When do you become a man?

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As a kid I use to take dance classes, play chess and have piano lessons... I mainly hung out with females, enjoyed creative art and to top it off the Disney classic 'Beauty and the Beast' was ranked as one of my favourite films. 

I have vivid memories of spending most of my free time with my eldest sister Selene, or in the school holidays I would be around two of my older female cousins. 

You can probably see a pattern here! It would appear that I felt far more comfortable around the presence of females. But why!? I grew up with a family where the large majority were male! Well, I can only put it down to the fact that there was a bigger age gap between myself and some of the other guys in my family. So naturally I found myself by default of age, hanging out with the girls in my family. Interestingly enough my love for singing, dancing, Disney and the company of girls did not seem to be a concern with my father and I have no memory of the question of manliness ever being raised during this time of my life.  

So... when and how did this change? 

Well I can't tell you when but I know for sure what started the change. I took a big interest in karate and kung fu when I saw an old handyman/martial arts master agree to teach a bullied boy karate. Taking the time to show him that there was more to martial arts than just fighting. You guessed it! The Karate Kid changed my life!!  

Now, I must have missed the message of this film because I thought it was just about fighting? So, naturally as boys do... They act out what they see on TV in real life. I started getting into fights at school and began to win the praise of other males in my year group. 

'The Karate Kid' progressed to 'Power Rangers'. I graduated from 'Power Ranger' and started watching Manga films and was hooked. At the impressionable age of 10 I found myself staying up until about 2am on a school night waiting for 'The Legend of the Four Kings' to come on TV (life before the internet) which lead me to 'Guyver' before finally being sucked into the popular video game Tekken. Once I had become immersed in these kind of movies, I found myself starting to act out all the moves I had memorised literally everywhere I would go. It was shortly after this when I saw my circle of male friends begin to increase. 

All of a sudden I had gone from being 'too young' to hang out with, to being accepted by my older male cousins. I was now in a position where I could also get my 2 younger brothers involved as well. I was soon faced with a classic conundrum; I found myself frequently getting into trouble at school, however I was simultaneously receiving praise and respect from my peers. You can see the dilemma that I was in. 

What would any young boy choose at the age of 10? The encouragement from an educational system or the praise of their peers? Fast forward a few years and the story continues! 

I was stuck in what was commonly known as the social norm of masculinity. I'm still into fighting, but now I'm also following the other guys by bragging about things that I had never actually done with women. I was taking things that did not belong to me, rebelling in school and now "trying" to rebel in my home! I say trying because my mum and dad were not the kind of parents that you wanted to make a fool of. Let's just say that my parents were firm believers of the theory that if "one does not hear, then one must feel". 

I started going to the gym, dating girls and began to earn my own money. And just like every other adolescent boy, I spent all my money on the good stuff!  Buying clothes, gadgets for my car and entertainment not to mention the boost I'd get every time I bought alcohol and cigarettes over the counter, without even getting asked for ID. I'm a man right? Errrr....Wrong! 

I had a curfew! My dad had to call me to make sure that I was not late home. He even put a 1 minute rule in place to teach me not to be late. If I was 1 minute late (By his watch only) I would be fined £50. I had to be told to clean my room and my college often called my mum to ask why I wasn't at my classes. How could I be a man?  

You see although I thought I was a man because I started growing a beard and was getting a little taste of the world, I still had to be told what to do because I wasn't doing it off of my own free will. The problem wasn't that I wasn't doing the things that I was meant to be doing. The problem was that I always had to be asked to do them. 
So the truth of the matter is, that I only started my journey into manhood once my eldest brother Clinton began to invite me into his world to hang out with him. I had the opportunity of spending a few years working with my brother, whilst I journeyed with him on some of his business ventures. He allowed me to see what a husband, father, brother and businessman wrapped up in a young man looked like. 

Some would say "both your parents run their own businesses, so why didn't you learn this from them?" And the truth is that subconsciously I learnt a lot from my father but it was reinforced again in my late teens by my brother. So the concept of being a provider, taking care of your wife and spending time with your children was not foreign to me, but it became easier to see as an outsider looking in on someone else's family. 

It wasn't until I entered into my first and last serious relationship that I realised that I had a lot of work to do. I started mingling with older people and noticed that most had a career path or a dream that they were chasing. I got a full time job and started working on my goals; some worked, some didn't! But trial and error is all a part of life. This new path helped me see the benefits of taking the time to get my dreams out of my head and begin a pursuit that would see them become a part of my reality. 

It didn't take long for me to realise that what I wanted out of life required a 'different me'. I started chipping away the things that I didn't need in life like computer games, deadweight friends (who did not have my best interests at heart), started focusing my efforts on developing life skills that may impact my life in the long term, which had a lot to do with self discipline. 

Some would say that you become a man when you have sex for the first time, have your first fight, start puberty, turn 18, get your first job, start driving or have your first little girl and I'm sure opinions will differ but I believe you become a man when you accept that who you are is a very fluid concept that should be under constant development. 

I believe we become men once we begin to embrace a greater sense of purpose outside of ourselves. That moment when we realise that our optimal role in life is not actually centered around fulfilling our own needs as a matter of priority. It becomes less about what we have and more about what we have to give. It's less about the quality of our presents and more about the value of our presence. It's less about the position and titles we gain and more about the example we lead. 

I'm thankful to have had role models in my life such as my father and brother, who were thoughtful enough to have paved a way that highly influenced pivotal changes within my life for the better. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same for someone else. 


When do you believe a boy becomes a man?

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