Nothing may be described as more influential to a young man than his father. The image which a boy holds in regard to his father can, and will, influence his decisions and ideals throughout his life. Science is clear on fatherless homes too, studies done on repeat over the decades are a testament to the fact that young men are less likely to develop and far more likely to be involved in negative aspects of social construct, such as crime, than those in positively influenced father present homes. According to these studies, I should be a statistic, my friends in similar situations should be a statistic, and yet we are not. My friends and I are hardworking, ethical people who strive to reach our fullest potential and are entirely fearless in the leaps and bounds made in the way of personal development. If these studies are to carry any weight, it is to be attested that our positive development isn’t because we didn’t have a father or another parent in the home, but rather because we had multiple all over the place.
Growing up I was as any boy would be, messy, rough, rugged and covered in dirt or wrestling, running freely. Like millions of others, I was raised without a father, however, I was not raised without a dad…or should I say, dad’s. I did everything I could to contradict my mom and the female presences in my life, I wanted to do “guy things”, I played football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, I wanted to be an Army Soldier and I wanted to lift heavy things and set them down because that’s what the big guys in the magazines did and to me it emulated my idea of success. The step dad figures I had in my life supported these ideals and reinforced my idea of what it actually meant to be a man, and yet still, it wasn’t any of these things that made me a man, it was the intricate and detailed lessons within each activity and the men who worked with me during them, who made me into who I am today.
Certainly, the female presences in my life cannot be ignored in helping me become who I am today, they instinctively gave me unmatched compassion and an ethical core that I still utilize everyday; focusing on the masculine energy side of my character, it was the men who weren’t my father, but who I consider my many different dads, who “raised” me. When I couldn’t find support or needed to learn how to control my masculine center, it was the men in my life who stepped up to the plate and it made me realize just how significant of an impact outside sources of influence can have on me. I watched as my friends fathers moved mountains everyday in the way of caring for their families and providing for their needs, I watched them as they held themselves to the highest standards, I emulated their best qualities and combined them to be all I was capable of being. During my lowest of lows they gave me a hand, support, advice and something to look up to. It wasn’t just friends fathers either, I looked up to teachers who to this day don’t know that I admired their fatherly style of governance over my shenanigans, coaches who absolutely demanded the best I had to offer and refused to accept anything less, bosses who knew my work ethic was unparalleled and challenged me to push myself professionally. I had role models who let me down on the national stage and set the example for a level of embarrassment that taught me to do the opposite of what they did, I had sergeants in the military who I watched put their Soldiers, at times, before that of their own family, sergeants who only knew how to get shit done, and not make excuses for it.
Whether on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom, at friends homes, in the barracks or at work, I was able to utilize a dozen different dads who gave me the integrity of a man willing to do what it takes to succeed and address the world with force and determination. I am a fortunate man, the men who taught me what I know today didn’t back down from me when confronted with my adolescent personality. I recognize my fortune and that many will not have available to them what I had to me, yet there is more still which allowed me to “find” these men than just simply being around them. Besides divine intervention allowing me to cross paths with some of these individuals who raised me without knowing, I took steps to put myself in their way and be recognized. My success is essentially a direct reflection of many actions combined that allowed me to meet the men who most influenced me. I enrolled myself in college, I joined the military, I worked in different industries, I walked-on-to a college football team, I moved states and I volunteered as much as I could. Despite doing all these things, it wasn't me who learned how to get through it, I didn’t teach myself in the classroom, I didn’t teach myself how to become the best Soldier I could be, I didn’t teach myself different industries, I didn’t teach myself how to play college football and I didn’t teach myself valuable lessons while volunteering…the men who accepted me into these roles did, I was just willing to do it all.
This decade has been incredible for me, I’ve reached personal heights unfathomed by the younger version of myself who entered this decade. I’ve also pulled myself out of incredible depths for a chance to prosper. I became a man and developed into a fierce warrior, yet also compassionate individual, a brute teammate while also encompassing a comedic soul. I became a wanderer of types which allowed me to explore a multitude of places and ideals. jobs and skills, taking valuable lessons away from each and every one of them. Men who had no business raising me, did, and often without knowing they were doing it. These men simply took on the burden of attempting to harness my masculine energy for good causes without ever saying a word or complaining, they just did it and took the same pride in doing it as if I were their son. My biological father disappeared before I had even finished first grade and I would never wish the same on any child, yet I also would never go back and ask him to stay, I would never trade the dads who raised me for the one who ran away when shit became real.
To the men who raised me, the following is what you are responsible for, to the father who abandoned us, this is what you missed out on, and to my future child(ren), this is what I cannot wait to share with you.
To my dads, you helped me reach new heights and wade through the lowest of lows, here are some of those:
I won a state championship this decade, it was amazing going 13–0.
I graduated high school, statistically this is not possible without all of you.
I decided to forgo college after a couple of semesters and join the Army. School wasn’t for me in 2011, I needed more, I needed to have a sense of fulfillment. My recruiter told me to lose a lot of weight, so I did, I trained relentlessly and lost nearly 70 pounds to join, and almost another 25 in basic. I graduated with high praise from drill sergeants who told me I was among the most motivated individuals they had ever met, it really made me want to be even better, I looked up to them so much.
I was stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, nothing could have prepared me for that, I was scared to be so far away from my support but I had so many more individuals to look up to while I was there, it was very challenging and I had to seek help to manage it but I made it through.
I deployed to Afghanistan during operation enduring freedom, not for long though, I was injured overseas due to an incredible (fortunate) series of events. This point in my life was incredibly difficult but my many dads gave me the courage and strength to get through it all with as much poise as could be expected.
I spent nearly two years recovering at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside D.C, I had some very low points in trying to come to grips with what had happened but not all was bad, I had the opportunity to meet the President of the United States on multiple occasions and he even gave me a 6 pack of beer for my 21st birthday, it was incredible. I was awarded the Presidential Call to Service award in August 2014 by President Barack Obama, a true honor, I was humbled.
I’m not sure how, but I made it out the other end of a tragic incident, thanks to all my dads help I became a better person through it all, I left the military in 2016 and within a week began a job as a route manager for a pest and wildlife company. I was very successful at my job, I was grateful for the opportunity and I showed it the only way you all taught me how, by working harder and longer and giving everything of myself. I had a good boss and good managers that I sometimes tested the waters with, my post-military personality was sometimes difficult to deal with but those men taught me a lot about my self and helped me a lot.
About a year into that job, which could have just as easily ended up a career, I had an existential realization that time is finite, that I needed the same sense of fulfillment which had burdened me before I decided to take the military route. I decided to leave my job and do side jobs, I wanted to get my life together and I desperately wanted to play college football, so I dedicated my self to that pursuit of Happiness.
After an incredible amount of time training, reaching out and offering myself to colleges, I had a couple offers. I visited Bluefield College and it felt right to me, the mountains were incredible, I enjoyed the small town feel and I knew that this is where I wanted to play football. Coach Lusk and Coach Kaklis gave me an opportunity to prove myself and I wasn’t going to let them down.
In late June, 2018 at 24 years old, I made the move to Bluefield in southwest Virginia, from New York. I fit only what I could stuff into my Jeep, I said goodbye to friends and family who had let me rent a room, sleep on a couch or grab a meal while I trained to make this a reality, they had all helped me so much during this time in my life it became difficult to say goodbye but I was also incredibly excited for my new journey. When I arrived in Virginia I had my dog, a couple of small appliances, a small rug, a bed which had been delivered and the clothes I could fit in a box in my possession.
At 26 going into my 3rd season at Bluefield College in 2020, I have made great strides. I became the starting defensive lineman game 4 as a freshman who hadn’t played since 2010. I became one of the captains of our team after my first season and I became the strongest man here as well, I worked tirelessly to become the best I could. I also became scholarship based football player and I am starting my own business, a small coffee and bagel shop downtown, I also volunteer regularly. I do what I can when I can and this semester maintained straight A’s too. I became a leader and let my guard down more than ever before.
Between all of this I became an avid traveler, I have only about a dozen more states to go to and I will have visited each one, most of which I’ve driven to. I adopted a dog that we found in late fall 2018, he’s a good, loyal boy and I am happy I found him. I rescued another dog as well that is now living a life of comfort up in NY with my family, and we found a stray cat a loving home with a police officer here. I’m also a passionate writer and a fan of philosophy, I love the complicated questions life has to offer.
The dads in my life have helped me through all of this, they gave me the strength and tenacity needed to attack goals that were seemingly impossible before they weren't. During this process I met many more dads who propelled me to the next level. I am chasing things bigger than myself because of them, I want to see what my limit is and thus far, I haven’t figured out what that is. I do know, however, that I want to be successful enough to pay all of these people back who believed in me against all odds, and I made a promise to myself that I would do exactly that. To all the dads who raised a man, you gave me hope and I am thankful. I promise to keep working to emulate your character and integrity, spirituality and determination, grit and grind, thank you, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts someday, this I can promise.