Finding your way to joy & happiness
I grew up in a loving family home. I felt cared for and supported. My vision of the future was conceived from this experience and that of TV families on The Cosby Show and Family Ties. How was I to know life would look more like a combination of Life Goes On, Glee, and Modern Family?
As a pre-teen, I became aware of the realities of my own family that lay below the surface - financial hardships, agoraphobia, sex and drugs, and my view of others started to morph from idealistic to realistic.
As a young kid, I sensed I was "different" because I was not as social as my sisters and not as confident as others. Coupled with the feeling of anxiety and rebellion rolling through the house, by the age of eleven I found alcohol to quench my own poor self-esteem and the crumbling disillusion of my perfect world.
Only in my early twenties could I identify with the label of "introversion," but was overtaken by the stigmas society held - loner, anti-social, abnormal, second class, un-extrovert. My own reconciliation was years away.
I often lamented the seemingly harder road I was dealt, hiding my true nature in the predominantly verbose, confident, extroverted environment of corporate America.
However, the tide of my sadness, struggle, and shame started to turn when I found love at 24 with a woman who loved ME with all my quirkiness and flaws. I finally had a place to take off my mask and explore my true self.
Three short years later our first child was born. Gwendolyn has Down syndrome. Though she certainly didn't fit the mold of a "normal" family, we embraced her with joy and amazement. She has taught me a lot about authenticity and perseverance.
Soon Gwendolyn was joined by Madolyn and finally Noah. Our home of five was complete and became my oasis amidst a work-life filled with anxiety and stress.
Years later during their teens, Maddie and Noah would embrace and share that they were gay. I marvel at their courage and confidence to stand tall and declare their true selves regardless of the challenges.
As I reflect, we each battle well-established stigmas and cultural stereotypes, whether being gay, having special needs, or being introverted. Each provides us with challenges that most may wish not to confront initially, yet they are the spice of life. I marvel at how fortunate Jennifer and I are to have found each other and raised such a beautiful family, filled with kids who continue to model and teach us every day. They serve as the catalyst for my transformation at work.
I've realized those differences are what make us unique and wonderful. Once we accept that for ourselves and embrace our true selves then our dreams can finally be within reach.
As these "differences" accumulated in my life, I also realized I was choosing different career paths - trading less alluring energy products (Fuel Oil, LPG, Bitumen/Asphalt) instead of the perceived glamour of Crude Oil or Gasoline. I was just drawn to shine outside the spotlight - learning and making a difference in more customized business areas. Maybe that accommodated my awkwardness and timidity as I still worked to understand and champion my own introversion.
Now, I realize mine is perhaps the road less traveled. As Robert Frost so eloquently shared in the last stanza of his 1916 poem, "The Road Not Taken,"
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I am so grateful for my path, for the special people in my life who help me learn and
grow, love and share. Now I realize everyone is different and I try to celebrate such diversity together.
This is my story. I published my memoir, In Search of Courage: An Introvert's Story, in 2020, tracing the common thread of introversion throughout my life which brought with it struggles and triumphs. But I could have just as easily written my memoir about this - the people in my life who have helped me exchange shame and timidity for pride and joy.
For those introverts still struggling to find joy and contentment, I offer 3 steps that have made all the difference for me:
Learn. Explore what introversion really means, discover your own strengths. Our Introvert Talent Quiz helps identify strengths and how to use and grow them. For me, I'm now working to apply this principle with others. I'm learning about other cultures like African American, American Indian, LGBTQ+, and foreign cultures by reading a diverse set of memoirs. It helps me keep learning because as we explore others' worlds, we develop greater respect and empathy for others and learn more about our own too.
Do it your way. Don't be guided by the "norm," by the cultural way, by the more boisterous. Use your strengths to do things your own way. Our Leadership Quiz helps gauge how well you are applying your strengths at work. This is your chance to bring your version of diversity- of experience, perspective, and voice- into the room. Don't shy away. Share your strengths with others.
Surround yourself with love and joy. Find supportive, unique people to share your life with - your oasis where your awkwardness and uniqueness are celebrated. Distance yourself from the naysayers, the one's tempted to tear you down instead of building you up. That also means you need to practice self-compassion. Be your own best cheerleader.
Life can be a long road of discovery. For introverts and others, that can be the road less traveled. But that road is what brings much of life's joy. Be different! Pave your own path and aim to be the best version of yourself you can be... and celebrate!
If you'd like to learn more about my journey, my lessons, and my recovery, check out the award-winning memoir, In Search of Courage: An Introvert's Story.
“I couldn’t stop reading to find out the next roadblock he faced along his journey and how he coped with it.”
-Mike Kowis, 4-time award-winning author
Courage is available in eBook for $2.99 or I'll send you a signed paperback copy for only $11.99!
Click on the cover to see more and order your copy today!
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