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Finally Letting People In

My friend Steve tells me all the time that I’ve finally come out of my shell. “You’re finally letting people in,” he says. And coming from someone who’s known me since I was 10 years old, that statement holds a lot of weight. He knows how I was. How guarded I’d keep myself and anything close to me. Not that I wasn’t social, but the thought of “letting people in,” frightened me, and it still does to some degree. Accept now I don’t let that fear own me.

Valuing Friendship

I’m writing this having just left my friend’s condo. He’s a new friend, someone I’ve become really close with over the past year. And in the short time we’ve known each other, he’s already a staple in my life, someone with whom I can speak freely, be myself, and bond over everything from basketball to pop culture.

He may not even realize it, but for me his friendship was a risk. A risk meaning letting someone get that close to me was not something I would’ve been comfortable with even a few years ago.

And he’s not the only example. I’ve made other friends over the past two years. My Queen street friends, my Kensington Market Writers Circle friends, some artist friends; all of which would have been nearly impossible for me in my former mind frame.

Writing Not My Only Expression Anymore

I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable all of these people have been in my life. The difference they have made in helping me feel safe trusting people, and really feeling like there are some amazing people in the world who get me; like really understand who I am.

That kind of friendship is invaluable, even more so for me coming from a place where the last thing I ever wanted to do was have someone get to know me. Just the thought of that would make me cringe.

Looking back now, there was definitely some insecurity. The potential to disappoint someone after they got to know me intimately was always what I feared. “What if they don’t like who they see,” were the thoughts plaguing my mind and holding me back from fully engaging with anyone.

And I know that kind of thinking has cost me some friendships, ruined some relationships, and prevented me from growing emotionally. What’s crazy is that I was always such an open minded person, but still so scared to open myself up enough to experience anything meaningful.

But that’s all changed now. Maybe not completely, but enough to where I can feel the difference. And enough to where my world has been changed by the people I let in. For me that’s been everything.

Writing used to be the only platform in which I spoke openly. I took comfort in knowing I could sit and type out my thoughts, click a button, and put it out into the universe without ever really having to face any of its content. Even pieces where I stirred up conversation, there’s a safety in writing that kept me at a distance from the audience that wasn’t threatening.   

And I still feel the same way about writing. It’s such a passion for me now that there’s nothing that could ever pull me away. But I’ve moved some of those emotions off the screen and into my everyday life. Carefully and deliberately, but now someone I’ve let in won’t have to read dozens my blog posts to get an idea of who I am.

They can just ask, and I'll tell.

New friends, new friendships, new bonds, new connections, new experiences. Life is good.

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kerncarter.com/blog

Photo Credit: Henk Costers

Dealing with Expectation

I had a tough act to follow. Playing runner up to an older brother that excelled on the classroom and on the football field, earned a full athletic scholarship to Stanford University and then went on to play four years in the NFL was no small task. I remember the first time I got caught skipping class in high school. The first thing the teacher said while she ushered me to the office was "I don't expect this type of behaviour from you, Kern."  It’s a phrase I would hear countless amounts of time during my teenage years. At first I took it as a compliment; that my defiance against how I was supposed to behave in some strange way made me cool. And in high school, who doesn't want that title?
But as I matured and the opinions of my acquaintances mattered less and less, I learned how to handle that expectation. Actually, it went beyond that; I craved that expectation. I stole those preconceived ideas of me being intelligent and talented with a gift for expression and focused all of that into my passion for writing.

"EXPECTATIONS ARE DANGEROUS ONLY IF YOU LET OTHER PEOPLE CONTROL WHAT THOSE EXPECTATIONS SHOULD BE."

Now I had new standards, and instead of worrying about fitting in, I concerned myself with meeting the enormous expectations I placed on myself. Today the standards people place on me is not based on familial affiliations. Instead they are based on the standards I created for myself. The way I carry myself, the way I speak, the quality of my writing are all expectations people instinctively (seemingly) place on me only because I have placed them on myself.

 

Reflecting back I realize that expectations are dangerous only if you let other people control what those expectations should be. If you create your own standards, your own set of beliefs, and then live everyday by those measures, people will come to expect what you already demand of yourself. Meeting those demands..well that's another post.
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Website: www.kerncarter.com
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My book Thoughts of a Fractured Soul is available for purchase now at www.kerncarter.com in print or e-book format.

Daughters

To all my fathers: YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Do not measure the worth of your influence by a monthly payment. You are so much more and should be so much more. I dare you to be PRESENT in the lives of your daughters. Be present to guide her, speak to her, take her to school, read to her, listen to her. Your PRESENCE means so much. YOU are the FIRST LOVE of her life and it will be up to you to make sure that love is healthy and beautiful, so you set the stage for every other man that enters her life after you.

Do not be afraid to be her friend, or to scold her for being rude. Compliment her for doing her hair by herself for the first time and push her to turn that "B" into an "A." Encourage her to be bold, opinionated, demanding, confident. And as many times as you will be forced to tell her "NO" show her a different way that is acceptable.

Be the parent she needs, the companion she wants, and the leader that is essential to her nurturing.  

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