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by Tiffani Michele

Do you remember when you were 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and maybe even 8; and you played dress up, imaginary games, and acted with stuffed animals? Do you remember wanting to be 18 different things when you ‘grew up’, depending on your mood and/or what you learned about in school that particular day? Remember when you were just you, undefined by what you did/how much you earned/who your friends were/what other people thought of you? Remember being unselfconscious and able to make funny faces and do random shit as the mood struck?

Yeah, I don’t remember being like that either. But I know everyone has those moments in childhood mostly because I look at my own kids doing and being just like that, and I have pictures of me in various dress up clothes totally acting the part.

I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I know what I became: a student, then a wife, then an employee at various jobs I didn’t care about, then a mom, then a volunteer at assorted church/community positions. I became fulfilled in some of those roles and bored in others, but defined myself by all of them.

Now I’m in a no man’s land…not a wife. Not a churchgoer. Not a student. Not even a volunteer for anything anymore.

Where does that leave me?! Do I become something different when I’m not anything that I thought I was?

Do you? Have you ever reinvented yourself? Changed up your life in big and little ways? Decided to become something no one (including you) ever thought you’d be?

If you want to, you can easily shake up your life by doing one simple thing: just do the opposite of what you’d usually do. If you’d usually say yes to something, say no. Vice versa…say yes to other things if you’d usually say no. (Within reason, obviously!) It’s a bit like falling down the rabbit hole and experiencing vertigo on the cellular level.

I’m not who I thought I was. At first this was terrifying and paralyzing. A crisis in identity. And then, without the old constraints, I started becoming something more. Independent. Photographer. Traveler. Drinker. Dancer. Hooper. Writer. Entrepreneur. Lover. Hater. Saint. Sinner. I had a weird shift in awareness, understanding that my definition of myself is the only thing that defines who I am. If I get rid of the definition, then I don’t get rid of the “I”…I simply am “me.” And even better than that, I found that if I shift my definition of myself it likewise shifts how I perceive my place in the world.

Who am I? I’m nothing, and I’m everything.

And just who do you think you are?

What do I want to be today? It’s the same question, actually, that I probably asked myself when I was 3. And I probably answered it pretty simply then and in the same way I answer it now: “Whatever makes me blissfully happy.”

The bad news is that without a set definition of yourself, you’ll always be on the lookout for who you really are. Always searching. Always exploring. Always delving. The good news is that without a set definition of yourself, you’ll always be surprised at what you’ll find. Never a dull moment. Never a right or wrong way. And every moment can be shifted from being a way that isn’t working into being a way that does work.

And that’s how losing my identity has turned out to be the best thing for learning all about who *I* really am.

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5 Comments

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  1. November 28, 2012

    Sometimes you just need to “be”

  2. November 28, 2012

    Sigh, I really needed to hear this today.

  3. November 29, 2012

    As always, your words inspire the crap out of me. Also, how is it that you find the best washrooms everywhere you go?

  4. damiec #
    November 29, 2012

    you have an uncanny way of sending me the right words at just the right time

    when I left a corporate career that i had spent my entire life marching towards to be home with my daughter almost 10 years it was for a short while blissful, and then absolutely terrifying. If I wasn’t an employee, or a title, if i didn’t have my responsibilities detailed on a job description with performance reviewed annually, well then who the hell was i?

    i think the most shocking part of it was after years of feeling powerful and intelligent, as soon as i started pushing a stroller on a weekday, i felt as though everyone assumed i was doing that because i wasn’t capable of doing anything else. some of it was real, based upon idiotic comments or friends and stranger, and in retrospect, a lot of it was me, because i had come to define & validate myself by my professional achievements.

    i don’t anymore. i just think of myself as perpetually becoming.

  5. November 29, 2012

    Not knowing who you are or who you’re supposed to be is the scariest thing ever, I think. But then I look at all the people I know who are so sure that they know what they want – and they scare me even more.

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