What does an ex-cop and a butcher have in common besides being father and daughter?
They both experienced a life changing identity crisis.
At 15, after falling school, my dad left and started as an apprentice butcher in Hunters Hill. By 1978 at the age of 48, my dad had been a butcher for nearly 35 years.
Dads final butcher shop was in Punchbowl. During his 35 years, eating, sleeping and breathing butchery, his identity of ‘Fred the Butcher’, was engrained.
Davenport’s Meats was well known and extremely well recognised and loved. My dad spent nearly every waking hour, six days a week being a butcher. Charismatic, likeable, and genuine, that’s how the customers described my dad. He had an infectious smile and a passion for his trade, so much so, it became his identity.
However, in 1979 at the age of 49, my dad was forced to retire early due to a degenerative spinal disease that was caused from years of walking in and out of cold rooms carry heavy carcases.
Shortly after, my parents sold up and moved to the Central Coast of NSW. I was 13 at the time and absolutely over the moon to be living on the beach, and totally oblivious to what dad was going through.
I can recall now, everything on the outside looked fine and dandy, but it wasn’t, my father, the butcher and the provider had lost the only thing he knew, his identity and along with it, the ability to support his family. There would be a rough number of years to follow, but eventually they would settle into a different life.
Recently, while participating in my annual Breakthrough session, I had this memory come back to me of my father sitting in a chair in 1980, uncontrollably sobbing as he looked out to sea. My mother was trying to console him but was having no luck. Until that day, I had never seen my father cry, not even when I broke three of his ribs, but that’s another story.
I realised during my Breakthrough session that I was too young to understand what dad was going through was an identity crisis and he had slipped into depression. A word that was never mentioned back then. He was feeling hopelessness and helplessness. He was irritable and really struggling with everything in life. He had lost his purpose, his passion and along with it, his will to live. He was great at putting on a brave face, so everything looked okay, after all, that’s what most men were tort to do. How many times in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and so on, were men told, “boys don’t cry’…”grow up”…..”be a man”…..”men are the providers of the house” etc etc etc
As former police officer, I know this identity crisis well, I spun into a major depressive disorder. One of the many things a few emergency service workers do, is identify themselves as their job. Many eat, sleep, and breathe their work. Some, not all, would say, “I’m a cop 24/7”, others would make comments like, “I sold my soul to the organisation”. Add this with the constant need to be hypervigilant to stay alive, and you have a train, a train going down a hill without brakes. Eventually it must come to a stop one way or another. I use the train metaphor because this is what I dreamt every night in 2017 before crashing.
One of the biggest fears of men worldwide, is being perceived as weak, and this alone can keep men in their ego and stop them from reaching out. The moment we identify who we are as what we ‘do’ or what we ‘have’, or ‘where’ we live, is the moment we separate from our true self. Knowing your core values, helps you know what is important to you.
Asking ‘who am I’ is not easy to answer, but digging deep can be transformative.
Reaching out and speaking to someone takes courage, takes vulnerability but it can help you find clarity and direction, and best of all, it can set you free from limiting beliefs, negative emotions and painful memories that are holding you back in life.
Vulnerability is the key to healing.
Remember; Our greatest growth comes from our darkest times because of what it unlocks in learnings. I have used men and emergency services as examples in this post to make it easy, but woman and many other jobs could fit these scenarios.
It is important to know that there are just as many who do not become their job, or identify fully as their role in life. They stay true to themselves and practice balances, boundaries and awareness. These people are our guides, mentors and roll models as wel learn our lessons in life.