I wrote this story awhile ago about a book I read entitled The Other Wes Moore and how it completely parallels my life. I was reading it thinking that the author Wes Moore was telling my story. Fantastic read and I will always tell whoever wants to listen that it is my favorite book I have ever read.
Here’s a link to that story:
Anyway, for me it is about a big football star who was about 8 years older than me, and the only thing we ever had in common was our names. I always felt “lesser than” because he was this big star. I never spoke to him, but I built him up as this giant star. Similar to maybe William Wallace in Braveheart. Everyone who didn’t know him assumed he was 9 feet tall because of all the stories of his greatness and his battlefield stories. But, when people met him, he was a regular person. Normal height and weight…
I had heard stories of this person who shared my name. Heard he had a full ride to college but never went. He was so built up in my mind being a kid growing up that I built my own story to tear him down, to bring him “lesser than” in my eyes. When I would meet people and they heard my name I could see there brains scrambling and I would say “No, I’m the good one, I graduated in 1998, not 1992”. I did this up until about 3 days ago, but, then something changed.
Someone on Facebook shared a YouTube link to a 1991 football game that really made this person famous in my town. They beat a team on Thanksgiving that was always way better than them. It was a close game that came down to the final plays, but he led the team to victory. He was celebrated like a hero. So, I decided to watch it. I wanted to see this famous guy who shared my name. I wanted to see what all the hype was about. And, you know what I saw. I saw a high school junior, a regular high school junior. Nothing about him showed that he was this 9 foot taller monster that I had built up in my head over the course of a few decades. He wasn’t drinking beer on the sidelines like the drunk I built him up to be. It wasn’t like watching Michael Jordan playing against a elementary school basketball team. He was completely regular.
I wasn’t exactly sure how I should feel about all this. Disappointed in that this villain I built up wasn’t what I thought he was? Relieved that this person sharing my name wasn’t better than me?
It took me a couple days to process it all. And, all I could feel was shame. I had used another person as a shield for me growing up. My name would elicit feelings from some when I introduced myself and I took the easy way out. I put someone else down to raise me up. Instead of just saying “No, that’s not me” and proving my own worth, I said “No, I’m the good one” and I added over the years “Nope, I’m not the drunk” or “No, I’m the college graduate”. I kept adding things to it when I would accomplish something. Like, I could not escape the name, but I could separate by pushing him further and further away from the person I was.
What a shitty thing to do, especially to someone I have never met. I wrote his story for him without ever hearing his voice. Do I blame myself for doing that as a kid. Yeah, I do. I think we do lots of things as kids to just survive, to make sure the spotlight stays off of you, to just make it thru your school days without being the person with a target on them. I pushed my target onto someone else. “At least I’m not that guy” type behavior. Was it innocent, or better, because I wasn’t bullying or ganging up on someone I was in school with, maybe, but it certainly doesn’t make it right or okay.
Sure, I can say that is kids being kids or whatever. But, what about all the times I have done that or said “No, I’m the good one” as an adult. As my kids meet new friends and I talk to their parents and they ask what year I graduated, because I can see they recognize the name and I say “No, I’m not that one, you can trust me that I raised a good kid who will get along with your kids.” What an incredibly insensitive thing to do to another person, a real person. Not this fake imaginary giant I built up in my head, a real person I’ve never met.
I write a lot about how being nice, or being a good person is so easy. Saying the nice thing, holding the door, appreciating what you have, all very easy things. I write a lot about how my kids, and my god daughter, changed me and constantly force me to think about the other side of things. I am a different person than I was 10 years ago, 2 years ago, hell, yesterday. But, it took me watching a dumb football game from almost 30 years ago to see what I was doing. When I started my blog, I thought about a name for it and I mentioned weird beard blog and I thought that was clever. Had a few meanings, which I sort of liked. A little mystery to what the hell that even meant. And when I picked a name to write under I thought about standing behind my name, but I wimped out. I wimped out and didn’t use “Mark Stanton”. I chose an easy name for me, a name I thought was perfect for me. I used “TheOtherMS”. To me, it was my way of introducing myself to strangers in my town. I liked hiding behind the other MS. I liked being able to say “yes, that’s me, but at least I’m not the bad one”. It protected me in some way.
I started this writing journey to find out who I am and to become this open, honest person, not afraid to write about his faults, his feelings. Along the way I have been praised by lots of you. I have been liked and shared and people feel shit about the words I write. I have built a nice reputation with my words. So, it might sound strange to you, a dumb name, but for me it was my security blanket. My whole life, all 40 years, I have been The Other MS. Put him down to elevate myself. Hide my faults behind the ones I made up about him.
I’ve never met The Other Other MS. I don’t know one thing about him other than his name, and now that football game I watched him win. But, I owe him an apology and a thank you. A thank you because even if he didn’t know it, my name gave me something. It helped me have an identify when I was still trying to figure out who the hell I was. An apology because I used his name as a crutch, as something I could stand on. A way for me to be the only important Mark Stanton, not just the Other Mark Stanton.
I’m sorry if you read this far and have no clue what the hell any of this means, but for me, I had to write this story. I had to somehow, someway, become Me without him.
Mark The Shark