There I was, minding my own business going about my mundane life when all of the sudden I got a text carrying the question. “When did you know you became a man?” I sat and stared at the screen briefly with an instant sense that this provocative inquiry was the perfect catalyst to help me examine a deeper level of myself which I had not yet traversed. I responded to my friend that this was an excellent topic, and I would explore it next time I had a writing session. Alas, here I am about to go down the path which I know will change me. Are you willing to join me?
I am currently in my late twenties, established in a career I feel little to no fulfillment in, and live near my family in a state where I did not originate from. I have hobbies, friends, and a comfortable place to live, and yet even though everything that surrounds me is all peachy; I struggle. I wrestle with almost every microscopic detail to do with my existence, and this without a doubt includes my masculinity. Am I a man? If so what are my qualifiers and disqualifiers? Do I hold myself back from the belief that I am a man or is something externally keeping me a captive into immaturity? All these questions seem valid, but they fall to the wayside day in and out because I feel the inner security of believing that I am a man. It doesn’t mean I do not have struggles, rather my points of contention have intensified, changed direction, and are no longer focused on the details that used to consume me when I was younger, as time has progressed they have seemed to fall by the wayside.
You might be asking how can I say that I believe I have gone beyond the point of childhood into the realm of manhood? I hope to be able to articulate this by the end of the article as it is harder to explain than I thought. In looking back on the last five years of my life, a drastic internal change has occurred. I went from what I would perceive as a tree sapling to a young tree starting to get established and beginning to bear small amounts of fruit. This parallel is the closest thing I can find to identify with. The time from when a tree goes from being a sapling to a young tree is significant and detrimental to its survival, and yet the transition happens so seamlessly that to put a defining point on the day it graduate from a youngster seems to be naive and shortsighted. It is my observation that many things in life are not simply black and white. They are a bit more complex, messy, and dead center in the gray zone.
Moreover, I find that the transition from an adolescent to a man is coextensive to the sapling growing into a tree. I cannot pinpoint a day or an hour when everything changed from boyhood into manhood. Had I somehow reached the finish line of my immaturity and instantly transformed into a man without knowing it? I look back with fascination as I speculate about the fact I have been on a trek which accumulated a multitude of experiences, which directly forced my hand to decide ownership for my life. These occurrences created opportunities to grow and apparently some of them I chose to take hold of; they started to accumulate like pieces of a structure that bridged a gap over a raging river. Then finally there was enough stability accumulated through these many trials for me to transition from the juvenile side of the river to the mature. It was a time-consuming process not a singular event; it wasn’t an instantaneous event like a hand grenade. I find pondering on the thoughts of when this took place to be quintessential to my existence in this day and age.
What does nature hold for my growth? Will natural life disasters come and shake my being to its very core? Will I be able to withstand what comes my way? Will adversity strengthen me or weaken me? Are my proverbial roots deep enough that I will find strength in the face of adversity?
It appears the conclusion I have come to is this. I do not know the day that I became a man; rather, I can look back over a season of time and see the growth of my person. I think it would be like seeing a picture of a house I grew up in and then being there in person ten years later and observing the difference between the aged image I can hold in my hand and reality living and breathing before me.
Can masculinity be established through a checklist of feats that must be attained? I think not. Yet, it seems an amount of hardship and adversity that is faced and not run away from, is essential to development as a man.
I am unsure if this has brought any clarity for you as a reader but I now know this coming out of writing this article. Masculinity cannot be bought, formulated, or coordinated. Its existence is meant to be wrestled with and not tamed. It is not a milestone but an experience and a muscle built over years of fighting.