MDI has been around for 15 years now, and I have been a part of MDI since we were formed. There are many great stories of how we came to be (you can look it up on our website), but what interests me is why we exist. I can only tell you my experience and why I am still here 15 years later.
Back when I joined, I had just come out of a Men’s Weekend, and the environment was definitely “survival of the strongest.” There was no way I could have survived in my division if I remained the sensitive new-age guy I thought the world expected of me. The experience was empowering, yet frustrating. I was learning a new way of being that was true to my real self, but it also seemed that bullying and childish behavior was acceptable, and even encouraged. I was willing to take the good with the bad, because I loved being in a masculine space – if only for a few hours per week.
For me, the work of becoming the man I have always wanted to be requires being uncomfortable, and “men’s work” is often messy, challenging, sweaty and a struggle. This kind of environment requires commitment in order to maintain, and diligence is necessary. I have been on teams where we sought to be comfortable and “safe.” This usually resulted in most of us drifting and losing sight of the challenging environment that supports us to grow.
Being challenged really works for me, but I also love the fact that we are committed to helping each man grow into what HE wants for himself. What I needed 15 years ago from a men’s circle is not the same as what I need now in the work I am doing here. MDI has shifted from a “do this and you’ll be a real man” to a more diverse perspective of masculinity. And, though we still like to have fun like boys, we do emphasize mature masculinity.
As an organization, MDI often struggles with its identity. As an organization, we can’t do much to improve an individual man’s life, but MDI can create the structure for men’s teams that DO change men’s lives. I have been on many men’s teams and worked with many men in the 17 years since my Men’s Weekend, and my experience is that men come and go. MDI stays, and continues to hold the structure for men’s teams to exist. We train men, we initiate men, and we create leadership opportunities, but the bottom line is we create and maintain the environment where men’s teams are created and thrive.
Why is this important? Because the work to create good men is critical for the survival of our species. Men’s teams do this important work. There are no other organizations that do what we do. And I’m here to stay and continue the struggle. MDI is not perfect, but our Mission compels me to stay and fight.