My identity isn’t something I’ve questioned much, perhaps and almost certainly that is because of where I came from and how I grew up. Reflecting back on my childhood, my teenage years, my young adulthood, my schooling and now my career and finally my college graduation (after coming back), I have mixed emotions. As I’ve become more self aware of my circumstances, I’m also made aware of other’s situations. Not everyone had my opportunities which leads me to ask the question, why me? Let’s take a deeper look into my life and look through the lens in which I see the world around me.
I am a six-foot, dirty blond, blue eyed Caucasian male who grew up in an upper/middle class home where both of my parents raised my brother, my four sisters and me. I’ve had role models at my disposal to teach me every step along the way from my successful and amazing father, my church leaders, my teachers, my coaches to my friend’s parents. I never had to work to help support my family growing up, in fact, I had my own car paid for completely by my parents since the day I turned 16. I never had to worry about money or my circumstance whatsoever, in fact, the only thing I worried about was my up coming game and chasing girls. Some would say I had a charmed childhood.
I love saying I’m from Portland, Oregon. I identify with the Oregonian way of life with a living care free attitude, embracing everyone, being interested in culture, loving all the seasons, loving every climate and of course, being a bit of a foodie.
I identify with working hard and being successful. I dropped out of school at 24 to pursue a career in sales. I made my first million by 27 and I’ll graduate, finally, at age 29. Since no one will read this but you, Janet, I’m giving full exposure. I truly am BLESSED. I have a wife who loves and supports me, I have 100 pound golden doodle who lights up my life, I own five businesses which pay me more than I need and I feel like I have a pretty good life perspective with my Christian roots. The crazy thing is that until recently, I felt like anybody could be me with a little focus and elbow grease, but that just isn’t quite true. I was raised every day of my childhood expecting to graduate college, expecting to marry a brilliant, beautiful woman, expecting to be wealthy, and had people around me supporting those beliefs emotionally AND financially. I’ve never written anything like this on paper before, it feels pretty amazing when I lay it all out.
Socioeconomic class. I grew up in a pretty poor school, where I lived in the biggest house in the high school (its size is nothing compared to Utah houses). A lot of my friends lived in small two bedroom apartments, in duplexes and in modest homes in all kinds of neighborhoods. I grew up learning the bus system in middle school and my early high school years from my friend Kelton. His mom and sister taught him how to use public transit and he, in turn, taught me. A lot of my friends grew up without their dads. I don’t know what role this played in different value systems being taught in their home, but it was most definitely a more independent life for those friends (it seemed). Kelton’s mom, Jake Boyd’s mom, Ryan Newman’s parents, and Ryan Farley’s parents allowed us to drink in high school with them. A lot of my friend’s parents let us have girls spend the night. Some of my friend’s parents would tell us, “just make sure you boys use condoms.” All of these things were unacceptable to my parents, so I of course kept them to myself. All of these families I mentioned weren’t wealthy, I’d say middle and lower middle class. As far as intelligence goes, I wouldn’t say I felt any smarter than my friends (accept a few but class didn’t play a role) and their parents all seemed sharp enough. My friends’ parents who allowed us to do what ever we wanted certainly behaved in a certain way. They partied themselves and they acted more like our friends than our role models. My worldview was changed because of my friends. I was exposed and experimented at an early age, I knew right from wrong, but consciously chose wrong (or at least what I thought was wrong) because I wanted to. People I’ve surrounded myself by have always shaped how I view my future and have transformed my lens. I see the world through a more experienced, nonjudgmental eye- which I’m grateful for.
My mom and dad always told me to, “turn the other cheek” and to, “treat everyone the way I wanted to be treated.” My parents had us travel and supported us having friends of all colors, religions, etc. I would say I had enough exposure to other cultures and other socioeconomic classes where I was able to learn how to adapt and treat everyone the same as far as respect goes- but that doesn’t mean I thought, “I want to impress this guy so I can get a job some day.” So perhaps it was a different kind of respect. More like, I don’t look down on you for you being you. That doesn’t mean I also want to be you.
Gender. I grew up with a mother and four sisters, all of which were active in my life. I learned that women are different from men. They are more caring and sensitive (as I observed in my family) they taught me that women don’t need to fall into a cookie cutter housewife role. Two of my sisters have their master’s degrees, my third sister has her bachelors and my fourth sister is a nurse. Three of them are married, two got married at 20, one at 25 and my oldest has never been married and is a career woman. My 2nd sister who was married at 20 has been divorced and remarried. My mom is a 100% super mom. She’s the mom that was up at 6am every morning, to first go on a run, then to make 6 lunches. She was always on time to pick us up or drop us off and she was always available to talk to or help us with homework at night. So, this has been my initial exposure and foundation when it comes to women.
As far as intelligence goes, I just laugh that people would think women aren’t as smart because I’ve never thought women were in anyway inferior to men. My sisters and mom all lived by a more strict value system than I lived by. My girl friends and other girls I associated with at school and throughout my life have been pretty consistently either having similar or better values than me. The women in my life didn’t act in any consistent way other than caring for me and others around me. I also never thought growing up, “how do girls think differently than me?” So I always felt like a total equal to all girls around me. If anything, my dad always taught me to treat girls with respect and to treat them differently than my guy friends. He taught me to open the door for them, pay for them when I could afford it, and do whatever I needed to do to protect them. Looking back, that advice has shaped how I’ve treated my sisters, my mom, my wife and other women in my life.
Socioeconomic class. As far as where I want to be in society, my mom and dad, my close friends, Mike Fleming, Jason Walton, Ganes McCulloch and others have been my examples. These people have always encouraged me to reach my financial and lifestyle goals. When I look back about who taught me about other classes in society, its has also been my friends and their parents as I explained above. I was conscious growing up that a lot of these people in my life were different than me, but I didn’t keep track, obviously, of how they taught me “their ways” on how to be middle or lower middle class- where the wealthy are eager to teach you their tips and tricks.
Media has taught me that being lower middle class is NOT where I want to be. College has taught me that $40,000 a year is a good starting wage post college- which would put me in the lower middle class in Utah for men supporting a family. So I really feel like I’ve been pushed in different ways by different people the way I’m supposed to live my life and what I’m supposed to aim for. The media has really shaped my view on “what” I want. Since social media is so commonplace in my life, I see, at least it seems, that money equals happiness. Lavish life styles, sports cars, large homes, and because I see it so often, it really seems possible. It’s the absence of showing that middle class is cool and acceptable that has conditioned me that it isn’t ok.
I’ve gotten my knowledge of my view of women from my mom, my sisters, my girl friends, and from movies, TV, and from social media. I would consider these sources as my teachers. My mom taught me what an awesome mom and balanced woman was like (in her way). My sisters taught me that women are powerful and independent, my girl friends showed me how a lot of women are smarter than me, movies, TV and social media seemed to really put a sexual element portrayed by women into my scope. I feel like it’s been more of a negative connotation showing what women are good for. Women are less likely to be the star of the show and 100% more likely to be arm candy or a sidekick or a damsel in distress in some regard. It’s interesting and sad to think that without the world being as connected as it is, I feel like I would have been taught to respect and love women solely instead of having the media be my tutor throughout my life. As an adult I see women as equals in every aspect of like accept, and I’m sad to admit, in business. I work in a male dominated industry. About 1% of our industry (direct sales) are women. So it’s hard to view them as equals in sales, in management, in negotiating and sometimes in decision making because I haven’t been exposed to that kind of example in my business life (as sad is that is to admit).
- I would like the opportunity to work with women more in business to get exposure to their strengths in sales and management so I feel like we are more equals in the workplace (that’s a major lack of exposure for me).
- I would like to gain more of a desire to travel to Asian countries.
- I would like to take the time to learn a Spanish. I travel to Mexico enough for work that it would be really helpful! I know that people always appreciate when someone makes an effort to know their native language.
These are the three things I would like to improve on. This class so far has been eye opening. By writing down my feelings and going deeper mentally than I’ve ever had to go to express my feelings and reflect on how I feel about the people around me has been a really helpful exercise to assist me in being self aware and overall- a better more sympathetic person.