I’m not in a position to give each of you a Christmas gift, at least not a physical one, so I wanted to give the gift of words of encouragement. Specifically to my fellow guys.
Ladies, in 2014, please do the men in your life a lifetime solid by encouraging them to open themselves up emotionally and maybe even consider seeing a therapist. The past year of my life has been one in which I’ve felt and found myself opening up in ways previously unimaginable. It hurts down in there, but it’s so much better having pulled it out for inspection and introspection. Tears upon tears have been shed and new spiritual doors have been opened.
All of this has been done in the pursuit of making sure I don’t fall victim to the plight of my ENTJ Myers-Briggs personality traits (and weaknesses) which I have spent the last couple of years exploring more intensely, which coincides with seeing professional help for the first time in my life.
“Although ENTJs are not naturally tuned into other people's feelings, these individuals frequently have very strong sentimental streaks. Often these sentiments are very powerful to the ENTJ, although they will likely hide it from general knowledge, believing the feelings to be a weakness. Because the world of feelings and values is not where the ENTJ naturally functions, they may sometimes make value judgments and hold onto submerged emotions which are ill-founded and inappropriate, and will cause them problems - sometimes rather serious problems.”
I know many of us straight men like to pass judgment for the emotionally sensitive traits we typically associate with women…calling things “gay” or “homo” as if that’s some kind of derogatory thing (when in reality, many of us would love to have the emotional strength of openly-gay men, can you imagine?). What I say to all men, straight or gay, is to seeing a therapist as some kind of badge of weakness, but a badge of strength and courage.
You know what weakness and failure is? Not going through that emotional door or acting like it’s not there at all rather than going through it and realizing perhaps you’re not who you thought you were (sorry, Dennis Green aka "they were who we thought they were!") or that you didn’t have as much figured out as you once thought. The person I am today is better than the person I was last Christmas, and I could only pray to say the same next year and the year after…
Personal experience is the best foundation for advice or counsel so please know that I’m not sharing these words from a pedestal up above feeling enlightened or emboldened as if I've figured it all out but from the ground floor and even still on my knees (having just crawled up from the basement) where I look up to God for forgiveness, love and resilience to hopefully go through any door presented to me. Perhaps God gave me a therapist in the same manner in which He gave me various teachers, friends or mentors throughout the years to help me become a better person. One could imagine.
I’m going to have plenty more challenges and opportunities in the future, and the past year has been like CrossFit training of the heart and mind, I feel. I'm ready. Ultimately, those physical doors us men pride ourselves on going through, be they financial or professional, aren’t nearly as critical in life as the emotional ones we often neglect.
I won’t have a New Year’s resolution attached to this, but I will in fact continue seeing a therapist, having those tough conversations, listening to the harsh external criticism, learning from my past and from trusted others, seeking to understand, and traveling along the narrow path as God desires us all.
Matthew 7:14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
I spent some time today walking around Downtown Greenville, a part of town I always loved growing up here, and venturing around all the great brick buildings with my mom. These were all taken with my iPhone 5S using VSCO as listed. I don't think I'll ever take photos as good as my friends @masterwilliams or @niraj26 but I wanted to capture my favorite buildings in the beautiful downtown area of the city I grew up in. I used to go to shows, watch fireworks and spend countless hours around here at Coffee Underground.
I drove from Austin to Atlanta the night before last with my best friend Colby. After a good six hours of sleep, I hung out with my good friend Larry in ATL last night. This morning, I headed home to see my mom in South Carolina. On the two-hour drive from Atlanta to Greenville, I got to thinking about why I love the road so much. Sure, I like hopping on a plane and flying somewhere like New York or San Francisco or Tokyo, but I absolutely love road trips. After Christmas, I’m making a very roundabout drive (around Texas) from SC to Utah where I’ll meet up with my middle and high school track coach and go snowboarding with my business partner Chase. It’s going to be a nice couple of weeks after one of the busiest, most challenging, most emotionally exhausting and rewarding years of my life.
But back to the road trips…one of my earliest childhood memories is of hopping in a U-Haul van with my mom and two older brothers and making the move from Texas to SC when I was six. My parents got divorced when I was young and this was a big risk for my mom, moving to a state she’d never lived in before, that really paid off for our family. We were dirt poor and heartbroken as a family in Texas, and South Carolina gave us a new chance. I learned so much in the eight years I spent in Greenville, and I also learned a lot from that one trip. I realized that life changes and people change and the most important thing you can have is hope about the future. Hope that life down the road will be better and more fulfilling than life along the roads already traveled.
Some of my most important life moments have been in cars…from hooking up with my high school sweetheart and my first trip from SC to New York to watch the Atlanta Braves and NY Mets play to trekking from Austin to Los Angeles for the 2005 Rose Bowl to watch the Texas Longhorns and driving from Austin to Washington, D.C. two weeks after Hurricane Katrina to take my first job out of college as the chief speechwriter for FEMA. There have been solo trips, there have been trips with family and friends, and there have been trips with lovers. There have been times when I felt like getting on the road was the only way to keep my sanity and there have been times when I felt like I couldn’t wait to get where I was going.
Throughout, the constant has been music. I started to think about the kind of albums I need for a long road trip and here are my absolute favorites dating back to ’99 when I first got my license.
Radiohead – Kid A - duh
Little Brother – The Minstrel Show - Classic hip-hop with great production by 9th Wonder.
N.E.R.D. – In Search Of… - Pharrell at his lyrical best long before "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky".
RJD2 – Deadringer - Even better than his theme song for Mad Men.
Beck – Sea Change - Because sometimes I'm feeling melancholy.
Jill Scott – Who is Jill Scott? - I grew up listening to Anita Baker with my mom. Now I have Jill.
Local Natives – Gorilla Manor - My favorite, non-Kanye album of the last ten years.
Sevendust – Animosity - I can sing every lyric and air drum the hell out of this one.
Kanye West – The College Dropout - What? You thought it'd be someone else?
"Kanye West loves to set up enemies for himself—mostly imaginary, some surely real but ultimately powerless—and then work himself into a lather proving them wrong. That dynamic can lead to ego-blasted, borderline-psychotic interviews, which get the lion’s share of the public’s attention, but it also leads to the ego-blasted, borderline-psychotic art and energy that make up Yeezus. The trade-off is absolutely worth it." - The AV Club names Yeezus best album of 2013 after Spin magazine did the same. Rolling Stones named it the second best album of the year. I mean, I guess, if you really don't want to give it up to Kanye because he can be egotistical and an asshole sometimes. Dude is definitely the rock star of this generation.