It All Starts at Home
We try our best not to become like the ones who raised us, in an endless cycle, and we seem to miss a few steps important to our growth and the next generation.
They say when you're in your twenties, you go through “Phases” that occur at certain points in life. These phases shift the person you are to start a new point. But as we go through our shifts, we take hits that ultimately affect us as we move on… Well at least try to. These hits are turn into our “Issues,” and if those issues are not given their much-needed attention, over time we’ll have to work twice as hard to survive the emotional hell that is our life. I see life as a plant; the seed is planted and if nurtured correctly, it will blossom into something beautiful. It will eventually lose life when the roots are no longer able to be nurtured and cared for anymore or if something gets in the way of its life cycle.
I’m 25 years old and I’m at what I call the “Rebuilt” stage of my own life. When you get to the point where you’re contemplating jumping off a building like I did, the rebuilt stage is where you’re going to look back at a fucked up point in time in your life and laugh at yourself asking yourself what the hell was wrong with you. But in the back of your mind, you knew. And don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be at this point, but shit is still put-a-bullet-in-your-head worthy, it just starts to get somewhat easier to manage…. You’re stronger, wiser and one with yourself.
I grew up in a single parent home and was given everything I could ask for from my mother, who worked hard to not be the mother she grew up to have. That was her goal, pretty much the goal all parents strive for sometimes if the relationship wasn’t the best with their parents. My father was in my life briefly, or only in the little memories I have of spending weekends at his house with my siblings from one of his previous relationships. I barely remember their names now. All I know is after a while my father stopped coming around. No more calls, no more weekend sleepovers, no more relationship with my dad.
I questioned for years why my father walked out on me; the questions never got answers, and at some point the sadness of not knowing crept it’s way in and at one vulnerable moment, the emotional insecurities, the identity loss and the fear of not being good enough for people started to feed my state of being, interrupting my state of mind, derailing my sense of trust in anyone. I feel like I go through a social suffocation. In some way I may value validation from others and play whatever version I could that would appease those who notice me and give me attention… But I could only do it for so long because of my fears of not being enough anymore. I just said and did whatever I could to make myself seem like I was living a pretty normal and interesting life in their eyes.
To my friends, I lived a life that had a father present, a life where my parents were married and at some point it didn’t work out so they divorced. I told them about a life where I knew my siblings and was bonded by sibling adventures. I told them my father died at some point in time; to the outside world I had answers to where I come from and who my family is. To my family, I lived a private life.
My family is very small, and it mostly consists of women. My grandmother raised two girls and a boy on her own. She wasn’t the best mother to her children, never there for them emotionally and was very promiscuous with a habit of putting men above her children. At least that’s how my mother tells it. She, my aunt and my uncle all developed their own emotional scars with growing up with a toxic parent and living without one.
My mother had me at a young age, not out of high school yet, and immediately had to grow up, entering the beginning of the rest of her life with a child. As much as we want to make ourselves feel better and say that we were a blessing to our parents and we changed their lives for the better at their very young age, we sometimes forget it’s absolute bullshit. Our parents were in the beginning stages of where their life should start. The dreams they dreamt, the goals to accomplish and the fun of their 20s. They weren’t ready for children.
For my mother, being in love and most of the time doing crazy things for love was the point of her life she was in when she had me. She was beautiful and was pretty much desired while growing up. But when it came to the men she encountered, she found herself in pretty toxic situations. My father, he was abusive and very controlling according to my mom. She even at one point ended up in jail because of him. And even after all he would do, she would always go back to him. To her it was the love she has only ever witnessed in her life. The toxic relationships she watched her parents display with each other. My mom normalized this type of “Love” because of what she saw from her own parents.
There is a difference between not knowing love and normalizing a type of love. People sometimes don’t understand the difference between emotion and behavior. The toxic behavior that occurs in relationships has been normalized to believe it’s real love. That manipulation, lies, mental and physical abuse is a form of real and worthy love to some. Black folks would always tell us children to stay out of “Grown folks business” but don’t ever stop to realize that they sometimes placed us in the middle of their business. Everything that is learned comes from some form of teaching skill. As the children’s primary teacher, parents are the ones that teach their children about what love is or could be, how we should view the world and the person we should strive to grow and be. The school of life is taught by our parents.
However, at times our parents forget that their greatest lesson in life is bringing a child into the world. They don’t realize that we are reflections of themselves. We come into this world and we watch them make poor choices, we see them and hear their anger that scares us as babies but as we get older, we become use to it and it stays with us.
I watched my mom fall in toxic relationships, I watched the cycle she went in each time with them. My mom was a natural provider, she worked tirelessly to give me everything I needed 'cause that is what she vowed to do differently than what she experienced with my grandmother. I was grateful for all my mother did for me, but at times, it felt like it was an excuse for my mother to judge, emotionally abuse and disrespect her children’s personal boundaries. Her mentality was that because she was the home’s provider, she had control over everything and everyone. That made it difficult to establish emotional connections with her; my mom had four children, I was her firstborn and also her first gay child.
I was a sensitive child growing up. I had many ways of expressing how I felt. But being the boy, I had to learn that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. When I would cry, I would be told to stop because boys don’t cry or that it is deemed sissified all because I feel sad and angry when I’m picked at for having a sway in my walk, my voice isn’t deep enough or the fact that I'd much rather play with the girls instead of football with the boys. I heard all this from my family, the very people that I ever only expected to trust with who the real me.
When I was little and was caught engaging in sexual acts with other boys, the discipline was brutal; I mean of course, finding out that your child is engaging in adult activities with other boys would set any parent in a rage, but with my mom it felt like there were often times a hint of hatred and shame in my discipline. I’m not saying my mother was abusive, I hold myself accountable for all the mistakes I’ve made that warranted some hard discipline as punishment, but it felt even deeper rooted when I was punished. It’s true that parents have different rules and standards set for each of their children, which means each failure in living up to any of the standards they set for you, the consequences vary for each child. I felt like I was a disappointment, to both my parents. In my eyes, I felt as if I wasn’t the son my mother wanted to be proud to raise and my father saw in me what he could not accept, so he abandoned me.
At times when I would argue with my mother, she would always attack me with some subtle insult about my sexuality which had no correlation with the issue we would argue about. This is how I knew the issue with my mother was rooted in who I was.
I love my mother beyond words, but I can’t deny that she was a toxic parent. Some of the selfish decisions she’s made without a care of how it would affect her children, the years of parental manipulation and no consideration or respect for our feelings makes it impossible. I had to learn independence on my own, my pride made it impossible to accept help or want to ask for help in life because no one could be trusted or relied on. Some people expect you to sell your soul to them as a way to show your gratitude for them being significant to your life. Even in my young adult age, my mother can’t help but to remind me of what she has done for me when I don’t conform to her often hostile and negative way of asserting her authority.
As I got older, I started developing my identity. The walls I built up to protect me emotionally made me cold-hearted, a liar, selfish, hypocritical and a professional at making things seem what they really aren’t. But one thing I never forgot to do was feel, and even through all the numbness, I still felt my own heart. I felt how deep I love and wanted to love. I wanted to be a great friend, I wanted to be the perfect boyfriend, the perfect son, I wanted to be the perfect everything.
Disappointment after disappointment, the failed relationships and the people who have walked out of my life, I was convinced that hurting is the only way to feel better about myself. Hurting the people I love in some way and using excuses, lies and no accountability to deny that I’m the problem. I trusted only few and even then I found it hard to be truthful and good to them. So many people have been the best thing in my life while I have in some way taken advantage and hurt them only to keep up with the charade for the person I was not. At the age of 22, life really started to hit me hard all at once. The failures were nonstop, the people walking in and out of my life. I did so much damage and it felt like all of life’s Karma was finally coming to me. When you spend your time taking short cuts and thinking that your actions won’t determine who you are as a person, it all becomes overwhelming to deal with and you can just feel yourself at the crossroads of either a path that is going to be filled with nothing but darkness or redemption and purpose. And when you think that there is no more saving you from you, you take that dark path instead.
It was this time where my strength was tested and I had to choose which path I wanted to walk on. I was so consumed with fear, anger, sadness and constant loneliness after almost alienating everyone with my lies and issues. I had no space to confide in my family due to all the years they’ve pressured me to be stronger for the sake of needing to present myself as a man. I had no space to confide in my friends because as much as I loved them, I still couldn’t trust them. I was alone and at rock bottom, contemplating taking my own life so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the problems anymore, the endless abandonment and failure to be good enough at anything.
As I look back at that moment, I can’t help but think about what stopped me. I remembered in that moment to let myself feel, feel for the people who I would hurt more if I no longer was on this earth. I felt for that person who at one point was a fighter and not a victim to his own mind.
Contemplating suicide put me in a place where I knew I had to make a change. I needed to remove myself from all toxic distractions. I was living on my own at the time in my home state of Florida. I packed up my things and moved back in with my mother, only this time I was moved across the state to a little town in Georgia. I felt getting out of Florida was the first step in rebuilding myself. As I worked to find myself again, I took my time along the way. I had to look back on everything that held me back on finding my identity and purpose and the only way I was able to do that was to start at the root. While the relationship with my mother started it’s journey of healing, I learned that healing starts with forgiving. After many arguments and fights, I grew to start forgiving, and as I did, I became bulletproof to all the negativity and toxic cycles my mother put me through, and more importantly, even though he is still absent from my life, I forgave my father and from that moment, I became bulletproof to self doubt.
After isolating myself and getting to know me, I started finding who I was and my life purpose. I started piecing back together the puzzle and I could see a life of happiness that was possible for me. I’m in the middle of my 20s and my approach to life has shifted again; I realized that the life I lived was a part of my journey. As a lesson, I learned that all mistakes, pain and moments in life could be what either makes us or what we allow to break us 'til there is no more life for us to want to live. Breaking the cycle is key to change within ourselves and the world around us. So many young men and women lose their way in life because of the toxic cycle they don’t have the strength or confidence to break.
When our foundation is damaged, it’s impossible to keep ourselves held up and stand tall. So many of us turn to drugs, violence or a life of loneliness because we’ve been broken down way too much to want to keep fighting to be good, and without the support in our foundation, we lose all hope and faith in ourselves.
I have dreams of being a filmmaker. I struggled with figuring out what I wanted out of my life because I had no identity. While I spent all this time healing and piecing back the puzzle pieces, I found that my purpose was writing, creating to tell stories to inspire with strong characters that in some way are a part of me, and I don’t see myself doing anything else in life but that. Once you find your purpose, the plan for your life becomes clear. We spend our lives running from our feelings when the best way to survive is to deal with them even when they hurt; let it go and heal. When you heal, you become immune to the things that once upon a time broke you. Your self-awareness is present to where you no longer follow the toxic patterns and the cycles that kept you from greatness. The need for your own validation and no one else's will come easily, and as long as you believe in yourself, so will living your life to the fullest unapologetically.
I wanted to write this as an introduction to the beginning of my new life. A reflection of how I got to this point of wanting to step outside of my comfort zone and be vulnerable. I’m always consumed with creating, I feel so optimistic that success is going to come my way, and even when I lose sight some times, I know that it’s still there and grows stronger as I work for peace and positivity. I’m still battling with being a better version of myself, but I’m wide awake when it comes to living life and what it takes to pull myself out of darkness.
I hope to one day have my very own children. I want to be the parent to provide them with a loving and welcoming home, allowing them the freedom to grow into their own person and giving them the courage and love they need to be the best people in the world. My children won’t feel the pain I felt growing up and I will make sure to be the foundation and support that will be set to help them build a great life.
It all starts at home.