Who Am I?

man in maskI glanced at the calendar.

The year is more than halfway over. That was fast.

Maybe my life is, too. I’m 35. Many men die before turning 70.

Uh-oh.

I look in the mirror.

Who are you?

I don’t know anymore. But I want to. Need to.

I think we go through a bit of an identity crisis after divorce. Maybe not everyone. Maybe just me.

For so long, I was Matt—husband, newspaper reporter, fun guy.

Then I was Matt—husband, dad, fun guy.

Now? Part-time father. Wannabe writer who doesn’t write.

The most-important lesson I learned in a decade of newspaper reporting—bar none—was that if you want to find answers, you need to ask the right questions.

I Am My Mother

My mom is the oldest of eight children—the first four of which were born in four consecutive years. Eighteen years separate my mom from her youngest sister, who is just four years older than me.

What does that do to a person? When they spend their entire childhood expected to help with all of the younger kids, and getting less than a year of undivided attention from their parents?

She grew up in a small farm town in Ohio. Less than 5,000 people. Everyone knew everyone. People have stopped me on the town streets to ask me which family member I belong to because my facial features resemble my uncles’.

Maybe that’s why mom moved far away after graduating high school. Escape.

About 500 miles from home.

That’s where she met my dad.

I Am My Father

My dad is the oldest of four children.

His father was an alcoholic and I think his mom was, too. She died just before I was born.

When my dad and his siblings were children, their mom started sleeping with the neighbor guy and their dad started sleeping with that guy’s wife. The two women switched houses and married one another’s husbands.

My dad once spent a night in jail after riding a wheelie on a motorcycle through his city’s downtown.

He’s a high school dropout who smoked a lot of pot, and drank and partied often. He joined the U.S. Navy as a teenager and traveled the world for four years.

Mom left him when I was 4. Probably because he smoked a lot of pot, and drank and partied often.

Are We Our Parents?

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with both of your parents together. I vaguely remember one Christmas with mom and dad. And I remember the day of my parents’ custody hearing which would determine which parent I was going to live with nine months out of the year 500 miles away from the other.

Maybe when you live with both of your parents at the same time and observe them, it’s easier to identify the bits of you that come from your mom versus the other parts that make you like your dad.

My mother was a domineering wife and overprotective parent that had me craving freedom in ways that always had me at friends’ houses. It caused hurt feelings for my mom because I would avoid bringing friends around. Mom didn’t know who I was.

My father (and the closest thing to a hero I ever had) spoiled me because he only saw me two and a half months out of the year and seemed to walk on water because he was the dad I was constantly being deprived of seeing, even though that’s unfair to my mom and a romanticized version of the truth.

Mom remarried right away and committed to making my entire childhood the best and safest and most-nurturing she could. She’s a deeply religious woman, and her only priority is that I get to heaven after I die.

Dad filed for bankruptcy after my mom left and took me far away to Ohio. He kept partying and grinding at work.

Today, my mom is on her third marriage and struggles financially.

My father eventually bought the company he worked for and is now a well-deserving member of the 1%.

He was committed to helping me become the smartest, most-financially successful adult I could be.

Both of my parents are kind and decent people.

Both would go to the ends of the Earth for me.

Both, in very different ways, are great examples of what it means to love.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

I don’t have brothers and sisters like my mom and dad.

I am—biologically—an only child, with two stepsisters about my age and a half-sister born when I was in high school. I love all three. But we have very non-traditional sibling relationships.

And I don’t really know what that means. I don’t know what that makes me.

Want good answers? Ask good questions.

Who am I?

I don’t know.

Single? Divorced? Father? Who makes bad decisions?

Aren’t we whoever we choose to be?

Yes.

Who do I choose to be?

Someone kind. Someone fun. A good father. A writer.

Aren’t we defined by what we do?

Yeah.

Am I kind?

I really do try.

Am I fun?

I really do try.

Am I a good father?

I really do try.

Am I a writer?

*shrug*

Today, I am.

*Publish*

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23 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. jgroeber says:

    Who are we? Exactly the right question. You could write a book about it. (You *should* write a book about it.) As always, so thought-provoking. Thank you.

    Like

  2. Hi Matt. Wow. So this really resonated and gave new meaning to those posts when your mother came to stay with you recently. Also this is the first time (at least that I’ve seen) that you’ve put a question mark after the “makes bad decisions” description of you. I’ve always been hoping you would omit that line entirely (I think, therefore I am) but questioning it is good, too. Another excellent post from you, Kind Sir. Oh and as an aside, the part about both women switching husbands and homes was kind of ironic (see my recent pseudo Dear Abby piece) because that’s what I was implying happened but I was joking and thought it was far-fetched. Thanks for a great soul-searching post and I think you’re gonna live far longer than 70!

    Like

  3. Ned's Blog says:

    Rediscovering your identity after divorce is natural and crucial. Particularly in bad marriages, or even ones in which we find ourselves at fault, we need to learn the lessons necessary by — as you said — asking ourselves the right questions. How did I get here. What parts of myself did I give up, willingly or otherwise, along the way. What do I want back and how do I get it? What do I need to, leave behind to become a better person?

    The fact that you’re asking yourself the questions means you’re on the right path.

    In terms of what we take from our parents, there’s no question we carry the good and the bad with us. The important thing is to recognize — just like those things following a divorce — we want to include or leave behind as we go forward. You’re a fun guy, a thoughtful person and a talented writer who offers insight and reflection in a way others can connect to. Those things are a good foundation for the path you are finding for yourself, Matt.

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    • Matt says:

      Of all of the wonderful humor writers out there, Ned, I don’t know that any are as introspective and thoughtful as you. Very much appreciate you getting it. I know you’ve been right here before.

      Things are much better. Every day, week, month that goes by.

      But you keep waking up. Waiting for “happy” to arrive. But it never comes.

      Because it’s not really a destination. It’s a state of being. A way of life. And we need to learn how to live that way.

      And when life feels transitional, it’s somewhat hard to do.

      Only choice is to keep trying. And laugh more. Could start by never missing your posts…

      Thank you, Ned.

      Like

      • Ned's Blog says:

        You’re more than welcome, Matt. As you said, I’ve been where you’re at, and know the ebbs and flows that accompany this transition. All I can tell you is that, judging from your introspection and the kind of writer you are, I have little doubt your state of being will be a happy one on a more and more consistent basis in the days, weeks and years ahead.

        Enjoy the ups and be proud of coming back from the downs.

        And yeah, what the hell are you doing missing my posts?!? ;)

        Cheers to you, my friend!

        Like

  4. I think that you know who are, a lot of other people know less about their own parents and families. It’s a starting point accepting that you have part of both your parents in your own DNA behavior actions and thinking. At 35 I am also starting to ask more questions, question about myself more and in general I think a lot more about real issues. Still sometimes feel that I don’t know who I am or fully accepted me. Life is so complicated if we make it, great post Ivan.

    Like

  5. Vince says:

    Ahhh..yes I can relate. For a long time I really thought I knew exactly who I was. A father, husband, hard worker and fairly responsible person. Most of those things are the same but the husband part…damn that part didn’t work out and it somehow has thrown me for a loop. That part of me was so important and without it I am kind of in a limbo while I try to figure it all out again. I’m writing myself each day by the choices I make. I wonder if people sometimes go their whole life without ever really finding themselves? I wonder too if that part is so important that we are destined to make the same mistakes if we don’t figure it out?

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  6. you’re kidding me right?! with all of these Casting Crown covers? :)

    Identity is definitely something I had to come face to face with when my Ex left. His “identity” made him leave and I wondered why “that” identity won out over father or husband or anything else. I like that you don’t just label yourself one thing. People are complex and we leverage different parts of ourselves for different situations. I think it’s more important to keep growing (which you are stellar at BTW) than deciding “this is who I am” and staying there. We should always be striving and shaping ourselves,…Until we die. Living with purpose and compassion and joy and hope. Thanks for posting.

    Like

  7. NotAPunkRocker says:

    “Are We Our Parents?”

    I’ve tried every day for almost 18 years now not to be like either of them. Some things can’t be helped, but reinventing myself while raising a baby-child-teen-adult has been one of the biggest struggles in my life.

    Like

  8. The Southern expression we use it to “overcome our childhood” and it’s true, we all have to overcome our raising, our parents are human so they make mistakes, and some of us are able to forgive our parents for being human and some of us aren’t. No matter which path, that, in the end, does help define who we decide to be when we grow up.
    In the mean time, if you constantly feel like you are making bad decisions, then you are. There is no maybe about it!
    On the plus side 52 days until pre-season starts!

    Like

  9. suzjones says:

    “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
    I think Dr Seuss summed it up. And I second what Ned said.
    Just keep going Matt. I know what it is like to feel adrift (different circumstances but similar feelings). It’s important that you just stay afloat. :)

    Like

  10. tmcasciano says:

    Hang in there, you’ll figure things out soon!

    Like

  11. Dawn says:

    We are a mixed up bunch of pieces of the people who created us and the one’s who created them.
    We are a blank slate.
    We are who ever we choose to be.
    We are a gift.
    :)

    Like

  12. You do lose yourself through a divorce. Or maybe you gradually started losing yourself in the marriage, and now you don’t know who you are (I think I was that person) The first monthly grocery shopping mission I went on after our split, I literally came home with 3 items. I didn’t know what I liked just for me! But, it does get easier. Chin up, this too shall pass.

    Like

  13. MikeR says:

    Your dad went from being someone who smoked too much pot to being a 1%er? Wow, that’s interesting. Does he still smoke a lot of pot?

    Like

  14. 124andmore says:

    Your dad went from being someone who smoked too much pot to being a 1%er? Wow, that’s interesting. Does he still smoke a lot of pot?

    Like

  15. We are not our parents, though we are the product of their input and our observations. I have 1 biological father, 1 adoptive father, 1 biological mother, 1 adoptive mother, 2 step mothers. Each brought something different to the table and each contributed something different to who I am. I have 1 adoptive brother, 3 full blood brothers, 1 half brother, 2 full blood sisters, 2 half sisters, 2 adoptive sisters, 2 step brothers, 3 step sisters and these are the ones we know and are acknowledged. There are a few others we know about but have never met.

    Each of the above add to my world, my life and who I am. They do not however make me who I am. Matt, the only thing ultimately that makes us the unique people we are is us, it is what we do with our experiences, how we decide to process them and how we work our way through the world.

    I think you are a good person, doing the very best you can with what the world has handed you. Dwell on that.

    Like

  16. nights7 says:

    I can totally relate to that bit about having a deeply religious parent whose priority is that you get to heaven after you die. That describes my dad as well. Every time I see him he asks if I’ve gotten an annulment yet.
    Seriously, dad? An annulment? I haven’t even been divorced six months. I’m just trying to cope with day to day life right now. Jeez.

    Like

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