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Learning to Love Myself

Updated on September 11, 2014
That's me celebrating my first birthday since coming back to Japan.
That's me celebrating my first birthday since coming back to Japan.

Happy Birthday to Me

Ok, let me make it clear from the beginning that it's not really my birthday today. I was going through some old pictures today and found this picture of me from my 24th birthday. It was my first year back in Tokyo and I had just celebrated my birthday with a few new friends of mine. Back at home in Hawaii, I had a well-paying job and my family was there but I somehow always felt like there was something missing in my life.

I couldn't really pinpoint the exact reason but I was lost. My destiny changed when a friend of mine gave me a book called "What Color is Your Parachute". Against my mother's wishes as well as friends thinking I had gone nuts to throw away such a good job, I decided to move away.

I had one friend I knew in Tokyo so I called him up to tell him I was coming to stay for a couple of months. Although I had no idea where my life was headed, I was excited and looking forward to my future.

Fast forward to today. I'm now at the ripe age of 48 and at an age where one goes through old pictures reminiscing the past. I don't normally dwell on my past much but going through some old pictures made me remember a lot of things and although I consider myself to be a happy person, it wasn't always so. It took me awhile to get to where I am today but I know I made the right decision when I decided to make that big jump.

*Photos belong to myself unless otherwise noted.

Finding My Path

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2014: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers
What Color Is Your Parachute? 2014: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

This book is not only for those considering a career change, but it's also about finding about who you are and what you want out of life. If helped me understand why I was unhappy and gave me the courage to do what I needed to do.

 
A better and more confident me!
A better and more confident me!

In The Beginning...

I was born on January 27, 1966 in a small apartment somewhere in the suburbs of Tokyo. My mother had married my father, who was a notorious playboy and gambler. By the time I was 5 years old, my father had left my mother for another woman taking all her hard-earned money along with him, leaving her with two kids to care for all by herself.

Being literally too poor to continue living in Tokyo, one of my good uncles apparently gave my mother two plane tickets to go and stay with my grandmother who lived in Hawaii at the time. So my mother left my sister behind with my uncle taking only me with her to start a new life. When we got there we lived in a very small apartment in a not-so-good part of Honolulu and still have visions of my mother trying to kill one cockroach after another.

After about a year, my mother had enough money saved up to have my sister brought over. Shortly thereafter, we moved to a larger place and my mother was remarried to a local man. He was abusive to my mother and it used to terrify both my sister and I. My sister and I used to cry our lungs out and I remember hugging my sister to try and protect her.

But I felt helpless to do anything for my mother and all I could do was cry as loud as I could which usually made him stop hitting her. One day though, my new step-father grabbed me by the neck and hit my head a couple of times against the wall until I lost consciousness. I don't remember much pain but only a sense of satisfaction because at least that stopped him from torturing my mother.

Coming Undone

She's Come Undone (Oprah's Book Club)
She's Come Undone (Oprah's Book Club)

Books have taught me things that people couldn't. When I didn't have the courage to reach out, there were books. She's Come Undone was a painfully entertaining book that made me realize that I wasn't the only one in pain and started me on the road to healing myself.

 
This is the old apartment where my family and I used to live when I was a kid.
This is the old apartment where my family and I used to live when I was a kid.

The Memory of Incense

My mother was obviously going through a difficult time and was struggling to get her life together. She was struggling to make ends meet while dealing with an abusive husband. She also had two kids to deal with and I really don't know how she did it. She was usually moody and angry most of the time and it was extremely rare to see her in a good mood.

Being a child that didn't know better, I would sometimes make a racket by singing along with my favorite record (remember records?). A hand would come from nowhere and the next thing I know, I felt a stinging to my face. She would slap me a lot during those years and it confused me sometimes. All I knew was that I did something wrong and I tried hard not to anger my mother as much as I could. Still there were many opportunities for me to slip up.

My mother usually slept until late because she had to get her sleep for the night shift at work. I was starving as I didn't have anything to eat and I didn't want to wake her so decided that I would try to cook a sausage for myself. I turned on the heat and proceeded to boil some water for my sausage.

As I was eating my sausage, my mother came out, glanced at me eating and realized that I had used the stove without her permission. I knew I wasn't supposed to but I was hungry. She then did something that I don't like to think about much. She grabbed my right hand tightly so I couldn't run away, lighted a stick of incense and proceeded to give me just the tiniest of burns on the back of my hand.

It was just a mere second but it was the most intense pain I ever felt back then. After that day, I tried harder not to ever displease her again.

It's Not Easy Being Young

As I grew up I learned not to bother my mother with too many questions-she was simply too busy and so I tried to cooperate and help make things easier for her. I tried my best to get good grades and I continued to until around the age of 13. I then entered the rebellious phase. This was also the time when I realized that I started to like some of the guys in my class. However I knew that these feelings were wrong because it was obvious in school.

There were a few effeminate guys in my school and I remember seeing them getting teased or bullied a lot. I also talked about my feelings to a friend who then told me I would go to hell. From that day forward I tried hard to "fix" my "illness" and made myself believe that it was a phase.

I thought that if I dated a girl, I would snap out of this nonsense so I found a girlfriend. Because she was one of the cooler girls in school, I started to hang out with the cool group. I was never more miserable in my life.

Back at home, my mother was the same and my sister was getting into her own set of problems. Things started to get from bad to worse and as I knew how stressed my mother was, I decided to make a Thanksgiving dinner for my family.

We never did celebrate holidays much mostly due to my mother being too busy so it couldn't be helpedI had saved enough money from my newspaper route and used it to buy some ready made food. Sure the turkey was the sliced up kind in an aluminum foil contaiter and my mashed potatoes were the instant kind. But it was the first real meal I had made and I was beyond proud of myself. I just knew my mother would be ecstatic. Being that it was Thanksgiving, I invited a couple of my neighbors over to eat some food before my mother woke up.

This was definitely not a good idea. All the talking woke my mother up from her beauty sleep. She stormed out of her room and proceeded to yell at my friends to leave. After my friends left, she took one glance at the table full of food and asked me what the hell I was thinking. After that, the only thing I remember was that she started making a mockery out of me in front of my sister and told me how stupid I was.

She actually started to laugh at my effort and that's when I lost it. I threw the bowl of mashed potatoes right in her face. With the potatoes in her face, she laughed even harder and told me that I was worth absolutely nothing. I immediately stormed out of the house with tears in my eyes.

A Sense of Belonging

Have you ever felt like you didn't belong?

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Unsuccessful Suicide

After walking around for an hour or so, I walked up to the top floor of the apartment building behind ours. I thought about school, my mother, and my unnatural feelings toward men. I was miserable and felt that there was no way to fix it. I felt like I didn't belong in the world and wondered why I was even alive. If I tried hard at home, it made things worse. People liked me at school for who I wasn't.

As my eyes filled with tears looking down from above, I only felt sorrow and grief. I really couldn't think of a single reason for living. It was then that I realized how easy it would be if my life ended right then and there. I didn't want to go on living. Without thinking, I started to climb over the rails to jump. At that moment I realized what I was going to do and my crying stopped. It was the first time in a long time that I felt peace and I no longer felt sad.

Right when I was about to let go of the railings, my mother's voice snapped me back into reality. She was calling out my name looking for me and I completely forgot to jump. She had somehow saved my life.

There were a couple more attempts at suicide but there was always something that stopped me or got in the way of success. I started to turn to food for comfort and my weight had ballooned to 250 pounds. I felt like a zombie walking through life with no sense of purpose or a future. I accepted it and life went on.

Source

Why Am I Here Anyway?

I started looking for purpose in my life and that's when I turned to religion. I went hopping from one church to another trying to find one that fit me. In the process I would sometimes offend the priest because I would sometimes try and challenge them with weird questions. I eventually found temporary comfort in God and the bible so I absorbed myself into studying and worshiping God which temporarily took my attention away from myself.

However during my studies of the Bible, I realized there was one big problem and that was the fact that my attraction to men had not disappeared. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't seem to get rid of these feelings that were supposed to be unnatural. I started to wonder why it had to be so hard because these feelings were as natural as the sun rising every morning. I swear I prayed every night to help me be normal like everyone else.

One night as I was praying, I suddenly felt an incredible warmth enveloping me a feeling that I can only call love. It was something that I had never experienced before and it hit me like a truck. I started to cry as I was filled with an incredible feeling of joy and happiness. At that moment I felt as though I had finally found the answer to all my suffering.

In my heart of hearts I knew that it was ok to have these feelings. I felt something telling me that I didn't have to change because I was just find the way I am. I didn't have to ask to be forgiveness because there was nothing to forgive.

I dismissed myself from the church after telling them about my sexual preference. They understood and wished me the best of luck. As I walked home that day, I looked at my reflection in the glass window of a store and saw a fat 18-year-old looking back at me. I finally decided it was time to take control of my own life.


A trip to Bali with my mother.
A trip to Bali with my mother.

Finding Strength Within

It's amazing how strong the spirit can be. Things happened quickly after that. After accepting the fact that I was gay and I had nothing to be ashamed of, I no longer felt like an outcast. I started to exercise for the first time in my life and I started to be more conscious of what I ate. The pounds started to melt away and my energy level soared. Once I reached my goal weight of 160 pounds, I felt like there was nothing I couldn't do.

My relationship with my mother was non-existent for the first two years after I came out to her. Miraculously my mother reached out to me after that and it started the road in healing our relationship. I also went to visit my father in Japan to see if I could get to know him better but I had to come to terms with the fact that we have no history and we would never truly have a son and father relationship.

For the longest time I couldn't forgive him for the misery he caused my mother and blamed him for everything bad that had happened in our lives. I've learned to accept him for who he is and I forgave him for not being the perfect father. Besides he's just human.

My relationships with men weren't all that great but looking at it from a positive point of view, each one had taught me something about myself. Without those destructive relationships, I probably wouldn't have grown to be who I am today. I realized that I was relying too much on the love of others and let's be honest, I never learned how to love myself. I always needed the approval of others and realized how needy I was as an adult.

Sometime around the age of 35, I forced myself to work on the most important relationship which was with myself and tried to stay away from getting romantically involved for a minimum of one year. I spent a lot of time reading books, meditating and taking long walks. A year had passed and I was sitting on the floor in a full lotus position ( yes I was doing yoga now) when I felt a familiar warmth that I hadn't felt in years.

It was the same feeling of love and warmth that had wrapped itself around me when I was younger. I wanted that feeling to stay longer this time so I just enjoyed its warmth and love. I gave thanks for my life and realized that perhaps for the first time in my life, I was truly happy.

Having Gratitude

Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have into What You Want
Make Miracles in Forty Days: Turning What You Have into What You Want

Reading this book has taught me about how a simple thing as making a gratitude list every morning makes all the difference. The book promises that your life will change after 40 days. For me, I could see changed happen after the first week.

 
Photo of myself taken in 2013.
Photo of myself taken in 2013.

Love Conquers Fear

Fast forward to today- I am 47 years old. Fear has always played a big role in my life. I feel like my life had been a long journey with many obstacles that had to be faced in order to learn valuable lessons. In the spring of 2005, I had my first panic attack. Although I still have them now and then, I've learned to manage it a bit better and I am optimistic that one day I will overcome this as well. And if not, so be it.

I remember reading somewhere that there are only two sides to everything, fear and love. You can choose one or the other and it makes all the difference. Not only does this thinking work for controlling my panic attacks but it also helps me with every aspect of my life.

Life is never perfect and maybe it shouldn't be because sometimes hardships teach us the most important things in life. And sometimes experiencing pain and hardships only make the good times better. It makes us appreciate the happy times, the good in people and the beauty in the world that much more. I could never forget my past but I don't think I want to because that's also a part of what makes me ME.

I now have a great and very close relationship with my caring mother and beautiful sister. It's amazing how far we've come as a family and how we somehow survived all those years of pain and confusion. We are all human and we all try our best in our given circumstances even though they may not always be the right thing.

I guess we are all constantly learning. I've even forgiven the ex-boyfriend who withdrew all my money while I was in hospital and then ran way. I'm not just saying that-I mean it. I have no anger left in me and although I can't explain it, I only have love for everyone I have known because of the fact that they once played a part in my life at one point or another.

I know my journey is far from over and even more challenges that await. However I'm not so scared anymore because I know they are only opportunities in disguise-a chance to grow and become a better person. I look forward to each day and whatever life throws my way. Come what may because I will always choose love over fear. I choose love!

Do You Love Yourself?

Do you think loving yourself is important for happiness?

See results

Love, Joy and Happiness is All Around Us. Thanks for Reading.

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    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      MelRootsNWrites, thanks so much for reading about my story. It wasn't the easiest thing to do, but I feel better writing about it.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you Mary Crowther so much for your kind words. I think letting it out was one of the best things I ever did.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Linda Booklady, thank you so much for your kind words.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 3 years ago from California

      This was so heartfelt and personal. I found it touching. I teared up in a couple of places. Life is full of many challenges but it sounds like you had to endure more than your fair share in the short span of your childhood. I wish you continued growth and happiness as you continue your journey.

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 3 years ago from Havre de Grace

      From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate that you can share all that has happened in the past. I still hold things back and I hope that someday I can let it out. Bless you.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Beautiful story... I like that you found that love welling up from within, and it comforted you. Also, I love that you experience forgiveness for all those who harmed you, and especially that you're now close to your mother. How she must have suffered during those difficult years!

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      rainykua you're so right that everything in the past has shaped who I am today. Thank you so much for the kind words. :)

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      TerriCarr, thanks for reading. Yes, I feel fortunate that I've overcome these obstacles. Even the bad stuff made me who I am today so it all happened for a good reason.

    • rainykua profile image

      rainykua 3 years ago

      This is a very touching story. I'm so glad that your problems have made you stronger and have shaped you into a better person. You deserve to be happy no matter what others think about your sexual preference. I hope your story will continue to touch people especially those who are having some difficulties in life.

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 3 years ago

      Wow. Such a touching story. I am sorry to hear you had such a rough childhood. But it is fantastic that you were able to overcome all that without bitterness.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @corinnephillips1: Thanks so much!

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @TanoCalvenoa: I appreciate you sharing some things about yourself with me as well TanoCalvenoa. Every time I see your posts as well as read your lenses, it's apparent what a beautiful person you are. Once again, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    • serendipity831 profile image

      Drake McSherry 3 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      I enjoyed reading your story. I believe everything happens for a reason & makes us who we are. It's funny how people can have similar life stories, even if they are many miles apart. Life is strange & wonderful that way. I wish you all the best & thanks again for sharing your story.

    • corinnephillips1 profile image

      corinnephillips1 3 years ago

      Great lens and thank you for sharing and being open to spirit allowing it to encourage you to face life continue with the journy and find peace and harmony.

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      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      This is an amazing story, and I think you're very brave to share all of this with others online. I've considered writing some about my own problems with bipolar disorder and panic attacks, although I haven't yet felt like I can do it. I've actually completely overcome both problems, and I've had similar experiences to yours with that feeling of love and peace, which I believe to be God.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @serendipity831: Thank you serendipity. I agree with what you say as well. If it weren't for my past, I wouldn't be me.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @RoadMonkey: Thank you for your kind words RoadMonkey. I admit it was hard reliving those memories but not as hard as I thought.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 4 years ago

      What a truly honest and fantastic story. I feel so sorry for what you went through as a child and yet it has also played a part in who and what you are today. I feel it must have been very hard for you to write this and to really look hard at what happened, even all those years ago, some people never manage this. But maybe looking back and realising just how far you have come from that scared and hurting child has also been helpful. I am glad you managed to find a way through the problems that were set in front of you.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @VspaBotanicals: Vspa I always appreciate your comments and visits. Thank you for making my day.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Valerie Bloom: Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      Your lenses are so moving and beautiful. And this one speaks in volumes. Thank you!

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Thank you for sharing your story. I admire your perseverance and wish you the best!

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @ForGoodPeople: Thanks so much. I appreciate that.

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      tonyleather 4 years ago

      This was a moving an fascinating lens about your life. Thank you for a very interesting read.

    • ForGoodPeople profile image

      Pinar Unlu 4 years ago from Mugla Turkey

      Great lens, thankyou for sharing .. It's impressive, you are very brave ..

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @tonyleather: Thanks for taking the time to comment Tony. I truly appreciate it.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @gideonkoh: Hey Gideon. What a surprise to see you here! Right back at you my friend. :)

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @MarathonRunning: Thank you for reading marathonrunning. Much appreciated.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Nancy Hardin: Thank you so much Nancy. I cannot express to you what a difference discovery Squidoo has been to me. Not only have I met incredible individuals like yourself but I am being inspired by everyday what I encounter everyday here.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @sousababy: Sousababy thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much to me.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @carlos-m-frias: Thank you carlos. You are so kind to comment.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @DawnRae64: Thank you so much dawn. I truly appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Kim Milai: Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a nice comment. I'm glad to you know as well. :)

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @lesliesinclair: I am so grateful for your visits to my lenses and I thank you once again for taking the time to comment on my story. I hope that one day I can be as awesome as you Papier.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Diana Wenzel: Renaissance every time I get a comment from you, it just makes my day. Thank you so much for being such a wonderfully awesome person. Sending a big hug right back at you.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @ecogranny: Grace thank you so much for taking the time to write such a beautiful comment. I truly hope that my story will encourage those who may be experiencing similar situations to not give up.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @sybil watson: Thanks sybil for your thoughful comment. I truly appreciate it.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 4 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @VinnWong: Thanks so much Vinn for taking the time to comment.

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      gideonkoh 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your story. You have a beautiful heart. Your story has touched me. It has also encouraged me to stay positive and be grateful for the good that's happening in my life. Hugs!

    • MarathonRunning profile image

      Martina 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thank you for sharing your personal story!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Smine27, it has taken me a lifetime (I am 74) to find out some of the things you found out much younger. I had to learn to love myself too, my childhood was not all it could have been and left me feeling I couldn't measure up to anyone. I have great admiration for how far you have come from that young man on the roof, about to end it all. I'm so glad we have you in our community and thank you for sharing this story.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      You are an incredibly brave young man who had to grow up far too fast. I too, had a rough childhood, but I haven't found the courage to write about it like you. You are a treasure on Squidoo and a reminder of how important it is to love oneself.

    • profile image

      carlos-m-frias 4 years ago

      You are more interesting that I thought! Still doing this, you help us to find our way too

    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 4 years ago from Maryland, USA

      Wow. I liked you and your style before I read this. I like you even more so now. It's not easy to come through a rough childhood and not only do okay, but do okay and be happy and kind. Good for you. So glad you shared your story.

    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 4 years ago

      Your story can inspire so many. You have such courage to go beyond your past and find peace and happiness in your life. I'm so glad to know you!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      You share this journey through pain with grace, the kind that will surely attract other readers to follow it through and grow because of it. It's a real triumph when we take the trials of our young lives and sieve out the trashy particles and reclaim the purity.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      Reading your story just makes me appreciate and love you even more, my dear friend. All that you have endured has transformed you into a beautiful individual. I have always been able to sense that through your writing and presence here. I wish you continuing happiness, and joy, as you grow into the fullness of your being. Your strength and courage inspires me. Sending you a big, warm hug.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Your story moves me deeply. I am so very grateful you shared it here. Tears smart in my eyes at all you have endured. Smiles come involuntarily in response to your wisdom and your courage. Your ability to love and to forgive is amazing. Thank you for sharing so deeply and warmly.

      I am certain your story will be a beacon to many in need of inspiration and courage, but I am especially hopeful that young people who find themselves in a state of deep despair find it just when they need it and can hang on to life long enough to learn, as you say, to love themselves first.

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      sybil watson 4 years ago

      What an incredibly moving and inspirational story. Fear prevents us from seizing so many opportunities that come our way. I'm glad you had the courage to move to Japan and to replace your fear with love.

    • VinnWong profile image

      VinnWong 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this Shinichi! Thank you for taking the time and effort to give us the privilege to really get to know who you are! Diversity makes our world beautiful.