I struggled my whole life with feeling less than. I covered it with phony, always thinking I should be someone else. I never really had a direction, so being left to my own thinking I was lost before I was a teen. I was chosen last in the playground, I never made teams. I sat on the bench and never played. No one paid attention to me.
When we stop and ask our kids how does sitting feel and they tell you “It’s okay, I don’t mind,” I would think about that. I doubt that it’s okay. We all need recognition. We all need someone to tell us we matter.
The streets I grew up on scared me because the street kids I grew up with were fearless. Nothing seemed to scare them. Not me. In Brooklyn in the 50’s on the streets, anything could happen at any minute. Hurting people was a norm for many. Trouble was the one thing you looked for on a Saturday night because it was entertainment. I never fit in that world. I felt lost.
Everything was about territory, respect and ego. Although I got the message, I also understood early that it was “not for me”. It’s funny how life plays out. I came from a really tough, Irish, blue collar family. My dad loved the environment. It allowed him to take out his anger on anyone that wanted a fight. He lived with a lot of pain. The Great Depression left its mark in more ways than one, and the emotional scars stayed locked up inside him his entire life.
I learned a lot growing up in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t change it for the world; however, I had a lot of life learning to do. For me, the path to emotional intelligence was a long one. I was so wrapped up in self, in having to prove myself to everyone, that it left me empty. No matter what I did for you, I could never get that fixed feeling for me.
I spent all those years searching, but the funny thing is I never understood what I was searching for. Just to feel okay, I guess, whatever that means. I guess it is hard for anyone to feel happy, content, comfortable and secure in self until you find yourself.
The need for acceptance from others was huge, yet their approval never fixed me. It was always just temporary. I didn’t understand that to fix me started with accepting me. The journey to that acceptance was long. It was not easy, but ultimately it was worth every tear, every emotional struggle, every painful insecure moment.
When I reflect on how I went from that lost little boy to my life today, I am so grateful to be who I am today, where I am today and surrounded by people who love me, and accept me for who I am.
Living life is the only teacher you can hear sometimes. The lessons can be brutal, but also needed. Pain, as they say, is a great motivator. I was a slow learner so a lot of pain along the way was needed, but today, that’s just fine.
In peace, love and laughter,
Joe Dunne, Publisher