The Man Place. What a load of crock. Who the hell do I think I am to start yet another website for men? Isn’t this where I’m supposed to tell you about my Navy Seal days, or show off my prowess as a business tycoon, or reflect on all the women that are begging me for attention? Well, I’m none of that. In fact, the best I can offer is the truth. I’m a recovering fraud.
As 2020 was closing up, I found myself divorced after 22 years of marriage. At 45 years of age, my life wasn’t anywhere near what that 20-year old version of me dreamt about. Being the religious zealot that I was, I was going to change the world. Two and a half decades later, I could hardly change my socks! Literally. At 650+ pounds, it’s harder than you think.
Looking from the outside, my life hasn’t changed all that much. I’ve lost some weight, and regained it, and lost it again. I’m making progress, even if it is in a zig zag pattern. I have the same job, drive the same truck (383,000 miles at the time of this writing!) and have the same winning personality. But the external view would be deceptive. I’ve changed…a lot. For the last few years I’ve been alone. Not lonely, just alone. I had never been alone before. Right out of high school into the Bible College dormitory, then out of college into my uncle’s house and from there I moved into to an apartment with my new bride. Never alone. Never standing on my own two feet. Never autonomous.
At first, there was the hustle and bustle of moving and downsizing into a new apartment. Then there was the emotional whirlwinds that I, my ex and our children had to navigate. But apropos to 2020, we settled into our new normal after a few months. The regular cadence of life started to drum and we survived. It was at this point the silence descended on me. Learning to cook my own meals, wash my own clothes, pay my own bills and clean my own house, these monotonous tasks left my mind free to roam. Questions rose up in me looking for explanations that I didn’t have. And that was okay. I acknowledged the inquiry and just let it simmer. I found that the silence and the space allowed me to decompress from all the years of stuffing shit away. To be honest, it was both an excruciating and relieving process and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Our true identities aren’t buried deep inside waiting to be discovered. Our identities are built. We build them. Others build them for us. And oftentimes, the building is a house of cards.
I used to refer to this as a process of self discovery but in the silence, my mental metamorphosis accelerated when I had a single enlightening thought. Self discovery is an incomplete concept. Our true identities aren’t buried deep inside waiting to be discovered. Our identities are built. We build them. Others build them for us. And oftentimes, the building is a house of cards. When we’re born, our parents and families start to tell us who we are. What’s expected of us. How we should act, think and believe. They hand us masks to wear. That’s your identity. So we wear them and eventually we believe these masks are our true faces. I grew up as a pastor’s kid and I still remember being told that we lived in a glass house. We were supposed to be an example to all the other families in our church. It may not be fair, but it is what it is. Some in this position rebel against this expectation, but as a dutiful firstborn, I took the mask and put it on. Then another one, and another, and so on. By the time I graduated high school, I gave up football scholarships in order to pay my way through Bible College. And as I mentioned before, I was going to change the world. But now that identity crumbled under scrutiny. It’s not who I was anymore. It’s not who I wanted to be.
I had peeled layer after layer of masks away, and found myself for the first time on the bedrock of who I was. There wasn’t a lot there. Only the things that survived scrutiny were still around. I am a man. Maybe not developed like I’d prefer, but the seed of masculinity survived. I’m a father. I’m a thinker. I’m a reader. I’m protective of those I love and care about. I like to have a good time. I joke around a lot. These are things I’ve always known about myself but they were diluted by all the other things I thought were true.
The Man Place is born
So what now? It’s time to rebuild. Repeated thoughts create actions. Repeated actions create habits. Habits create character. Character creates an identity. This has been stated in many ways by many authors, and it’s a truth. I’m beginning to understand who I want to be. What character do I want to exude? What virtues do I want to live? What legacy do I want to leave?
Most of us men bloom later in life. We’re full of life and vigor in our late teens and 20s. We sail through school itching to get out and taste the real world. By our 30s and 40s, we’ve digested a huge chunk of it and we start to rethink ideas we too eagerly accepted or rejected earlier in life. We finally have enough experience to provide a foundation for understanding things we thought we knew back then. But this life is not static; it’s dynamic. We’re changing all the time. We might as well change into the version of ourselves that we want to become. And that’s what The Man Place is. It’s a place to explore ideas and challenge ourselves. A place to take off masks and build identities. We don’t have to be perfect or have all our shit together. We just need to be real with ourselves and work toward being better versions of ourselves. One step at a time. You’re a man. This place is for you.