It’s been almost 10 months since we arrived in the USA. I’d been gone since 2009 and for my wife and daughter – that was their first arrival here. It hasn’t always been easy – in fact, sometimes it’s been very hard – but here we are – still persevering and still making it.
I’ve been learning a lot about myself since coming back. First of all – and I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone who has read my books or been following my blogs for a while – but I learned that I’m a bit of a selfish and inconsiderate prick. Believe it or not, I haven’t always known this. I mean look, I’m doing my best to become a better person, to be a better dad, a better son, a better husband, a better friend, a better brother, a better man – and I think I’m making some progress – so I’m not going to be too harsh on myself but I can see some pretty serious mistakes that I didn’t necessarily see before. My dad would say that these kind of insights are just the kind that one should keep to him or herself – and he’s right – but let’s face it – I’ve already gone too far in that direction to avoid embarrassing myself now. So let’s start with my dad.
I’ve written and shared about the fact that we had a big falling out and I haven’t talked to him in years (since 2009). It was really easy to blame him for lots of hardships in my life and I didn’t hesitate to do that. I blamed him for abandoning me and my brother and sister to my mom and her awful choice of a husband after him. I blamed him for not supporting me or keeping his promises to me, not playing little league baseball with me, not paying for my college, not being more of a relevant figure in my life, and most of all for not liking my books or supporting me as I told every embarrassing detail of my life. It was easy to blame him for those things but what I didn’t do was take responsibility for myself because of that blame. Let’s face it – I’m responsible for me, not him. In truth, he’s a pretty neat guy in a lot of ways and while I imagine our relationship can never be salvaged, the truth is that I’m just as responsible for our adult relationship failing as he is. I made the choice to be a dick about things with my dad. I didn’t have to do that, I chose to do that. And it turns out – I think he was right – I probably should be keeping all this stuff to myself. Hey, it would have been great to be one of those guys with an awesome parent who paid for my university and got me a start in business and always loved me no matter what – but not having that, I chose instead to be a resentful jerk about things. My responsibility, not his.
Coming back to the US, I had a similar falling out with my brother. We’ve been mutually ignoring each other since the last time we saw each other when I unfairly blamed him for messing up my game plan upon arriving in the USA. Again, my responsibility, not his. He surprised me with a very kind offer to take us where I wasn’t planning on going, I should have manned up and said no thank you. All he did was attempt to help me and then get shit on for it on this very blog. No matter the circumstances, I never should have thrown the blame at him for things not working out for us in the Bay Area. Not his fault, mine for lots of reasons.
I am fortunate though to be growing – I feel like the relationship with my mom is better than it’s been since I was ten years old. I finally figured out how to forgive her for the mistakes she made when I was growing up and in the process, it became clear that I’d been blaming her for lots of things rather than owning them and taking responsibility for them. I’m really grateful for the Mom she is today and the Grandma she is today.
I’m also very grateful to have the opportunity to strengthen the relationships with my sister, my aunt, my uncles, and many friends. Man, I’m so grateful to have the friends and family I do. I’m also grateful to have the opportunity to be a father and to be a husband. When I wrote Not My Morocco, I can’t begin to tell you how miserable I was. I blamed my wife for me being trapped in Morocco, trapped in a town and a country I didn’t want to be in, trapped in a religious culture I didn’t want to be in, trapped in a life I didn’t want to be in. Again, not her responsibility, but mine. I think about how unhappy I was and about the horrible trip I had with my friend when she came to visit from Holland – that friendship ended and it ended because I chose to end it, because I chose to blame her for lots of things, because I was a jerk.
I did the same thing in relationships and jobs. Me. Yes, I did that. I was responsible. I made the choice to be a jerk.
Are you seeing a theme here? I am.
In my life, I have often taken the weak and easy way out. I have found it easier to blame others and end relationships than to take responsibility for my own problems, for my own issues, for my own mistakes and errors in life. My father, my brother, my friend – all relationships that I ended in the most public and awful way possible – it was me – I did that. Vengeful acts of awfulness that masked my own guilt and failure. No more. The relationships may be destroyed beyond repair – but it is me that is responsible, it is me that made things worse, it is me that failed and then decided to blame those who loved me. I did that.
I don’t want to do that any more. I don’t want to be that person.
It’s been a strange 10 months in the USA and this wasn’t the post I thought I was going to write. I had no idea I was going to write this, but here it is.
There’s no going back, I know that. I also know that regret is not a useful emotion or action. I also know that unless you agree to face things squarely, you will never get past them. I am facing my mistakes.