Gather around the fire as we dive into week two of Mental Health Awareness Month 2022. The other week we took a dive into my life without social media. The whole point of my Mental Health Awareness Month is to allow myself to be vulnerable and learn to share topics I typically don’t talk about in the everyday. Part of the journey is rewriting each article and getting the vibe ‘right’. So for today, we’re diving into my identity in what I hope to be a fun article as I explore who I am. So sit back and relax as we go through a younger Mike.
I’ve been called Mikey throughout the years. It’s an endearing name and honestly one I wished people used more. My Dad always called me Mikey and a few close friends as well but most opted for Mike. For this example I’m using it describe a more innocent, nerdier, insecure Mike. Cause let’s face it, we all have insecurities. When I was younger I had a speech impediment growing up to the point where I needed a speech therapist throughout Elementary school. Couple that with an IEP (individual education plan) and craniosynostosis (my skull literally being taken apart when I was a baby) and I was a recipe for insecurity. Most I’ve outgrown but there are still a couple insecurities that linger.
It wasn’t until 6th grade where I started to become overtly self conscious. I was a care free kid who simply existed. I was the curious sort, always exploring and my focus took many years to master; growing up, if it didn’t interest me, I simply wouldn’t do it. Homework assignments would get left undone and while I had mild OCD, I eventually outgrew it. So, as insecure as I was, it wasn’t all bad. I loved the history channel and discovery channel (before their great fall, back when they were actually educational). A day after school would typically be spent watching “How it’s Made” or a World War II documentary. My love of learning has been consistent throughout my life and with knowledge has come great power. I talked a lot when I was younger and I have to wonder what happened to that spark. While I still talk a lot, there’s some of that childhood innocence that has been lost. What I say nowadays is within the framework of how I want to be perceived but there was a certain joy simply talking about everything that interested me when I was younger. However, when I was younger, my sentences would come off as gibberish and my wonderful memory would typically betray me as I would remember details about others they had completely forgotten. I could not give speeches and I could not communicate. Or perhaps I was simply being too hard on myself. An obsession with perfection and a desire to please everyone created obstacles that seem rather silly now.
The beast I unleashed into the wild. My entire life, I have never used Michael. It was not until I reached the college of business that I opted for the more formal name. Often I wonder what I have done. With each name, I’ve preferred to change my personality slightly to fit the roles that were needed of me. Michael once represented my ideal self, the man I strived to be. It was a way to separate myself from the nerdier (and insecure) aspects of my life. Long winded conversations, video games, the works. I was in college, so I was essentially a new man. And it worked. While I still used Mike among friends, when I networked I was solely known as Michael. Michael takes on a slightly more biblical name and I enjoyed it for a while.
Fast forward to present day and it’s a tougher question to answer. I have told people for many years that I have no preference: call me Michael, call me Mike, call me Mikey. In Germany I was Michel (pronounced Mikkel) and in Spanish I am Miguel. Any name you choose I won’t mind. But this last month I have started to wonder if this is really the case. I have turned my name, my identity into something nonchalant, something that I don’t care about. As with all things in mental health, I’m taking the time to evaluate. Michael would still be fun to use, but only on occasion.
Using Michael was necessary in college but for however many benefits it had, there were also downsides. The most notable is I’ve used it as a defense mechanism. Think of it as a tiered trust system. Michael is more formal, colder in tone than Mike or Mikey. I’ve gone as far as reverting my name from Mike to Michael in formal greetings when upset. How the habit started, I do not know. It’s kept a distance between myself and my professional life, a boundary I no longer need. So after this month I’m going to start making an effort to go by Mike. I won’t correct people if they call me other names but I think it’s time to have a preferred name.
My preferred name and my identity. The Mike that represents my two halves, now one. A nerdy Mike and a Mike that can communicate. My new ideal, after spending years working on myself. I still have a ways to go, but I’m happy with where I am. In college, there were a lot of pieces to the puzzle that didn’t quite fit and that are now starting to fall into place. I was so focused on my professional self that I lost a lot of what had made me charming in the first place. Coming back home has been a way to reconcile that. It hasn’t been easy but looking back I think I made the right call. I got to spend time with my dad while he was sober and before he passed away, a decision I never thought I’d make. It’s been great spending time with my mom and most old wounds have started to heal. I’ve learned a lot about my family dynamic and I truly believe it has changed me for the better. I can’t choose how each moment of my life plays out but my life is an accumulation of every choice I’ve made; I have to trust that each action is pushing me in the right direction. Had I set out on my own after college, I don’t know if I would have been better off.
I used to hate the imperfect pieces of the puzzle, never quite fitting into place. My reality was dictated by many “what if’s” and I would reach extremes that would isolate me from everyone. Now life has a much more balanced approach and negative reflection of the past has become relatively rare and never to the point of obsession, like it once was. This Mike meditates, this Mike reads about stoicism. I talk about games, movies, and shows that I enjoy while relating to others. There is a held confidence about myself that I’ve nurtured and I no longer have to pretend I am something I’m not. I enjoy Mental Health Awareness Month as I give myself a space to look closely at my life. The act of drafting is just as beneficial as publishing if not more so. Often, it is the process of writing and rewriting an article that in and of itself is the benefit. There is so much I wanted to write about but realized there is a time and place. What is meant for the public eye and what is meant for my eyes alone? It’s an interesting process of self reflection and really helps with my articulation of tough topics.
Three Names, One Man
It would be easy to stop at ‘Mike’ but I wanted to take the time to dive in and reflect a little more on myself as a person. This article has been rewritten many times for the sake of keeping it more on the lighthearted side. The article could have gone down a very different path but I wanted to ensure it didn’t. My writing is a reflection of who I am and my blog is a representation of my personal journey. A Mental Health Awareness Month series has risks as I am sharing a bit of myself with each post. Too much, shared without finesse, disengages the reader. Too little and it doesn’t give the reader a reason to care.
I exaggerated my personas for this article with purpose as I’m struggling with a bit of an identity crisis I didn’t realize I had until earlier this year. On LinkedIn I am Michael and eventually this bled into work and then to everyday life. So once I hit publish on this article, I’m going to be focused on rebranding. Mike should be my everyday, my default. There is no longer a need to separate myself and perhaps in the process, I’ll rediscover Mikey.
Thanks as always for reading! We are almost done with Mental Health Awareness Month! My last article will most likely be on my Father. Stay tuned for next week!
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