Monday, November 11, 2013

Advice I'd give to my son, nephew, or a younger man years from now

Being 23, on your own, as a growing adult male is a battle of self deception.
As I grew up, I forgot the point where I was me

and trying to make sure I was who I was supposed to be. In the clouds until I was 12, I faced a very stark fear that I was supposed to be something more and I'm grateful to have both my father and brother as examples of what to look for.
Now I've lived in Kenya for a year on my own; and have seen a set of gender norms placed and realize that while being a man is fluid, the idea of a man often is not in society. Often, the darker perceptions are perpetuated by my own gender and it's a shame. Misogyny, male to male violence, homophobia, these are things you may have to face in its many forms among the men around you as a man, but they don't have to be your truths.
I won't be young forever; I won't be forgiven for the mistakes I keep on making, but I hope to be redeemed by the realizations I've started actuating.

Everything on the internet seems to last forever; and I want this to last for when I become an influence on young men years from now, they'll know I thought of this when I was their age. And when you read this; you know that I write this because I love you and that right now, I realize it's okay to love myself and the person I want to be. Note, a lot of this is based on relationships because I'm at the point where I am learning what makes me comfortable when it comes to be being with others, something I believe you at this age have also started wondering for yourself. Also, I'm going to post pictures of good men in my life who remind me of what it is to be a man in the 21st century. Finally, when I first wrote this, I realized I only wrote from a heterosexual perspective, and I want you to know, though I write in terms of your partner as she, it's only because my experiences are stemming from the opposite sex. I pray to God that the present you are living in sees no distinction in you based on who you love. Because, I love you for you, and will always do so.

And then you can truly value others like Godrick Mwachofi
Public Health Officer of Sagalla
1. Value yourself: No, don't take a look in the mirror and see how large your biceps are or the white of your teeth, value your character. Value that you're a person worth talking to, and worth making your own choices. Most importantly, you're allowed to say no. You don't have to be an alpha and be fearless to all stimuli. You don't have to say yes to the idea that you need to sleep around to prove your worth. Ultimately, say no to the things you don't see making you the person you want to be, so that you may have room to say yes to the opportunities you want.

2. Value women for their hearts and dreams over their bodies. Yes, there will be a pressure to objectify, but what really comes out of that? What will you gain for enjoying the moment if you can't connect on a different level. Will your pursuit of the now have the depth and meaning you really want? Everyone wants to be loved, but will you love yourself, or let yourself feel loved, if you do not try to do the same? I've found, that once I stopped looking for the momentary comfort, once I learned to say no, I was able to appreciate the women in my life further. Value women as you value men, for their insight, for their ability to accept your trust, for how they make you grow, and I guarantee you will find what you're looking for in the long run.

Masaki is one of the most independent and free people I know
3. Know that no one can give you what you want (nor can you find it outside your own heart): Dating someone to complete you leads to disappointment. Dating someone you can appreciate for her own values rather than what she can offer you is more rewarding and open to growth. Many people will make you comfortable, but very few people will challenge you to become the type of person you want to be. Emphasis on the "you". Only when you make the decision to actively make yourself happy will you ever feel right with someone else.

It's not just about talking either
Right Andrew?
4. Communication: Being mature individually is different than having relationship maturity. I can't stress this enough, being in a relationship, whether it's a friendship or more, involves good communication, a willingness to give and take, as well as figuring out your limits. Giving yourself away completely without valuing yourself does not make you the ideal man, and definitely not the opposite neither. Without established ways of conflict resolution, two great people will fail. Talking, appreciating, and respecting goes a long way. Remember this when you choose your friends in college, because you'll want to be with the people who make you passionate, but if you can't figure out what you are looking for then be careful of the burn out. It's painful, romantic or not.

5 Sex ultimately brings forth the idea of making children, and it's a beautiful thing. It's not just messy fluids. Ultimately, it's a gift you can choose to offer or not. It's not just something to do. That being said, it's okay to have sex, but think whether you are able enough to appreciate the possible result. And even if you can't actually make children, by physical limitations, appreciate the real symbol of what you are doing. Because again I stress this, value yourself, whoever you choose to be intimate with, are they really the person you're willing to be with in the long run? If not, remember that your choices are yours, and they can be wonderful as long as you remember what you have to offer is wonderful. If my son is reading this; know that this fact influenced my eventual growth into who I am now, and that I wanted to be in a position where I can value you with the right partner. I started saying no here in Kenya, and I found that it made me a stronger man, because by saying no to sex, I said yes to love.

6. Take time to please her. It's not about getting off. Loving someone really is about learning to give. Invest in giving

7. If you're only looking for the short term, ask yourself why? Will it develop you into the man you want to be or give you excuses for excess because ultimately...

Senegal, September 2013
8. Be you're heroic self: Remember your childhood? Be the type of man you always imagined you would. Be a knight in shining armor, a ninja in the shadows, a cowboy riding to the West. Slay the countless enemies of your heart, and live, live to see the fruits of your labor. Because this is your life and why shouldn't you strive to be emotionally brave, intelligent, strong and downright larger than life? For that, I will always support and love you in your endeavors.

Machakos, August 2013
Remember, don't let anyone else tell you who you are. Because you're just not a man you I'll show through my dear friend Adam Lin, a Peace Corps Volunteer who was a school teacher in the South Coast of Kenya. Like Adam, you too can be

An Artist
A Brother

A Role Model

And of course, a BAD ASS
 Remember, I love you, remember that a lot of the things I do are because I am starting to value myself, and just as importantly, want to become the man that you can rely on. A real example in a world where the only men you see on screens are athletes, rappers, and actors, all of which are just images in a confusing moving picture. Though I can only give you images of what I was, here are more examples of men that I am grateful in knowing, and that give me the strength to continue being the man I want to be. Peace be upon you.

Love always,
November, 2013

Sean Berry, the first person I was comfortable with
in the Hills of Taita

Dave McCoy, who taught me
"Everyone is a teacher"

Haithem Hammad, taught me what it meant to be
an Artlessly True Muslim.

Graham Salinger, PCV Ukraine, my best friend in DC
Taught me friendship is limitless in the face of love

Maxwell Guen: My friend for life

Scott Berman: A man who helped me learn to care, and
care to learn

Dan Pennington: When I came back to the US this year, he drove to see me, I am honored to be valued by him

TK, I value him utmost for his character and honesty. Once you meet people like him, strive to never let them go.