I’m a man. A go-getting, head-first charging, action taking, solve all of life’s problems and difficulties without batting an eye, shedding a tear, or showing any sense of emotion type of man. And that’s what a man is supposed to be – a winner, a hero, Superman if you will.
I inherited this need to be Superman from my father, the greatest man that I know. Jimmy Michael Priest is the “everyman.” Growing up, he was not only dad to my brother and me but I’ll give you a small list of the things he did when not being “just dad:”
- Successfully owned and operated (with my mother) a 24-hour a day towing services company that won multiple local and regional awards and was in operation for nearly 30 years when he sold it in 2011
- Served on our hometown’s volunteer fire department from early 1980s until present day where he held multiple leadership positions, even Chief of the Department for a few years
- Repaired police/fire department radio and scanning equipment on the side (just for fun) and because people came to him for help
- Constantly was fixing up and repairing cars, both old “fixer-uppers” that he enjoyed tinkering with or helping other people repair random things on their everyday rides. I can’t even remember a time when there wasn’t a car with a motor torn apart in the garage
- Was on the board or gave significant time to several local charities such as the DARE to Keep Kids Off Drugs, Red Ribbon Week, Operation Graduation, the Village Creek Festival (the annual town fair), and others I’m sure I’m forgetting
- Supported the Hardin County Sherriff’s Department in several charity functions and at one-time was a part-time deputy officer
- Was an active participant in local politics, helping friends campaign for city offices, boards, and other positions while also helping rally the support for local bond referendums and elections that our city needed to continue growing
- And then, with all of his free time, he decided to open a second business (a mini-storage facility), that he continues to operate to this day
I can remember several days where my dad would be up and on the road working before I got ready for school and wouldn’t be home until sometimes after dinner, where undoubtedly somebody would stop by the house to “talk shop” about the local happenings, ask for his help in painting signs and advertisements for local events and campaigns, or find out if he could fix whatever issue they were having with their radio equipment. There were plenty of nights when I would go to bed late after studying only to hear him still out in his shop, blasting oldies music and working the night away. And in the meantime, he still found time to attend school functions, sporting events, and band performances to boot. The man didn’t quit, he never complained, and he always got things done. To me, he was invincible, he was a hero, and he was my Superman. Therefore, as I was growing up, I took on the same types of responsibilities and involvement and I wanted to be Superman for everyone else around me.
However, after nearly 27 years on this earth, and trying to constantly be everything to everybody that surrounds me and that I care about in this life, I’ve learned that even Superman has his kryptonite. Sometimes, you cannot continue to carry the weight of the world on your back and try to solve every problem for every person that you know and love and care about. I’m sure my dad realized this along the way somewhere and had to make a choice between the events and activities he took on.
You see, there are two reasons why this just doesn’t work out for us as human beings. First of all, somebody a long, long time ago decided that each day would have only 24 hours and that the time we have, both each day and on this earth, is definitive and finite. We cannot simply go out and create more time. No matter how much we try to improve our efficiencies and time management, we simply cannot create more hours in the day. Sorry if I busted your bubble just then.
Second, and more importantly, as much as I hate to admit it, none of us really possess super human strengths or god-like abilities. We are humans. We are normal (well, most of us at least, some of you, I often wonder…kidding of course). We each have different trials and tribulations that we will come across in life that we will not be able to handle alone. Sometimes it’s a specific skill set you need to accomplish a task. Like for me, I have no idea how to fix anything related to a computer – but thank goodness my brother builds these things.
But, more important than any missing skill or ability, sometimes we just need friends and support to help us through difficult times, provide advice, counsel, or even just a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. Now I know this is counter-intuitive to everything I’ve mentioned about being a man, you know, solving all of life’s problems, charging head first into every activities, and doing it all without complaining, asking questions, or showing emotion. However, you can’t do it all by yourself – no matter who you are. There will be times when you just don’t know what to do, don’t know how to do it, and can’t figure out which way is up or which direction in life is right for you. This is when you (and I’m definitely including myself here) must be vulnerable and open, reaching out to others to help you find your way, solve your problems, or even just talk through life’s difficulties.
The Game of Life isn’t as simple as the Hasbro board game where you take a little toy car around fairytale land to get married, receive paychecks, collect little blue and pink babies, and every now and then try for a lucky day at the races. Life is tough, the decisions are difficult, and sometimes (several times) you just won’t have the answers or the ability to understand why, how, or what. It is times like these that you must be open and vulnerable, finding friends who will listen to you, that have been through similar situations, and will ask the tough questions of you to help you find out what you really want in life. To find these people and develop these friendships, you have to be open and honest with yourself, comfortable in your own skin, and not be afraid to build deep relationships with the people around you. Without these close, trusted, deeply personal relationships, you will often fill the weight of the world on your shoulders and have no one to reach out to for support. And when the weight gets too tough, you will eventually collapse and crumble underneath the burden that you have placed upon yourself. I know several of you are reading this and thinking, “no way chief, I’m the man.” But trust me, I’ve been there – the crash is inevitable and it is painful. Remember, “No man is an island unto himself” – we must depend on those around us to get us through the hard times.
Looking back, it was so clear that my father had developed these relationships many years ago and continues to surround himself with great men who believe in the same servant mentality that he possesses. And thus far in life, I’ve been able to surround myself with similar like-minded individuals who desire to achieve greatness in both their personal and professional lives, give back to their communities, and look for opportunities to support their colleagues and friends in any of life’s adventures and difficulties.
Can each of us become Superman? Highly unlikely. But, by surrounding yourself with great people who care about you, want to see you succeed and with whom you are able to share your problems, worries, and struggles with, you will find that life becomes a bit more manageable.
Be vulnerable. Be true to yourself and real with yourself. Open up and reach out. You’ll find several people who are struggling with the same life questions as you are and together, you will be able to solve all of life’s problems, one day at a time.