control Over Your Own Emotions, Time, Energy, Money, and Nutrition:

Whereas it seems the default that people think their opinions matter and that they control what other people believe, for some reason they ironically assume they are powerless victims when it comes to the things they alone control 100 percent.

No one can offend you unless you let them. No one can waste your time unless you let them. No can force you to spend your mental and physical energy on them unless you let them.

Likewise, you get to decide how you manage the small or large amount of income you have access to; as well as the density of nutrients in the calories you consume everyday.

For many people, “victim mentality” is the default instead of taking control and therefore changing their daily personal choices that currently lead them to a lesser quality of life.

People Always Find a Way to Do the Thing They Really Want to Do:

In the same way people often assume they have control over other people’s opinions and views, they often assume they can motivate other people to change their behavior too. Very seldom is this the case.

Everyone has their own personal motivations. Some people actually find comfort in their self-destructive routine. This is often due to some type of trauma they experienced earlier in life that they never received professional counsel for. It is their defining wound that they’ve made part of their identity. To change for the better would be to lose sight of who they are.

(Ever seen an episode of Hoarders, My Strange Addiction or My 600-Lb Life?)

At best, you can learn to nurture a relationship with a person to the point they begin to want to help you, and that help that you want might mean they change for the better. However, that often is more of a long term investment.

It is often a waste of emotion, time and energy to try to change a person who isn’t motivated to do so on their own.

That’s it! If you found any of my life lessons to be helpful, let me know.

After all, I am making an assumption that my opinions don’t matter, that I am only reinforcing what you already believe, and that to try to convince you otherwise is simply a waste of my emotions, time, and energy.

Dear Holly: Your Tour of Kindergarten This Week!

4 years, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

As you are now just a few weeks away from your 5th birthday, Mommy and I took you this week for your official tour of Kindergarten!

We were in a group of other upcoming Kindergartners; even one from your current preschool.

Once you begin Kindergarten this fall, it will be the only year that you and your brother will be at the same school at the same time; as he will be in the oldest grade of the school, as a 5th grader.

You are very excited about starting Kindergarten; which happens to be at the biggest elementary school in our county, which happens to be in walking distance of our house.

I am confident you are going to love it!

Love,

Daddy

The Jew(ish) T-Shirt: For People Like Me, Who Are Only Partially Jewish

How Jewish do you need to be in order to still be considered Jewish? Or maybe more importantly, how Jewish do you need to be in order to wear the new t-shirt I finally bought for myself:

Jew(ish).

It is a complex and complicated topic. After all, you can have 100% Jewish heritage going all the way back to Israel, yet not actually be a practicing Jew- observing the culture and faith.

On the flip side, you can be like Connie Chung, a Chinese-American, who adopted an identity of Judaism when she married her husband Maury Povich. She is kosher and attends synagogue.

And then there are plenty people in-between, like me.

My mother and I had always specifically felt connected to Jewish people. As a kid, I assumed we were in deed Jewish. I didn’t question it.

Then, a few years ago, my mother’s DNA test confirmed what most self-identifying Jewish people are telling me: Because my mother’s test shows she is 15.2% Sephardic Jewish (via Italy), that means that I am, as well.

Coincidentally (?), I have faithfully remained kosher for over 11 years now; well before DNA tests were easily accessible.

Therefore, I feel confident in qualifying to be worth of the Jew(ish) t-shirt.

If you feel that you qualify, as well, just click this link to find the best deal on Amazon, like I did.

Shalom… I guess.