I recall, over the next few days after meeting the 93-year-old man, I felt very lost as I realized that I myself had ended up in a place where I didn’t feel loved or appreciated. The man I once was, was all but gone, replaced instead by someone I barely recognized. I got up one morning and poured myself a cup of coffee. It was 4:00 am on a Saturday and I had the weekend off, which was rare. My wife and children usually slept till noon, which left me alone in the mornings with past traumas racing through my mind

The Money I Earned with my Sweat, Wasted on Rusted Pieces of Metal

We had a big house which I had found for a very low price. It was very run down, so on my days off, I had put time and effort to fixed it up, but that work was long finished, and now, I just sat, drinking my coffee and asking a whole lot of mental questions. It was when I was walking through our living room and I noticed an old rusted piece of metal sitting in the corner. With a curious face, I walked over to it and stared at it. Yep, it was an old rusted piece of metal! I picked it up to examine it as I had no idea what it was, other than a rusted piece of twisted metal. Only when I turned it over and saw a price tag, $400.00! A chill ran down my spine, someone had paid $400.00 for a rusted piece of meta?  That’s when it dawned on me, I was working my butt off every day in an industry that was destroying me emotionally so we could decorate our house with $400.00 pieces of rusted metal. I sat down and could not hold it back any longer, in fact, I had to run to our basement and hide in a corner before the dam burst wide open. I cried for an hour, and not just a tear, a full-blown gut-wrenching torrent of anger, pain, disappointment and so much more.

Resigning from my Job and Receiving Two Other Offers

After I picked myself off the floor and tried to wash my face to erase any signs of distraught, I went back upstairs and jumped on the computer. I started to look for a new job, any job far away from the hell I seemed to have found myself in. As I sat there, I started to realize, I didn’t know them and they had no interest in knowing me, them being my family. I found several sites where I could post my resume on and hoped someone would see my worth, it was clear to me my family did not. I never mentioned the rusted piece of metal, I felt there was no point. Besides, being highly sensitive we try hard to avoid arguments, which unfortunately exposes us to psychological abuse.

After the holidays, I returned to work where I immediately gave my notice, even though I did not have another job to go to. I could no longer take the mental stress of work nor the stress of being in a relationship that clearly didn’t care about me. I did, however still feel I held a responsibility to my children. Two weeks later I received two overseas job offers. One in Afghanistan, a war-torn country that I knew a bit about, mostly from the news. The offer was that they required an “Electrical Specialist” to be embedded with the military. The pay was more than twice from what I was making at the time, and I was making a fair chunk of change, even though it was being spent faster than I could make it. My vivid imagination kicked in and I saw myself walking behind a parade of soldiers down an old dirt road when suddenly they stop and the Sargent yells out, “Electrical Specialist, come here, we have a black box with wires sticking out”, yeah that was not good.

Figure 1. Life in Afghanistan for a Solider
The Offer I Chose

The other offer was again more than I was making at that time, but just a little less than Afghanistan. It was in Madagascar! Now, to be honest, I didn’t even know Madagascar was a real place, I thought it was a children’s cartoon movie! It intrigued me because what they wanted was a third-party inspector to come in and inspect local contractors’ work. And it was originally only a 90-day contract, which meant If I didn’t like it after 90 days, I could come home. The Afghanistan job was a three-year commitment. I accepted the Madagascar offer in a blink of an eye, hoping that my absence would open my children’s eyes to my worth. I would soon be very disappointed.

Nonchalant Response from my Family

Breaking the news to my family, that I had received and accepted a job halfway around the world and in the opposite hemisphere was like telling them we were out of milk. I felt that they really didn’t care as long as it paid well. For the next few months, I focused more on getting through the physical exams, getting all the necessary vaccinations (a lot of them), and sending my passport off to get the much-needed work visa.

All this took months, and I still had little understanding of where I was going or what it would be like. While my boys sat on the couch and watched re-runs of the Simpsons, I tried to spend as much time with them as I could. I even bought an old jeep in hopes that they would spend time with me rebuilding it in our garage, but The Simpsons reruns were far more appealing to them.

Figure 2. The Simpsons – A TV Show that my boys seemed to Love Watching

I often wonder if they saw me as Homer, clearly an ideal parent role model, with Bart being the only smart one of that family. Time was running out and I now had my plane ticket, but still no visa or passport. I desperately contacted the courier which had it in transit only to learn they had lost it. Needless to say, I was anxiety was running high.  The problem was eventually resolved. I literally had it handed to me in the airport the day I was flying out. There was no “Bon voyage’’ or celebratory farewell, only a drop off at the airport with “call when you get there” from the women who I had been married to for close to 25 years. It was clear she was happy to see me go.

My Flight to Madagascar

I had been on a few airplanes in my day. Local fights mostly and a few to Hawaii when I was younger. I took the family to the Bahamas the year prior, hoping that would bring us closer together… it didn’t. I boarded the plane while looking at my ticket for my seat number, I couldn’t help but notice that I was passing by these incredible pods in the business class section. They had seats that folded into beds, large-screen TVs and so much more. “Wow,” I thought, “lucky people!” I found my seat number on the ticket, 1C, just as I entered the economy section. I looked at the seat numbers labeled above the seats and it started at 20A.

I stopped as I was confused. A stewardess then came up to me and asked if she could assist, I replied “I’m looking for 1C.” She smiled and said “right this way sir,” as she turned me around and lead me back to the business class section. She led me to one of the pods and said “this is you” with a huge smile on her face. I looked at her in complete and utter shock and said “you’re kidding me, right?” “No sir, this is your seat, would you care for a glass of Champaign?” I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Figure 3. Business-Class Seat – Something Like this – that took me to Madagascar

The flight was 14 hours to Heathrow in England, where I had to changed flights after an 8-hour layover. Normally, an 8 hour layover would be dreadful, but I was escorted to the business class lounge where I could have a shower, drinks and a meal at no charge. I honestly went from being treated like a bum in my own home to royalty. The next flight was another 12 hours, again in a business class seat. We arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa before catching another three- and half-hour (3 ½ hr) flight to Antananarivo, Madagascar. It was like stepping out of this world and into the movie scene from Indiana Jones, Raiders of The Lost Arc. Madagascar is a third-world country, and boy was I in a culture shock. I wanted an adventure and boy did I get it!

A 3 Month Contract Renewed for 3 More Years

Now, it is quite common for an HSP to ease their way into a situation, feeling the room as we say, before truly feeling it’s a place where they fit in. Nope, this was a high dive off a cliff into a pool of black water. The term we use in the industrial construction industry is “Drinking from a firehose” and I learned quickly. There are many new and wonderful experiences I can share about my time in Madagascar, all three and a half (3 ½) years of it. Most likely I will share some of it in my future writings. But I want to end this post with this: I had been there for the three months and was preparing myself mentally for returning a home that didn’t care about me at all when my boss asked me “what do your kids think of you being so far away?” I looked at him and said, “Honestly, I think they are just now looking up from watching another re-run of the Simpsons and asking their mother, Where’s dad?” The next day at work he came to me asking if I would like to stay and help finish the project. I asked “for how long?” “Three years,” he said. I accepted without hesitation.

Figure 4. Baobab Trees in Madagascar

The experiences I am writing are to help bring you, the reader into understanding what led me to where I am today. Back then, I had no idea I held the highly sensitive trait, not sure it would have made a difference. The importance is as HSP’s we feel deeper the neglect given by those we try so hard for. In order to provide for our families, many men lose out on time with their children. I have now come to understand that it takes both parties making an effort in order for any relationship to work. Be it Husband and wife, manager and employee and parent and child. For many children today, parents are mere vehicles to get them to adulthood. After that, like that rusted piece of metal I saw sitting in my living room, we are expensive and useless to them.

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