I'm not one for New Year's resolutions but I was forced to make one this year. I was sitting with friends in Puerto Vallarta, my first vacation in over three years, and my friend sitting next to me had the idea that we should all go around the table and tell each other our resolutions. He went first and then I made them go around the table the other way, so I'd be last. As everyone went around the table, I struggled with the only thought I had, but it was blasting in my mind and so it was the only resolution I could come up with and the only one in which I had any interest. So when it was my turn, my resolution was to be kind to myself. It was a simple statement, but it was one of the most challenging things I've ever had to do.
2013 was the hardest year of my life, for better and worse, from being a new father, challenges at work and a personal relationship. Being a gay man and one who is a single dad and raising a little girl hasn't been easy because I often find myself trying to straddle different worlds and quite frankly, it's nearly impossible to do. Letting go of some of the things has been good and yet finding time for them on occasion where I can have a small slice of that life (in moderation, especially now that I'm 40) has been even better. 2014 was a transformative year and it wasn't easy because although at my core, I very much know who I am, but this year, I had to really learn what that meant. I had to go back and see what about me worked well and what needed to improve or change. And then I got angry. I was angry about the things I needed to improve or change because they were so obvious to me when I acknowledged them, but I was also angry because I couldn't figure out how to change them... overnight.
It took me a moment, but I discovered that patience was the very first thing I needed in order to be kind to myself. Once I realized I needed that, to understand that time takes time, things started to feel a little lighter. Every time I started to struggle (and that's been often), I've gone back to that promise I made to myself to try to find a way to get through the challenges I've had and to just breathe through them. I've learned to let go and allow the things I can't control to happen as they should (well, at least I try and sometimes I succeed, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day either). Throughout this year, I've discovered things about myself that deepened my strength, compassion and ultimately, my sense of self. Whenever I did that, a remarkable thing happened; people came into my life or those that were already there showed me grace, kindness and love. It took everything I knew and turned it on its head and by doing so, deepened all that is good in my life, the way I live it and the way I connect with others.
When I decided to have a child on my own, I did so because I didn't want to have the regret of not having a child since I wasn't with someone and I didn't think I should wait for him because I didn't want to wait until it was too late. Almost three years in with my daughter, I can say for sure that I'm glad I didn't wait; the older I get, the more I realize the harder it would have been to have her later. Is it what I expected? No, it's actually more. It's more everything -- fulfilling, exhausting, frustrating, rewarding and every other feeling that comes along with being a parent, both the good and the not-so-good. Every day is long, up by 4:30 a.m. and on the go until I can finally sit down at 9 p.m. most days, trying to get it all in, from torturing myself at 5 a.m. at the gym, to getting my kid out the door and spending some quality time with her, to a hectic work schedule.
As a dad, there are moments I'm filled with doubt because my hope is that I'm doing everything I can to give my daughter the best life possible. To me at least, part of giving her the best life means giving her space to grow and be independent, even as a toddler. I want her to figure things out on her own, to discover, play on her own and be an independent thinker. Though I'm sure it will frustrate me down the road (in a different way, because there are times she absolutely frustrates me now), I want her to challenge me, to have her own opinions and to think for herself; it's a big way that I'll know I've done my job as her dad. But of course, I don't want her to just run her mouth because she can. I want her to be thoughtful and measured, but daring and adventurous. I want her to try because only not trying is the failure. I want her to be tough and strong, to not settle for anything less than she deserves from anyone. When I think about all of that, from the 2-year-old in front of me giggling as she runs around the playground to the woman she'll be someday, my goal is to give her a warm, loving and supportive home so that she knows that she is not only loved, but she is worthy of nothing less than everything.
One of the best ways I have been kind to myself is by allowing myself to trust that trying is enough. I stop and check myself from beating myself up for not getting it all done (whatever "it" is at the moment) and realize that I'm trying, that I show up. People have said some of the most amazing things to me about my daughter and about me and over the last year, hearing it from so many people has been incredibly humbling and whether they know it or not, has affected me in ways they can't even imagine.
I recently remembered something that was said to me by someone I was extremely close with up until this year. This person admired me for my strength and for realizing the things in life of which that person has only dreamed. From my perspective, it's not just the dream, it's about putting one foot in front of the other and breathing life in your dreams. Chances are what actually happens won't look like your dreams, but that's more than okay because it's the strength to try that matters most, or rather, it's the journey of getting there that makes everything so worth it. That person and I got into this discussion and what I said next hit home for both of us, but probably in different ways. I acknowledged that I had fear and that was okay, but what I didn't do was allow my fear to control me and I think it's driven me to face life head on, whereas the person with whom I was speaking hated having an entire lifetime of not believing in themselves and acknowledging just how much fear informs so much of that person's life. That was a huge reminder that I need to carry as my daughter gets older.
I want my daughter to have a lifetime of understanding that while she can have fears, she should always believe in herself and that's my job to make sure I do all that I can so that she does. Because the other biggest reminder I had this year and it's something that I hope I can instill in my daughter, is that no other person can give you your self worth, it comes from within. My biggest hope is that she understands that she is loved, simply because she is enough and that is pretty damn amazing.
While my reality doesn't look exactly like what I dreamed, I wouldn't change it for the world. One of the greatest ways I teach my daughter is by example. So while I may not always be successful at it, I get to practice being kind to myself in a very meaningful way. What I've come to learn more deeply is that being kind allows me to be even more honest, to live as an out and proud man and father. But it also means living life with an open heart and by doing so it means being vulnerable, but that just simply means having strength to live fully and wholeheartedly. My daughter deserves nothing less for her sake, and so do I for mine.