I just turned 45 two days ago, and you probably have never met me before. I’m not just speaking to the people “out there”, I am also speaking to the almost 1,500 Facebook “friends” I have. That is because if you met me before 2016, you probably don’t know me. Why? Because that guy no longer exists.
Some will immediately point out to my weight loss. Yes, I have lost 22 kilos (47 pounds) since June of 2016. I have also put on some muscle, as I go to the gym 3-5 times a week now. My entire diet has changed forever. But no, this outer shell isn’t really me, now is it? It is just the vessel that I am using while I am alive. Who I am lies somewhat deeper within.
You might think that this is about moving out of the US and now living in South Korea. While this is also quite a change, and it does register in who I am becoming; this move was more of an effect of the changes that were already happening within.
So let me tell you a little about who I was, because if you knew me before, you probably did not know this about me either. You see, I was very good at putting up a great marketing face. The happy, funny, exciting guy who travels the world and can throw out fun anecdotes at will. That was a total farce, a front I created to hide who I really was. In all honesty, I was a man who lived with anxiety and fear stemming from my deep, deep insecurities. No one said that being a Third Culture Kid was easy; you’re already somewhat rootless. But I never found safety at home either, mostly due to my family atmosphere. It wasn’t their fault either. They also had fears and anxieties rooted in deep insecurities (which were also a result of -you guessed it- the way they were raised). It’s inherited, isn’t it?
What I always told myself, of course, was that I was different and that I had broken the patterns. I did not abuse alcohol. I was not physically or verbally abusive towards my family. But those were all external changes. I still had those fears and insecurities. The ones that made me a very subpar, if not downright a failure, of a husband.
I was jealous. It all stemmed from (again) insecurities and fears. I was controlling. Yup, you guessed it! Fear and Insecurity (F&I). I always believed that I knew what was best. I pretty much made my wife move over and over again (nothing wrong with this as, so long as the person you are with is OK with it as well. The minute you make them, you’ve become… controlling). On the outside, I justified it as being the adventurous man she had married. Frankly, it destroyed her. TCKs beware: please listen deeply to the person you are with. Your partner many times will tell you that it is OK to jump off of another cliff (another move across the world), but are they doing it because they really want to, or because they love you, or because they themselves are fearful and insecure?
I had no direction or control over my life. I did not live deliberately. Perhaps more than many others, but just because you are doing a bit better than others does not mean you are OK. The external issues kept controlling me. Fears drove me.
So yes, it was the weight that got me into this journey. I had hit 99 kilos (that is 218 pounds). One more, and I would be at a hundred. I felt that if I did not change this, it would carry on like that. What sort of a role model was I for my daughters anyways? My older kid had become totally sedentary, just like me.
So that summer of ’16, I made the most drastic change in my life. I went into a Ketogenic diet that allowed me no more than 1000 calories a day. Drastic? Yes. Extreme? Yup. Healthy? Nope! But I lost weight. By the end of the summer, I was almost 10 kilos down (20 or so pounds). I had started to gain some confidence (something I had completely lost). It was also during this summer that I realized that my daughters no longer felt close to me. I had become a religious devotee of my iPad, and a certain city building game that I have loved since I was a kid (in its PC version back then). To the point of literally ignoring my children. Great. I had become an absentee dad. Not physically. I was there physically. I was absent in mind, though. Add that to being a mediocre husband.
So I started to restrict my time on the iPad (I ultimately got rid of the thing, and I deleted the game from my iPhone as well). Suddenly, I had more time for what was really important. But why was I so enmeshed in the iPad anyways? Again, I was insecure. I had lost the desire to be fully engaged with life. And I made those I loved most (my daughters) suffer the consequences. Because that is what we do when we are afraid, insecure, and unwilling to face ourselves.
I also stopped posting political crap on my Facebook wall. Getting offended is so easy! It is also a coping mechanism. We reroute the things that are truly offensive (within ourselves) to things outside of ourselves by creating this feverish anger at issues outside of our control. Political issues? Check. The lives of celebrities? Check again. At the end of the day, what the politicians do does not affect us nearly as much as what we do to ourselves; or what we fail to do. The truly offensive things I should have been dealing with were the utter disregard of the issues in my own life that affected others. I let that one go for a long time.
I know that Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus come up a lot in my posts, and for good reason. The Minimalists truly helped me to change my outlook in life. Whereas once I tried to find happiness in material objects, I realized that these could only buy me a few moments of reprieve from the stark torture chambers I had constructed for myself. I owned 50 or so button up (or is it button down?) shirts. 25 polo shirts. 15 or so slacks. 6 pairs of jeans. About 20 pairs of shoes. 500 or so books. Hundreds of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Big TVs. Enough tools in my toolboxes to outfit five families with all the tools they need (it’s not like I am a handy guy at all. If something breaks, don’t call me. I’ll probably break it beyond repair!).
I got rid of 95% of it. The shirts. The shoes. The movies. Pretty much all the books. And you know what happened? I never missed them! As a matter of fact, the more I decluttered the physical world around me, the more I decluttered the mental garbage I had picked up and was carrying around.
Above all, did I mention that I was afraid? Afraid of people finding out that I was truly not the person I came across as being. In all honesty, for the past two years or so I had already given up on trying to look good. I had gotten so fat; what was the point anyways? But I still tried to come across as a charming, happy fellow.
My good friend Rob Ash said something to me (was it a summer or two summers ago?) that reverberated throughout my soul. He said, “Dude, you are always trying to find happiness outside yourself, but you will never find it there. It can only be found inside.” At first I did what I have always done when confronted with the truth. I rejected it! I decided that Rob was full of it. But slowly, those words kept coming back to me. I realized how right Rob was.
The summer of 2017 was, again, another one full of change. I went to Paraguay to see my family. While there, I learned so much more about myself. I also realized how much I had failed to be a good son and brother. Add selfishness to the list of failures, will ya? Because that is truly what I had become. And I found ways to justify myself, oh yes I did.
I don’t mean to be preachy, and there is no doubt that I am still so far from where I should be, but I am so much further along the way than I was! I no longer live in fear (although sometimes I pick it up, then have to stop, think, and let it go). I am very aware of my insecurities now, and while I may never fully defeat them, I can now be proactive in not letting these rule me.
My fears would have never allowed me to post something like this on the internet, for everyone to see. When you shed your baggage (physical and mental), you realize that you have less and less to lose. Suddenly, it matters not what someone might read and then think of you. They tell you not to post too much info about yourself on the web. Obviously, it is because we are afraid of what someone might do with that information. Fears, huh?
So I’d like to introduce myself to you. Hello, I am Daniel (or Babur) or whatever else they call this shell I live in. I am a flawed, imperfect human being who is trying to be a better dad, a better friend, a better member of his community, and a better person. I struggle with my insecurities, but it is OK. I am slowly learning to be fine with myself, and truly care about those I love and “care” about. As any other Third Culture Kid, I am on a journey. But this journey isn’t just physical; it goes far deeper than that. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
45, huh? I thought I’d be so old. I feel so young.