What is a Man ?

If we’re honest, this question can be haunting. And in my case, downright overwhelming - especially given the fact that I don’t have a solid answer. And here’s the kicker:

I don’t always know where to find that answer.

Men can have a difficult time answering such a question, because it forces us to look inwardly. And unfortunately, “inward” is a place that the world encourages us to avoid.

This is my protest against that. This is my bet that there are others who need a space to answer the same question.

This is why Integer Man exists.

I am the last born of five. I have three sisters and a brother. Some say that’s a good thing. Yet, for most of my life, it was a struggle! Why? Because I had a difficult time finding my place. I wasn’t just the last born, I was the last born in a Haitian family. Now, before you get offended by that statement, hear me out! I can only speak on what I know, and in my experience, growing up as the last born in a Haitian family meant that I didn’t have A MOTHER and A FATHER - nope not even close.

I’d argue that I had four mothers and two fathers. The reality is, my years spent in that house in Petion-Ville, Haiti and later on Everett, Massachusetts were deeply marked by that truth. As matter of fact, my father immigrated to Boston from Haiti a little after I turned one. This resulted in me calling my older brother “papa” until I was about three or four years old.

On one of his annual visits back to Haiti, my dad walked in the house, and as you can imagine he was pretty excited to see me. He called me to come say hi to him. I refused and said “ou pa papa’m!”(you’re not my dad), I ran and hid behind my brother and said “men papa’m” (Here’s my dad). My father wasn’t too happy about that. And as typical in our Haitian culture, I ended up getting a light whooping from him that day haha!

Life was also a bit challenging in our neighborhood because of our dedication as a family to our Christian faith. Actually, it was downright difficult. That’s a conversation for another time, however.

But that’s me in a nutshell.

Or is it?

As my journey into manhood continues to unfold, it’s becoming clear to me that there isn’t one answer that can fully define the meaning of manhood.

What is a man? I have been trying to answer that question for as long as I can remember. After nearly two decades, I still don’t have an answer. I’ve also found that my attempt at finding the answer has led to more questions.

I find myself asking myself things like:

Why am I alive ?

When will I die ?

When I die, will I be remembered ?

Where will I go when I die ?

What if I don’t succeed ?

What if I have to wake up everyday for the rest of my life and go to a job that I hate ?

Who is my wife ?

Will I be a good father?

Will I make enough money ?

Will I be happy ?

What am I good at ?

The questions never end!

You can imagine how, in the face of these questions, young men can be left perplexed. You can imagine how we’re left feeling like life is a confusing journey and our emotions, never ending mazes.

These inner explorations will require us as men to venture into unfamiliar territory. Unfamiliar territory is uncontrollable territory. And uncontrollable territory is not where men who like to feel in control want to travel to. This requires vulnerability, and to be honest, that won’t happen unless guards and walls come tumbling down.

But you have to protect yourself at all times right? Defend as a man right? That’s society speaking right there. For me, that frustrating cycle ends today. Randomly replicating patterns ends today.

Like I said, this intentional journey is daunting. But I’m taking it anyway. It’s unfamiliar, but I’m jumping in.

I hope you’ll join me as we begin to unravel the mysteries of manhood. I hope you’ll join me in my vulnerable journey towards growing as a man.

And who knows? Maybe we might just get some questions answered.

Obed Jean PierreComment