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Changing My Mind

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

By Graham Finochio

Coach and Coaching Coordinator

When I first entered the Visiting Room to attend Success Stories, I was under the

impression that I was clear on who I was. I had recently committed to sobriety, I was attending other self-help groups. I had pretty much stopped engaging in gang activity and being aggressive towards others in most situations. I wanted to go home and be successful in life – why not get more RAC hours (time off my sentence) by going to Success Stories?

And then the Season began… I watched as one of the facilitators began telling a story;

“A mother and daughter were preparing dinner for their family. They decided on Pot roast, so they prepared the roast, pulled out the pan and preheated the oven. The mother then grabbed the roast and began cutting the ends off. The daughter was confused by this and asked why the mother why this was necessary, to which the mother simply replied that this was how her mother had taught her to cook roast. After a little discussion, the pair decided to call the grandmother and ask why it was important cut the ends off the roast. When asked, the grandmother said her mother in fact had taught her as well, and she really didn’t know why either… So, they called the great grandmother. When the great grandmother was asked what the purpose of cutting the end off the pot roast was, the great grandmother laughed aloud. ‘We only did that because we were so poor when you were little that we

could only afford one little pot to cook in. We cut the ends off roast so it would fit into it!”

This story is an example of what Success Stories is about. The family in the story above had a very valid reason to cut the ends off the roast in the beginning. But as time went on, it did not serve them to waste pieces. They had bigger pans, but they continued to throw away a portion of the meal just because someone taught them it was a part of the process. We come into this world and from the second we are able to form an organized thought; we are bombarded with how others think things should be. This in itself isn’t wholly bad… but those others are in many cases teaching us off of old tapes; things that someone impressed upon them early on, who also had it impressed upon them, and so on and so forth. The string of imposed beliefs goes on and on and before you know you are stuck with a pot roast with no ends, dropped into a pan… and with no idea as to why it’s there in that form.

Success Stories allows a space where you can question these instances.

Where are you living out traditions that aren’t doing anything for you?

Where in your life are you cutting the ends off the roast?

For me, I was taught early on that men don’t cry, that boys fight to get what they want, that people from other races are the enemy because they are taking what is mine or what I want… From a young age I was taught that I needed to conform to someone else’s image of what a man is. I did so, and there was a societal pay off – When I was this false

self, people were afraid of me, they cleared a path for me, and most importantly I was accepted by other men living into their false selves. But only for brief moments was this gratifying. I wanted more and more – and I was more violent, more racist, more promiscuous, greedier in order to obtain it. I cut the end off the pot roast, and I never questioned why… and this produced disastrous results in my own life, in the lives of those I cared about, and in society as a whole.

In Success Stories I was presented with the opportunity to look at what I cared about and why. I was able to look at the things I said and did from the perspective of the larger societal impact they were having… I eventually discovered that I had been cutting the ends off the roast for most of my life. Most importantly, I was able to start to look at just how big my view of wat a man should be played into these belief systems; How, in fact, this definition of masculinity and manhood was like the small pot that started the cutting of the roast in the story.

For my entire life, I had stuffed feelings, expressed myself

through domination and violence, went after women as objects, used money to push my will in all these areas… All because I was taught either directly or indirectly that this is what makes me a man.

Doing this was not easy… Like the mother and daughter, I was very firm in my resolution that

this is just how it was supposed to be. I still struggle against the patriarchal model of masculinity on a daily basis. But Success Stories offers a safe place to work through these things with others going through the same questioning of beliefs. The conversations held within the rooms of Success Stories and the process of continual questioning without judgement or hostility allows me and others to take a step back and really look at what I value and who I value in my life, and whether my approach to life and masculinity was serving to help those people and dreams or ultimately hurting them.

If you had told me that 2 years after becoming involved with Success Stories, I would have

continued this practice of continuous questioning into just about every aspect of my life, I might have laughed. I didn’t enter Success Stories to revolutionize my life! I just wanted some RAC hours… Instead, I was invited into a life based on integrity, equality, justice, humility, and emotional intelligence. These are the values that I seek to live by today; so as to serve my Top Five, and my true self.

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