My life has been punctuated by moments that have tested the limits of my emotional endurance. I am 34 years old. I used to be a professor at a community college. I now work as a Masculine Empowerment Coach.

I was taken from my mother immediately after I was born (she was in a mental institution, the father unknown) and I was placed into a foster home. The social worker wrote to me in a letter that she was a beautiful woman who had struggled with a mental illness she’d never been able to shake. I don’t yet remember that moment, but I’ve been dealing with it my entire life.

I was raised by two people (a monk and a nun) who had just left their respective Catholic religious orders. When my adoptive mother found out that I had been sexually active with my girlfriend of over 1.5 years, she forbade me from speaking with her.

I once loved a woman who saw shadow people in the corners of rooms, and I was afraid to leave her side for fear that she would cut herself when I turned my back.

I’ve had to physically drag myself away from another woman who, in tears, was begging me to stay with her. I nearly got thrown down a flight of stairs in the process.

When I was much younger I felt the need to lie to women to keep them from leaving me.

I’ve been without a home or a job in a state where I had no family after my wife divorced me.

I’ve been raped by a woman using money as leverage.

I watched a woman I loved dearly shoot heroin into her leg not six inches below her belly swollen with my own son.

Some questions that persisted for me throughout these traumatic events were: Which one of these women was my mother? Which one of them might have held the key to understanding myself, and was it okay to leave them? Would I be safe if they left me?

I have come to the realization that all of these things have been nothing short of a blessing. Without them, I would not have the fortitude of character that I now possess. Without them, I’d never have understood the shame, rage, and pain that so many people feel. And I’d never have been able to demonstrate choosing another way.

From being wrested from my mother in this life, I have been given the gift of seeing myself in everyone and in no one. I was given isolation, yet also a deep sense of unity. From that void of selflessness came initially a grasping energy. Once my son came into that world and I made sure he was safe, I felt like I closed the loop that began when I was taken from my mother. I began to even out. All of a sudden, I just KNEW things. Incredible thoughts came to me unbidden. I was lit by an internal fire to DO and to CREATE. It was like I became an entirely new person.

My adoptive mother had always been afraid that I would grow up to become schizophrenic, like my mother. I only wish I’d gone crazy earlier.

Pain can be the catalyst to anchor in a sense of purpose, and it certainly was for me. The deepest parts of me know that I did not go through all these traumatic experiences so I could sit on my ass and play video games.

I didn’t do it just for me. I was selected before my birth ever occurred as one who would need to speak, and the past few years have been a process of connecting the dots.

I was guided towards words and literature from an early age and took to it naturally. My gifts were sharpened over time, and continue to grow with my confidence.

A woman whose voice was thunder and eyes were those of a wounded lioness, a woman with the weight of millions behind her, once pointed her finger directly at my eyes and said, “What is your purpose?”

I fumbled. I had no reply which satisfied me. I thought I needed to have some external raison d’etre to justify myself.

Now, I would reply in a voice just as large: “I AM my purpose.”