Behind the smile
When I was younger, I wanted to grow up. The present never seemed like it was the right place for me to be, for better or for worse.
At 15, I started full-time university. Every day I went to school, I was worried that somebody would discover I wasn’t ‘one of them’ and expose me as the 15 year-old kid sitting in their classroom.
Looking back on those days, I now realize I didn’t have much to worry about. Being a young student in college is pretty cool.
Before graduating, I dropped out of school for several years to pursue several business ventures. Again, I didn’t want to be discovered for being too young to buy a beer, while sitting in a boardroom and negotiating a deal.
During that time, I painted a mask to cover my age. A fancy car, wardrobe, and ‘go-getter’ attitude that painted me as an entrepreneur, rather than a 20 year-old.
Throughout the years, these masks have slowly come off, as I’ve realized it’s perfectly okay to be myself; where I am, as I am.
In my late 20’s, I attended an intense workshop, where these feelings could be evacuated. It was an incredibly cathartic experience that set me free from many of the chains I tied around myself.
“What do you want” a counselor asked me. Fighting back the tears, I said:
“I just want to be me.”
They embraced me as the waterfalls fell, and I cried like I had never cried before. Free to feel the pain, while releasing it, that came from years of hiding my character and identity from the rest of the world.
Now 31, I find myself at a very strange intersection in life. I’ve had incredible experiences, opportunities, and life events that have been instrumental in forging my character.
Over the past few years, I’ve masked a very heavy sadness inside. One that very few people see, because I don’t feel comfortable sharing it.
As much as I’ve tried to hide it, the sadness hasn’t disappeared. Rather, it presents itself at very strange times and forces me to reconcile my feelings.
During a recent massage in Bali, it hit me. Hard. As the massage progressed, the sadness welled up inside of me until it came out in the form of heavy tears. I fought to hold the tears back…but, couldn’t.
“Where is this coming from?” I wondered, as I watched the tears pour onto the floor.
Then, it hit me.
Dad. I miss my Dad. A lot.
July 29th marks the 12-year mark since he left us. The pain hasn’t ever gone away. Rather, it has stayed present with me through every passing day without him.
614-783-5241. I’d give anything to call that number just one more time and hear Dad pick up the phone.
Life doesn’t give you a manual for these sorts of things. While I try to keep things together and keep moving forward, there are days where it’s difficult to hold back the feelings inside of me that hurt.
In this case, I don’t want the hurt to go away. Even in the times where it feels excruciating, it is the one time where I feel closest to my Father.
If I could have one conversation with my Dad, I’d want him to know that I’m trying my best. Trying to make something of myself. Be a man of character. Encourage others along my journey. See things that touch the soul. Stand strong where he failed. I’d want him to know that I’m…trying my best, with the tools that I have.
Last night, I had a dream where I was back in my childhood home; preparing for a great battle. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Yet, I was prepared to fight until my last breath.
Before going to the battle, I saw my Father. He gave me one last hug and told me he was proud of me. The hug felt eternal. It was a hug that only he could have given me. I hoped the memory of the hug wouldn’t disappear once I woke up. It didn’t.
Behind all of the smiles and laughter, there’s the heart of a young man that sincerely misses his Father and would give anything to have one last hug with the man he knew as Superman.