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A few months before my 67th birthday – and it hit me like a brick.

I was at a family gathering and catching up with everyone I love. I went to grab a beer from the cooler at the crowd’s edge and looking back into the tent; I noticed things aren’t the same anymore.

There was a time when I was the young and dynamic Uncle Tim. My kazillions of young nieces and nephews were running around with their sibs and cousins. I knew just about every detail of their lives because I talked to their parents/my siblings, frequently.

Each of us were lords of our own clans, descendants of the great McCarthy dynasty. We emulated our Dad and Moms in nurturing closeness and crowds of cousins.

Now the kids who ran around at our reunions have their own clans - their own crowds, their own expanded “Cousindoms”.

We get together less, and I am mourning my loss.

So, I called my soulful son, Kevin, who had been to the same event and said, “can you help me figure out what’s going on?” A few days later Kevin sent me this:

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” ~Brene Brown

What I took away from that quote was, “Dad, the youngest of the great McCarthys, the guitar playing, everybody’s pal, Uncle Tim, may be remembered fondly but is no longer who you are. And remember, all the cousins are no longer running around carefree. They’re now raising their own families, working their jobs and building their own dynasties. Who are you now?”

Hence, my identity crisis.

First, I had to think about what makes me cling to days long gone.

Fear of change. Growing up in loving chaos had its ups and downs but it’s what I know. And God forbid I should be forced to change what I know.

People pleasing. That which makes me a good marketing guy often gets in my way personally. That is, I try to figure out what my family wants, then give it to them. Ugh.

Age. It’s hard to face age with a welcome smile. Mom, Dad and 3 of my 9 sibs are gone now (and 4 of their spouses (spice?). Several of those who have passed lived loudly, which energized me. Over time, wisely or not I became their “second fiddle”. It’s what I came to know. And so, I mourn both my loved ones passed but also my known and comfortable role.

So, Kevin (and his Mom, brother and sister) have all agreed to help me through this crisis. So far, their suggestions include:

Be who you are, not who you think we and our cousins want you to be.

Remember how graceful your Mom and Dad aged.

Dad made great fun out of cutting trees for firewood and visiting all his children’s homes. Mom sat on the porch and read great books waiting for the phone to ring or a car to drive in.

If you’re facing any kind of identity (or maturing) crisis, here’s what I’m learning to do. Ask someone who knows you well to give you an honest outside point of view.

Then consider your response to change that is inevitable.


Tim McCarthy

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