Before small Galician kids ever knew who “GIGANTE” Benjamín was, I was a kid from Alpharetta, Georgia. It’s where I played little league baseball in Wills Park. It’s where I ran suicides for Milton basketball. It’s where I cried when I tore my ACL twice. It’s where I learned to be generous like my father taught me to be. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up into a man that will do great things one day. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with my mom, friends, and family there is bigger than Spain. I didn’t realize that before. I do now.
Remember when I was burnt out working contractor jobs in Atlanta? I was thinking, this is really tough working three jobs at once. I was leaving Atlanta, a city I only ever knew. To make the move I had the support of my dad and my mom, who have always been there for me.
In the beginning, my emotions were more mixed. It could have been easy to come home early being depressed and isolated in a small town like Viveiro, but my dad’s “Get Busy Living email” inspired me to rise up to the challenge. Galicia for me has been a once in a lifetime experience. This past year helped raise me into who I am to become as the man of the house now. I became a better Spanish speaker, learned from a school of kids patience and perseverance, traveled the world, and am now a more independent person. I will always think of Galicia as my home in Spain. ¡Mi xente!
I’m doing this essay not because LeBron James is the KING of the NBA, but because I want the Ministry of Education in Spain to understand why I can’t go to Madrid in my second year and inspire people to love their family. When I left Atlanta, I was on a mission. I was seeking Spanish fluency. My life goal is to become fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and English using my international business/marketing degrees. But what’s most important for me is being the best patriarch of my family like my father was for us.
I reached out to fellow UGA alumni mentors like Jenny Jeansonne and Mark Anthony Thomas regarding my second year in Spain. Jenny hit home hard advising, “Take a lesson from the rest of the world – work to live, not live to work…plenty of time to work, build a career, and make money…life is nothing without family, friends and love. ” Mark told me, “At this point, I’d really focus on finding an opportunity back in the U.S., where you can lay a strong foundation, in a particular area. You’re doing 3 different things, which can benefit you long-term if you can leverage them for a greater opportunity.” The more time passed, the more I realized this was the right decision. This is what will make me happy.
No one can master his professional or personal life if he isn’t already the master of his own home. Becoming the man of the house at 26 is something I never expected or wanted. However, since reflecting on my father’s life, I’ve seen what a great man of the house he was.
So what does being the man of the house actually mean? For starters, being a good provider, protector, leader and teacher is a privilege that comes with responsibilities that many men aren’t aware of. The man of the house is a full-grown adult male that is part of the family.
Most men believe that being a good provider means supporting a family financially. It means much more than that. A man should also contribute to the emotional, spiritual, physical and mental well being of his family. I’m coming home to Atlanta to get in the game and create what I want for my family instead of whining about my situation I’ve been dealt.
Often times we men mistake machismo for manhood. We think that just providing for our family and bossing them around makes us men. I’m not saying that we should not provide for our families. It’s good that a man provides for his family, but that’s not what makes him the man of the house. Therefore, before a man can become a man of the house, he must first command the respect of his household.
A real man makes his own fortune. A real man doesn’t settle for handouts or charity when it comes to his personal fortune. A real man isn’t satisfied with family money. He thanks Lady Luck and moves on to decide his own destiny. Any man who inherits goods from his loving Aunt Margaret, Grandmother Anna Brady, or parents takes his inheritance and turns it into 10 times what it was. The character that you build from doing this is essential to growing as a man in the most traditional sense. It simply means that you are carving out your own space. You are truly independent when you do this.
The man of the house is the full-grown adult male in the home. It means he has to protect the family self-esteem and self-worth. You must protect your way of life and guarding against to the things that you and your family value. He has to be a part of its maintenance and daily chores and upkeep. He is one who also can help around the house, without being told like a child because he is a GROWN-UP and can think for himself. The home is a democracy, not a dictatorship. A man can do ANYTHING a woman can…except breastfeed.
To me, the “man of the house” is a man who is a PARTNER with his family, respects them, likes to hear their opinions and values their brain too, and considers that sometimes women have more common sense and sensibility than him, and CAN ADMIT IT. Being a man means being aware of each other’s strong points and weaknesses. And, IMPROVING oneself, to be a BETTER “Man” and husband and dad.
I know my mom wants to be treated like the beautiful woman she is. She likes to be thought of, complimented, flowers occasionally. I can’t wait to be home to cherish her and shower her with love.Being a “man of the house” is earned, too. Not just ignorance in motion. A man of the house cannot be a man, unless, he is aware of his surroundings and what his family needs…and steps up, to that. Like a man.
You know what’s missing in the world today? Leaders who have had to fight their way to the top. Every successful leader has been on the wrong end of an attack — be it with words or be it with a full assault. But those future captains got up again and again, until they knew how to stand their ground — and that is when you can start to climb the ladder.
A real man is focused. We’re all distracted, and the distractions keep piling up. It is easy to lose focus and find ourselves investing in things that are not really helping us build our futures or take care of our own. But the important thing is always to have a clear direction and make sure nothing gets in the way of our plans.
A Role Model
I feel my calling goes above teaching English in Spain. I have a responsibility not only to lead as an international marketer, but as the new man of the house, and I take that to heart. My mom, who has struggled so much with losses in the last year, needs all the talent I can give her.
A real man strives to be a role model and teacher. A real man respects himself and others at all times. If you begin to build a family, part of a man’s greatest responsibility is to set a solid example for his children. If you choose to let your family see you in a poor light (irresponsible or reckless, for example), you are not building yourself into the type of man they can be proud to call a father or husband.
If a man has to command the respect of his household before he can become the man of the house, how does a man command the respect of his house? By being a role model example – through honesty, integrity and discipline. By honesty I mean, being truthful, letting your yes be yes and your no, no. By integrity I mean, an uprightness of character or actions. By discipline I mean, a diligent and consistent lifestyle.
Strength, reliability and action are all still core parts of what makes a man’s man. This doesn’t mean that you’re failing if you aren’t achieving some of these aspects, but rather, they’re goals to keep in mind as you forge through your quest to become better. You have to fail in order to learn. You learn in order to succeed.
What Lies Ahead
I remember when I talked to Nick Bennett; I knew I was making the right decision.
Nick: What are the reasons they gave you to come home now? What might you be missing out on if you pass on Madrid? One thing I would say is if you have a great opportunity or something lined up back home, that’s worth considering coming back. If there’s nothing concrete and the thought is that you would come back to start looking harder, I would stay with the sure thing. Do you want to cut short your once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Benjamín: NO, but who is to say that I can’t come back for my masters? Plus, the family dynamics of a death are more complicated and bigger than what I want to do. All I have is my mom and I’m the man of the house now. It’s time to start acting like it.
Even my international marketing professor, Plamen Peev, said, “Don’t be a perfectionist when it comes to your Spanish – your incremental gains in knowledge will diminish the more time you spend there. You may be able to return to Madrid once you take care of family matters and things settle down at home.”
I’m not promising I’ll find my dream job coming home. I know how hard it is to find a career. I’ve applied to over 400 jobs on Dawglink alone. Of course, I want to be at the best job I can be at, but I’m realistic. It will be another process readjusting and proving myself in the business world where I still have yet to find someone who believes in me to grow with them.
My patience will get tested. I see myself as a person who has been well cultured and traveled now. I’m excited to become the leader my father was. I can’t wait to reunite with my friends who stayed in contact with me while I was in Spain like Farren Noel, Sean Morris, Michael Hanner, and Minku Yu. These are lifelong friends that will stay with me until the day I die. To quote Minku, “There are no do-overs in life. You only have one family.”
In the United States, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
That’s the American dream.
I’m ready to accept the challenge as the man of the house. I’m coming home.