MY STORY: The Courage to Be My True Self

by bryan maynard

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I am not one of those people who believe the myth that you can do anything you want or become anything you want to become by merely working hard or by believing your way there. I do believe, however, that you can become more of whom you are if you have done the hard work of knowing yourself in contrast to false identities you might have adopted in life.

 Point of Wisdom: Unless you had wise parents, mentors or teachers with what I call ‘soul skills,’ it can be easy to adopt, imitate, or project what you’d like to be rather than what you really are.

I wanted to be a successful businessman like many of my friends. I wanted to start companies and grow them up and be able to reap the rewards and send my parents on trips and give money to orphans and live in Italy part of the time. I thought I could use all my discipline that helped me become a Division I college athlete and do Ironman’s to get me there. “Go, man! You got this.” And I went for it, and went for it. And… and…

 Point of Wisdom: Your un-lived life will eventually feel like you’re being buried alive in your own skin and one day your soul will scream, “Hey, who the hell is this person we’re trying to be!”

 And, I crashed and I crashed until one day I realized something about myself: I’m a contemplative, introverted, disciplined, creative, thinking soul who admired these business people to the point of misapprehending who I really am. That’s what happened. It usually takes a few decades of living to figure out that you’ve been living with a misapprehended vision of yourself and this discovery always involves quite a bit of pain, a mentor said to me a few years ago. He added, But just because you might not have been doing a career or a hobby that is more in line with who you are, doesn’t mean that person isn’t in there.

So, here’s what I’ve done to help me get better clarity on who I am and live more in line with this new knowledge.

  1. I sought out a counselor to help me shed my false identity (-ies). She did this by taking me back to the basics.  She had me make a list of hobbies and activities I enjoyed early in my life and we read them and discussed them. This helped me see my love for music and words and communicating. My local culture growing up shunned thinking and creative work for more macho and ‘secure’ paths.
  2. I visited my childhood home where I grew up and walked some of those old paths, recalling friends and the games we played and the kind of work that gave me joy. It might sound cheesy, but I actually wrote down some of the memories while I was there. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed being outdoors, sitting beside creeks and thinking about things. I remembered writing a few poems and reading them to a few adults who encouraged me to keep writing. I remembered HOW MUCH I enjoyed doing that, and the few times I was asked to speak at banquets for younger athletes in my area. I remembered the delight in writing those speeches and publicly delivering them to a crowd and how this type of work was more enjoyable to me than most of my other activities where I applied that kind of focus and energy.
  3. I waited for an epiphany…and when it happened…I marked it with a celebration, my ‘new’ birthday.  I’m a creative thinker who is compelled to communicate ideas and words. I’m in that teacher-writer-thinker-poet-warrior genre of human beings. When it hit me, it was like scales falling off of my eyes. My heart breathed the clean, fresh air of coming outside the shell I had lived in all those years, and I can only describe it as an epiphany, a seeing myself for the first time. So, I literally made note of the date and made this my new birthday, the day I became aware of my real soul. (January 9, 2013 is that date).
  4. I’m changing course. This is one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done. For months I’ve been writing fiction (something I’ve never allowed myself to do and I’m horrified at how awful it is, but so happy to be doing it), and I am now re-entering Grad School at 47 to become a Licensed Therapist. I want to help people know their own stories and I want to write about life, love and beauty.
  5.  I’M FINALLY DOING IT, Y’ALL. I am living my life now. It’s scary, but at least it’s authentic.
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