Becoming a Man - Words of Wisdom for my Nephew

My Nephew Caden recently turned 13, and for a rites-of-passage ceremony our family held for him, the men in his life were all asked to write in their two cents about what it means to be a man... Here's my piece:

Dear Caden, 

I’m hesitant to say there is a monumental event that turns you into a man. There have been moments in my life where I felt like an adult, or realized that i was doing something an adult would do- holding the door for an elderly person, buying my first car, paying my own electric bills, etc. But anyone can do those things provided they have a means and the need. There are no big occasions in my life, save for maybe proposing to my wife, or then actually getting married, that I felt that I was achieving goals a “man” would typically set for himself. But regardless, I don’t remember a specific moment where I said to myself, or had someone tell me: “You’re a man now.” 

I’m not the best example when it comes to traditional characteristics of manliness. My voice still cracks from time to time, I pick my nose in public, and I only now, at 35, grew my first legit mustache. (My dad’s had a full mustache since he was 17!) I’m scrawny and can’t really lift heavy stuff, I have bad posture from hunching over a drawing table for years, and I have very little skill in any sports. I’ve never been in a fight, I’ve never really had to stick up for my friends, and have been flat broke for a big chunk of my “adult” life. 

So with that said, people somehow still think of me as a man, and at least I mostly feel like a man. So what qualities truly make someone a man? Here’s a short list of what I think make someone a Man:

Character. 

A quote I like is: Character is who you are in the dark. I think that means that it doesn’t matter what you look like, what clothes you’re wearing, how your hair is styled, or the color of your skin. It’s your personality. It’s who you are when there’s no one else around.

Dignity.

This includes kindness. People will remember how you treated them before they remember what you looked like. The world cannot be the way it is without every single one of us. A man has respect for everyone he meets, and puts others before himself when he’s able. He sees others as his equal. He does not discriminate, subjugate, or oppress. He advocates for humankind. Every boy in the world will face becoming a man, and will be feeling the same as you. We deserve each other’s understanding. We’re earning it right now.

Authenticity. 

This turns out to have a strong connection to Honesty, and Humility. Be yourself. Nothing more, nothing less. Understand your strengths, and don’t be afraid to share them. Understand your faults, and don’t be afraid to own up to them. People will respect your willingness to admit when you’re wrong, and appreciate your efforts to learn and grow. Being authentic means not having to lie to anyone, it means being proud of all parts of you. It's about being sensitive, caring, and fully present. If that’s not enough, women also think it’s sexy as hell.

If I could make up an imaginary event where I became a man, it would be this:

There was a fire at a pet store. I strode confidently out of the flames, shirtless, clutching a dozen helpless kittens, weeping simultaneously from both their unbearable cuteness, and their fearful escape from the deadly flames. A bystander turned to their friend and whispered “Now that’s a man!” I knew at that moment that I wasn’t just a Man because I was a total badass, ripped and heroic, it was because I wasn’t afraid to risk my life to save a bunch of kittens.

With Love, Amory