Whoooo are you? Who-oo, who-oo?
It’s a question that gets asked over and over again during our lives. When we were first developing an identity, it was an easy question to answer. It went something like, “I’m Jane. I’m this many (holds up hand with appropriate number of fingers). I like monkeys.” And that was it. End of story.
By adolescence, we were more guarded, insecurity and a need for acceptance having taken root. Hell, half the time, we didn’t even introduce ourselves or give any ounce of information that wasn’t specifically asked for.
In our college years, we likely identified ourselves by our major, the clubs we belonged to, or some cause of choice be it personal, social, or political.
And then came…what? Motherhood? Career? Both? And we proudly and sincerely insisted that this was who we were born to be.
And maybe it was. After all, we had likely been dreaming and planning and preparing for it for at least a decade and likely more.
But years and years into our “born to do this” role, we began weighing the question more heavily than ever before. When asked to define ourselves in some way, the answer generally consisted of telling the inquirer what our marital status was and how many children we had. What else was there? Oh, yeah, the deflection to what our spouse did, our children’s ages, what activities our children were involved in, etc. Because…who were we really?
“Tell me about yourself,” became a terrifying exercise in self doubt and plagued us in the dark of night as we lay awake obsessing about unfinished laundry and how to convince our own child that a pet monkey was absolutely not being brought into the house.
But, “Seriously,” you thought, “who AM I?” Because you probably found that you weren’t quite sure anymore. What did you do for fun? What were your hobbies? What were your goals? Did you even have any? Was there more to life than being an expert at removing stains?
And, my God, if you found yourself asking these same questions of yourself as you began to enter middle age, forget about it. The swirl of activity around you began to slow as kids became more independent and you were suddenly left with, “What now?” Maybe you even had people asking you that very question. And your answer? It probably went something like, “Oh, I don’t know,” as you would give your best casual laugh. “I’m sure I’ll find something to keep me busy.” But in the dead of night, you wondered what that was and were terrified that you had no clue where to begin to figure out the answer.
If this all sounds way too familiar and hits a little too close to home, don’t worry. You absolutely aren’t alone. You aren’t the first, and you certainly won’t be the last. Stay tuned for Part Two, where we’ll explore how to discover the answer to that question of “Who am I?”