Who the &%#! is Josh Cearbaugh, and Why Should I care? | Ep. #19

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This is who I am

Intro: Men. We are not simple chest-thumping, rock-smashing, fire-starting barbarians. We have depth. We intensely feel. We are scared, yet brave. We love to have fun. We’re imperfect, and make mistakes. We’re compassionate, and loving. We are multifaceted. Let’s explore the reality of masculinity together.

00:28 So one of the four qualities that I wanted with this podcast was excellence. In the quality of the content, in the quality of the audio that you’re listening to, in the guests that we’re going to be bringing on here in the next couple of weeks. It just, I wanted excellence with it. Here’s the problem is that I masked my own insecurities of perfectionism and performance in the word excellence. And the reason I’m telling you this as part of the intro is because I was challenged by my team on essentially over editing my podcasts and trying to make them too perfect. So the point of today’s podcast was really just to introduce me to you, if you’re not aware of who I am, Because we’ve had a lot of new subscribers recently. So when it was brought up that I tend to over edit and really kind of take it from excellence and into perfectionism, I said, “okay, we’re going to try where it’s a little bit more casual, a little bit more verbal processing, kind of telling my story so that you can get to know me.”

01:34 Well, what happened was I recorded the entire episode and when I hit stop, I realized I did not use my good microphone, I used the microphone that was in my Mac. But I decided to go ahead and publish it anyways, because I think it’s important when we’re confronted with something that we be honest with ourselves and with the people around us. And for me with this podcast, that’s being honest with you. And I would normally say, “You know what, no, I want excellence as part of this podcast, and so I’m going to rerecord it.” But because of what was brought up to me in the sense of leaning into excellence beyond a healthy place, I think that it’s no coincidence that I accidentally recorded with the wrong microphone. So this is a heads up as well as an introduction to today’s podcast. The heads up is going to be that maybe the audio is not quite as good as you are expecting. And the introduction is really an introduction to me. I think there’s a lot of great lessons that we can pull from my life and even in today’s episode. And so let’s go ahead and dive in.

02:55 So this podcast is going to have a little bit of a different format, and that might be an understatement. So just a heads up. And that is if you are accustomed to kind of the flow or the style or the format of what my podcasts have been, this is going to be pretty different. And the reason is because we’ve gotten a lot of new subscribers, which has been really fun, really exciting to kind of see the growth happen. But I realized, and was quite frankly challenged by the fact that people don’t really know who I am. Sure I’m teaching aspects or elements of what masculinity is, or what I perceive healthy masculinity to be, and trying to spark the conversation and move it forward, et cetera. But who is Josh Cearbaugh? What is my background? And so, today’s podcast is going to be kind of laying that foundation of really introducing me to you and what my background is and where I’m coming from.

03:52 And so if you make it to the end of this podcast, and you like it, and you continue to listen, and you subscribe, then moving forward, you have kind of a better understanding of the lens that I’m coming from or the angle that I’m coming from. And it really starts with, I grew up in a traditional Baptist home. I, it was very religious. I remember even as a young teenager, I was only allowed to listen to Christian radio stations. And so I would literally sneak into my room and, this is going to date me but, I would slip it cassette tape into my player. And I don’t know how many of you remember, but you would try to time the songs just right and hit the record and then make my cassette tape my mix tape for the music. I remember times when I would sneak, I’d feel like I was hiding or being rebellious, because I was doing that to a song that wasn’t on the Christian radio station.

04:43 And my parents, they loved me. I grew up in a home where a majority of it, they were together, and I’ll get into that in a little bit. But as an adult looking back, understanding, they loved me and they moved the needle forward in the sense of relationally from where they were to where I am today, et cetera. But there was also some pain. There was also a lot of religion. There was also a lot of misunderstanding in who I am as a person. And I’ve been working through that over the years. And my relationship with my parents now is good, but it was really my teenage years is when a lot of the we’ll call it “dysfunction in my family” started to bubble to the surface. Maybe I began to realize it more so. And my personality is such where I’m the one that calls out the elephant in the room or says what needs to be said.

05:34 And really ultimately I was hurt. I was in a lot of pain as a teenager. I distinctly remember when I came home one day and my dad had left my mom. It was one of the first times I ever saw my mom cry. I’ve always said that there’s three things that were no fly zones, as far as conversation in my family, which was sex, money, and emotions. Which I know is kind of ironic considering if you’re married. That’s really the three pillars that make up a marriage. But we just never talked about it. We never went there. And you know, all the way from me already understanding what sex was, and my dad sitting on a bed next to me, awkwardly handing me a book to read that told me the story that I already knew, but I had learned from somewhere else. To, coming home that day, that my dad left when I was 16, and seeing my mom cry for the first time, at least that I remembered.

06:21 And then money. Things were tight. We were lower middle class and my dad often didn’t keep a job for more than six months to a year. And so that put a financial strain on our family, et cetera. I grew up with three brothers. So we broke a lot of things that needed fixing. And the list really goes on, but it was really once I hit my teenage years, it was the traditional, I was the rebel. I was the rebellious one. Really. I was a kid in a lot of emotional pain that didn’t know how to articulate it. Did not express. It. Didn’t feel safe to be able to communicate it to my family or even to my friends. So I learned how to put on this tough persona, you know, essentially this mask of, “well, I’m the crazy one.”

07:06 If you want to create a story, that’s memorable. Just ask Josh to do it. You know, he’ll do all the dumb things for you to be accepted by a group, et cetera. And from that I remember sitting down with my dad, I had just turned 18. He, we sat down as a family. He had been gone for two years and my mom said, “You know, dad wants to come back into the family.” And I remember sitting across the table from him and we had not spoken for those two years. And I said, “Well, I’m leaving for the Marines in three months, so, I don’t really care.” And that was really kind of peak pain for me at the time, where I basically didn’t have a relationship with my dad. And, in the moment I didn’t really want a relationship with my dad. I didn’t know that I needed one, but I knew that what I had wasn’t healthy.

07:56 I didn’t want it. And so my pendulum swung the other way and it was basically “well, I don’t need a dad. I don’t need anyone to guide me in life.” As ridiculous as that sounds. But out of that desperation, that place of longing for me to find that subconsciously, I joined the Marine Corps. I remember walking into the recruiter station and basically saying “What’s the toughest branch to get into. Oh the Marines? Okay, great.” I walked in all proud chest, puffed out. I was the easiest recruit for the recruiter because I basically just said, “Sign me up. How do I take the test? What do I got to do? Get me in the Marines.” And this was in 2000, I joined September of 2000. So you can only imagine a year later when 9/11 happened. I joined September 11th of 2000, and I was in from 2000 to 2004.

08:43 And during that time I often said, “I hate God. I want nothing to do with God.” When really that was just a projection of, “I’m mad at my dad, and I want to do with my dad.” And so I applied that same filter to my God and learned how to essentially try to one up myself in whatever it may be. I went in as a motor T driver and, that “wasn’t challenging enough.” And so at the time the Marine Corps was coming out with a new martial arts program. And I said, “sign me up.” So I went through the martial arts instructor course and had a secondary job of training martial arts. And it was really just this whole thing of I’m looking for acceptance. I’m looking to project that tough outer shell, when deep down inside, I was still in a ton of pain.

09:31 I wasn’t sure willing to let anybody see that softer side of me. You know, people often ask me whenever I kind of say, “yeah, I was in the Marines from 2000 and 2004.” Whether or not I deployed and went to war. And I say, “it’s God’s gift to me and His protection that I didn’t.” And I know a lot of guys that did. I got locked into, what’s called a non-deployable command. And I ended up doing all four years in the United States. I never deployed once. And at the time I was so pissed because I had friends who had kids and who I cared about that were going to war. And there I was this single guy who was just trying to look for a fight. And that was the one thing I wasn’t able to do. I don’t know how psychological, emotionally I would have responded to war.

10:19 I can only imagine because I have friends that are still dealing with it years later, decades later. And so that’s why I say that it’s God’s gift to me. And once I got out, I vividly remember there was this girl I had a crush on in high school, who invited me out to dinner two weeks after I got out. And she basically, the short version is she said, “Josh, why are you running from God?” Here I was, two weeks out of the Marine Corps, martial arts instructor, spending four years building this shell around me. And I was like, “Run from God? I don’t run from anybody, let alone God.” And on the drive home, I took her words in and I realized I really had been. The short version is six months later I found myself in Mozambique Africa with a ministry run by Heidi and Roland Baker called Iris ministries.

11:12 I went on this spiritual journey where this God, that was this religious God, that was detached. That was nothing but rules of what I couldn’t do. All of a sudden became a relational God. So many things were established within that time that I was in Africa. I was over at Africa for nine months. And during that time I met what would have been my wife or become my wife. And we had, we had the crazy God story. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those or not, but it was the whole she heard from God and then asked for this confirmation. And the next day I show up and I give her this confirmation and then I’m oblivious to it. But then I realized certain things and I’m looking for confirmations. Then there’s certain people that are speaking words over me of encouragement and prophetic words.

11:57 And it’s this whole intricate story where it was kind of like, “Okay, she’s the one. We ended up dating for a year and getting married. And we were married for 11 years. We had three beautiful kids, and a lot of great memories. But unfortunately last year we got divorced. There was a lot that contributed to it. But for me, my side of things, I was really proud to be a married man. I kind of hung my identity on “Well, it doesn’t matter what goes on in this world. One of the things I can rely on, and depend on, and anchor myself in is that I’m a married man. For better, for worse. We’re going through worse. We’re going to get to the better.” And I can trust that. I can rely on that. And essentially, I can count on my ex-wife in certain ways, becoming my God. And becoming my source of my identity. And my marriage, being that as well.

12:55 In a lot of ways, I lost my identity in my marriage. And this had nothing to do with my ex wife. She wasn’t doing it. The only thing she was doing was by being herself, triggering me in a beautiful way and giving me the opportunity to face those things and improve. And at times I did, and at times I didn’t. At the end of the marriage, you know, nothing more than for us to be able to make it work. When it comes to marriage, you have to have two people that want it. And unfortunately that wasn’t the case in my situation. And so, when all of a sudden my marriage fell apart, that part of my identity, which was a big part of it, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that part of my identity crumbled beneath me, not only that, but then when my marriage actually fell apart and we were going through the divorce, then all of a sudden my world fell apart.

13:49 Everything I knew to be stable, that I could count on was gone in the sense of the consistency of my family, the consistency of my marriage, the consistency of having a wife, even if we were arguing and not getting along the familiarity of all of that. Because in the 11 years that we were married, we lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Texas moved multiple times, even within the States. I mean, there was all these changes we had started and launched several businesses. Most of them didn’t work out. Some of them did. And in that, the stability I found was in my marriage, even if it was dysfunctional. And so when all of a sudden that was taken away, then my whole world fell apart and going through the grieving process of the divorce and the end of my marriage, I had to reestablish what does my relationship with God actually look like?

14:45 Because what I thought it looked like disappeared. What does my identity look like? What am I actually anchored in that I can count on? That I can rely on? What kind of friends are willing to walk through the mud with me and link arms with me, when I’m literally on the ground, in the fetal position, crying out to God I don’t understand why. How the hell did I get to this point in my life? And I’ve had to slowly piece off all of those things back together. And in that it’s flamed this passion for healthy masculinity. I’ve pursued masculinity and just health in general, emotional awareness for years, even while I was married. I had a business that fell apart and I hit rock bottom. I’d burnt myself out. And I started meeting with somebody every week for nine months and felt like I had signed up for a rollercoaster I didn’t see the full size of.

15:45 From that, that unlocked this passion that I had for helping people. And so I actually launched my life consulting practice years ago and I was meeting with people every week. I had a full blown practice. But what happened was when we moved from California to Texas, we were one of those people that Texans are not exactly excited to see join the party. But when we did my life consulting practice, I didn’t realize how much of it, was anchored in the community that we moved from and how much of it relied on the local community in the sense of meeting in person. So when we moved, all of a sudden that disappeared, which put financial pressure on us, which then made me go, “Well, what the heck am I doing? How can I kind of revive this thing?” And I fell into a familiar victim mentality of, “This is just out of my control. I can’t do anything about it.”

16:38 And that was one of the many ingredients that led to the end of our marriage. Now, post-marriage, when all of a sudden my ex wife is no longer that convenient excuse that I can give for the reasons that I’m not doing things, then it’s on me to go, “Okay, well, what am I gifted at? What am I passionate about? What do I really care about? What do I want my life to look like?” And asking those questions in the midst of the most crazy, unplanned, painful change in my life has pointed me into the direction of what I’m doing now. I’m back meeting with people who’ve walked through some of the Hells that I’ve walked through. And my story is only one. Everybody has their own history, their own experience, their own trauma past that we inadvertently carry along with us and into whatever that next thing is that we try to bring into our life.

17:31 We often try to do it while dragging the anchor of our past with us. And so my heart is I want younger men and even older men to learn from the pain that I’ve walked through, the mistakes that I’ve walked through, the things that I’ve realized. I want to fundamentally punch toxic masculinity in the face and the stereo types that come with that. And help women realize that there is healthy men out there that are not just wrapped up in their own ego or disfunctional perception of what success is supposed to look like. Bottom line is I want to see more men lead by example, starting with myself. And that’s really what led to launching this podcast. And in the midst of that, I’m still trying to figure out what it looks like to be a good single dad. When I was married, I would often say “Single parents are my heroes.” Like genuinely would say that often. Because I just don’t know how they’re able to navigate being the mother figure, the father figure, and providing. Managing all of those on their own.

18:35 And now, I mean, we have split custody with our kids and my ex and I communicate, and work together when it comes to raising our kids in the sense of planning things. But we’re not full on co-parenting because we have pretty fundamental different approaches to certain core elements of how to raise our kids. And so navigating that, navigating “How do I be present while still provide for my kids as a single parent?” I mean, just this week, my kids got chicken pox. I waited until the last minute to figure out my taxes. So I was scrambling for that and feeling stressed, but not trying to project that stress onto my kids. I opened up slots for more clients this week and honestly felt a little bit discouraged by the element of starting over. Instead of building on the momentum that I had created six, seven years ago, that feeling of starting over. This was a tough week.

19:31 And so my point is I don’t have it all together, but I also understand that nothing will change if no one steps up and tries to make masculinity look different, and interact different with this world. Especially now when everything that we have has been turned on its head, and we don’t know what our future looks like. We don’t know what next month is going to look like. And I think a lot of us men are going through our own version of life being flipped on its head. The world as we knew it crumbling down and us having to re-acclimate to what a healthy norm is. And so this podcast, it’s helping me rediscover myself. And in doing that, it’s rekindled the passion for helping others. And quite frankly, it challenges me to be a better man. Very selfishly, this podcast is partially for me.

20:28 It is for so many others, but for this to work, I have to actually step up and accept own and embrace certain parts of me that I had let die on the vine so many years ago. And so whether you’ve listened to one episode, 100 episodes, which we’re not quite there yet, but we’re on our way. I just want to say, thank you. Thank you for being willing to contribute and feed into helping me become a better man. Helping me refine myself. And I hope that by listening to this podcast, you’re able to do that for yourself, that you’re able to better understand yourself and better identify the ways that you can improve your life. So thank you, thank you, thank you. For coming along on this journey and for being willing to challenge yourself and improve yourself and become more present in this one life that we get to live. None of us have it all figured out, and most of us are doing our best to improve our own lives and the lives for those that we care about.

21:33 So please know that I am here for you to link arms with you. And if you are listening to this podcast, I believe in you. I genuinely believe in your ability to improve who you are as a person. I know that I would not be sitting here talking to you today if I didn’t have people speaking that and actually believing that for me at times. So regardless of how much your life has turned upside down, just know that from somebody who didn’t have a perfect past, who had a roller coaster of emotions that were suppressed and all of a sudden unlocked when I decided to start to meet with somebody who had a marriage for 11 years, that unfortunately, sadly, didn’t continue on. If you see me as someone that you respect, admire, look up to, enjoy listening to, just know that this is the context that I’m coming from. And so as cliche as it is, if I can do it, if I can pick myself up from the life that I’ve had to be able to be here talking to you, then I guarantee you that you are more than capable- even if it feels like it’s impossible in the moment. I guarantee you that you are more than capable of doing the same.

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