The Reality of The Sunken Place: A Father’s Day Revelation

Today is my first Father’s Day, and I find myself in a heavy place. Not because my family is in disarray, turmoil, or the like but because I realize today the weight I’ve finally lifted off of me. I have spent my entire life climbing out of the sunken place and today I’m finally free.

Langston Hughes’ poem Mother to Son quotes, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” And many of us know this to be true. The reality is life is difficult for all of us in its own way. My issue has been with accepting myself, and it’s been a burden I’ve lived with. Growing up there were so many issues with self-identity ranging from people not acknowledging I was a black man, often aggressively, to not knowing my own self worth. This isn’t a heavy weight in comparison to the weight I’ve witnessed others carry my whole life. Hell, it isn’t even close but the truth of the matter is that everything is truly relative an often times we out of humility fool ourselves that our problems aren’t actually problems because of the issues we see in others. People quietly suffer out of respect for bigger issues we witness an end up in our own sunken places because of it.

This is how I realize I got in mine. I know my father, my parents are still together, I wasn’t molested or abused, I didn’t know my family’s financial status till I was 16 years old, and I ended up graduating high school to complete a degree in higher education at Morehouse College. This is not the song a struggle to most people and in meeting people who couldn’t say these things I felt my problems couldn’t be as bad so I never dealt with them. How could my issues with me compare to my brothers and sisters who have grown up being abused? My answer was that I couldn’t.
So I spent years struggling internally trying to find the best way possible to be me. I learned the hard way that this was something no one could just tell me, I had to build the man I became today.

This Father’s Day mean so much to me because it is the culmination of years of prayer, battles, and shadow boxing with everything I have experience till now. I am a Father raising a beautiful girl that I admittedly at first didn’t want to even exist. This time last year I was still wrestling with her mother on the decision to abort her life. I barely knew myself outside of being a fuck boy, and learning to enjoy the fleeting moments in my life where I wasn’t broke (despite working full-time and struggling to find multiple streams of income). My whole identity was wrapped in using women as an outlet for my own lack of self awareness. This child fundamentally attacked everything that I knew I was and it’s existence clashed so with my own that admittedly I spent three whole days on my couch literally destroyed. Everything that I knew about me and where my life was going had been broken by the reality of becoming a father. Responsibility for a life when I barely knew my own sent my mind into a system failure and for those three days I mentally struggled to rebuild myself.

Those three days were the best days of my life. Not because they were happy, or filled with joy but because they forced me to address the problems I had been carrying my entire life. It forced me to deal with the boy inside of me who never felt accepted or acknowledged. I had to raise him into a mature man by truly having the conversations with myself I had been distracted from. I learned who I was and wanted to be on that couch so when I got up I did everything I could to become that man. Here we are a year later and I am still building that man. The process is ongoing, but I realize how close I am to him. I have built a foundation that I am proud of, on a shaky situation that I was not sure could stand, but I’ve made it work. My daughter is a beautiful, intelligent, and tenacious child who I love so much. I’m raising her in complete partnership with her mother and we’re making it work. This little girl saved my life because she helped me find it. Being a dad is hard work, and it’s not work that people really appreciate but for me it symbolizes growth. This Father’s Day represents the growth I’ve achieved this past year and acknowledges that I have faced my greatest fear: responsibility. I made the decision to be something, and be responsible for my life so I started climbing as best I could out of my sunken place. I’m not perfect, nor am I completely free from the sunken mentality that still grips me from time to time, but what I am now is free.

We all have our own sunken places, and we struggle with weight relative to our experiences. No one’s problem is bigger or greater than your own, despite the world’s view on things, your issue though it may be different still has heaviness to it and that heaviness will slowly kill you if you don’t learn to lift it. We have to accept that struggles are constants in our existence and that they inevitably make you stronger if you face them. The sunken place wasn’t ever meant to be a place we stayed in, but merely a stopping point to make us think. This place was created by our minds to slow us down from living a life of reckless abandon and instead open us to a singular focus, who we want to be. We learn through experience and that’s all the sunken place gets us to do; feel the weight of life and decide to live it to our definition of the fullest.

A year later and I’m not completely free of the sunken place, like I said, because there’s still lingering thoughts and perspectives from my old life. These moments are fleeting and few but they remind me there’s still work left to do. Ain’t no rest for the wicked they say, and I believe it. But I also believe that today means something not just being a parent, it means ownership. I own the man that I am today and I’m truly blessed to have gotten this far. So to those who have read this rather long and drawn out passage thank you for letting me grow and for the encouragement you have given me. I genuinely appreciate everything good and bad you’ve done to me, or for me because it has made me better.

Happy Father’s Day to the Dad’s out there.

T.L.

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