Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Best Version of Me - A Love Letter

Once again, it has been too long since I've finished writing something.
Even this, which I'm deathly determined to complete is in it's 10th or 11th iteration.

I don't know why I've struggled so much, but I know it scares me a little. That's probably the cause of and answer to more than I'd like to admit.

I've recently realized I don't have a grasp of "myself" lately.

I know what I do. I know what I try to represent. I know who I choose to have in my life, but I haven't quite figured out where I fall as an individual.

Recently I have tried to picture the best version of me. Who is it? Who was it? When was it? What was going on in my life that allowed that person to exist. Here are a few things I've come up with:

  • I used to be remarkably self assured. Even when I knew I was being an asshole or making terrible decisions, I knew I was great and life would go back to being great. This was all bullshit. I didn't realize this was all bullshit right away of course. It took a long time to let myself understand and accept the fact that I had hurt others, that I had been hurt, and that it was okay to not be great all the time. I started to learn this the hard way my senior year of college, but I don't think I really started accepting any of it until Jenna.

  • I've always been good with people. I can read people, I understand and want to help people. I haven't ever been nervous around new people. I used to think I could  break down and justify anything and anyone's actions based on my acceptance and understanding that everyone is flawed and everyone makes mistakes. This led to a lot of people rolling over me, because they could. This also led to me walking away from a lot of situations and relationships at the first sign of conflict.

    "If we're going to fight or bicker, it's not worth it. I don't need that, I just need to be happy."

    Needless to say I never really learned how to share my grievances or serious concerns with people I was close with. That was until the first time Jenna and I disagreed on something significant.  It wasn't until Jenna when I finally had to learn how to fight. Believe me, she's a good teacher. I'm still not very good at it, but at least I see its value. 

    When it came to Jenna, something felt different. Instead of blowing it off I knew I needed to fight back. For a long time I would still let things build and eventually blow up (that's what happens when you don't learn how to express things, but you're a smart guy who completely understand these issues in other people). It wasn't the best way to approach the situation, but at least I blew up. At least it came out... I remember the first time this happened and through tears Jenna and I looked at each other and were more in love than we had ever been. She knew something different had happen and she knew my words were sincere and she knew she needed to take them to heart

I bring this up, because I really think it is one of the things that is standing in the way of figuring out who I currently am. I still hold the old guy who used to let things roll off his back and was always the happiest of happy close to my heart. I put him on a pedestal actually. It's still the guy most of my students see. It's the guy a lot of peripheral friends know (maybe even some great friends), but it isn't completely me. The hard part is this exterior version of me is true, but also by design. I like being liked. I like being counted on. I like all of those things, but I have learned that it isn't worth suppressing the true feelings that others might find off putting or disagree with. I say I don't care about it. I try not to care about it and now, I'm not going to care about it.

The point is I am far from the persona I used to try so hard to portray. I can be a dick. I get frustrated. I get mad. I blow things off or bottle things up until I snap. Sadly, the person who taught me how to overcome this is often at the receiving end of it. Don't get me wrong, Jenna isn't a saint I should never get mad at, but she is my saint who is worth getting mad at.

Recently Jenna and I had an argument. A pretty serious and severe argument which ended in a significant joint realization.
I no longer knew how to access the guy I used to be.
That. Scared. The. Shitballs. Out of me.

It's all I've been thinking about and it's all I've been trying to write about, but I didn't know how. I think I know how now and this is what I've discovered -

That guy is gone. Thank Christ. That guy had a lot going for him at the time and accomplished quite a bit, but I need to be better than that guy. I don't want to be the guy Jenna fell in love with. I don't want to be the guy who everyone liked. I want to be a new guy.

I want to be a guy who realizes that he has always been flawed and that old guy was particularly flawed. Even if he was good at bottling it up... he wasn't capable of dealing with it. This new guy I've been trying to be for the last few years has been better, but he's far from good. I've been trying to be that guy, but live the life of this new guy. It's constant friction between two mindsets that can't work together.

It has taken a while, but I am glad that guy is gone and I'm glad I'm going through all of this, because I think... literally as I write this... that I'm about to be the best version of me I've ever been.

I think I'm finally at that place where I can see the best and the worst of myself coming out in different situations. My students bring out the best of me... but they remind me of the worst.
Jenna has always been and remains my trigger (for both sides of the coin). Once I learned how, I spent a lot of, too much,  time prepping myself to get in an argument before I started to understand that I was the one starting the arguments.

This all came about when I realized the Jenna who was worth fighting for isn't here anymore. While I've been prepping myself for random arguments with the old Jenna I failed to realize there was this new, amazing, better than ever Jenna coming through.

I married a woman who wanted to be a better person than she was. I married a woman who knew she was growing and wanted me to be a part of it. She looked to me to help her in that journey and she let me influence her in the best ways and blocked out the worst. My wife is a perfect combination of who we both used to be. She found a way to embrace all of it and live in a new life where she shares joy with our daughter and the world.

I realized, way too recently, that I want to be like her again. I don't want to be the best parts of me, I want to be the best parts of us. I could never have figured that out if it wasn't for her. The patience she has found and the level of forgiveness and compassion she is capable of blows my  mind. She is the person I want to be like. She's my hero and I'm smiling as I write this because it's just true. She's the best and I love her.

This is who I want to be and if you're reading this, I hope you're willing to be on this journey with me:

I want to be kind.
I want to be open and honest.
I want to love freely and forgive quickly.
I want to embrace change in all it's glorious shittiness. 
I want to help people become who they are trying to become by just being myself.
I want to push myself to be a better husband, father, son, counselor, advisor, friend.
I want to find the joy and learn a lesson in everything I do.
I want to do all of this with my wife and with my daughter for the rest of my life.

It's a project and a process and someday it'll all change. I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for having chosen a beautifully flawed partner who let me be a part of her mending or growing process and (yes it might have taken a while) let me find out on my own that she has always been the catalyst for my own.

Thank you Jenna. I love who you were. I love who you are. I love who we will become.