I reflect on my early adolescence and I realize that from the time I was 13 years old, I’ve felt like a walking paradox. I’ve always been so sure of myself. Confident. I know how to get what I want. I know I can do anything I set my mind to doing. The problem that I have always had is that even though I was sure of myself, I haven’t ever really known who I am. And even though I’m confident, I stand on shaky ground at times. Despite knowing how to get what I want, I don’t have a concrete idea of what that is. And it’s hard to set your mind to do something when you have no idea where your passions truly are.
When I was 13, I wrote a poem called, “Hello, World! It’s Me Again. I Think I’m Having an Identity Crisis.” Unfortunately I don’t still have the poem but I remember the title very vividly as well as the idea I wrote about. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. And tonight, that same feeling plagues me again, which is somewhat scary since that year was the one that started a very dark and destructive path for me that ended with me (thankfully) finding — and damn near being rescued by — my husband.
I don’t regret anything in my life. If I had the whole thing to do over, the only thing I would probably change is that I would have punched Lila in the mouth when I had the chance that summer between 7th and 8th grade. I’m 30 years old and I still wish I would have taken a swing at her. Whatever. We all have our Lilas whether y’all want to admit it or not.
Ok, I’m getting off track.
Even though I do love my life, I feel like *I* got left somewhere along the road. I’ve loved my husband with every fiber in my being since I was just a little girl — and that has only gotten stronger over the last 15 years. Back then, I thought I wanted to be an adult… I thought I was ready for that kind of responsibility, but how could I possibly be ready ascertain such a thing when I couldn’t yet even drive a car?! I know that because of everything we went through together for the first few years, I lost some parts of myself. There are actually things over the course of those first few years that I *would* change if I could go back now that I think about it. I would change that I compromised myself… because things I naively thought made sense or at least made us even didn’t make sense and only made me feel like little pieces of me had been chipped away.
Sometimes I resent those situations. Or maybe I resent being put in those situations — being made to feel that way. It was those which landed me in the box that I occupy now — trying to prove myself, but not really sure who I’m trying to prove myself to. Me? The box that I have ignored and just carried myself around in, acting as though it wasn’t there has gone from being a coping mechanism to a torture device. Acting like I was comfortable inside of it has made me dishonest. Acting like I belonged there has made me less than whole. I don’t. It’s a stuffy box. A box that reminds me that I compromised myself — a box that stinks of feet. Feet that have been running from those difficult years as though my life depended on it… ironically, while still holding myself captive to the effects of them. What the hell am I doing?
I’m such a transparent person — perhaps even to a fault. I can’t hold things in my heart. I can’t allow things to sit on my mind. So here I am — thinking it all out loud. And I am thinking that I feel like I’m stuck inside a shell of my former self. I’m different. I’ve grown and changed and I’m not the same person I was when I had my first baby at 17. I’m not the same girl I was when I got married 16 months later. You know, when most people are 18 or 19 they are out making their life mistakes, learning from them so they become themselves. They are making mistakes that will make them wise and responsible and that will empower them to know who they are.
Those people can leave those stupid mistakes behind and move on with life, comfortable in knowing they were just kids. Just young, dumb kids trying to find themselves. Which they do through those experiences. But not me.
Now I reflect on my life and I realize (as though I didn’t already know) that there were 13 months from the day I got my driver’s license to the day I became a mother. 29 months from my sweet 16 until I became my husband’s wife. Before I even turned 20, I was married with three kids. Thinking in those terms puts things into perspective for me — in a way that forces me to recognize myself in a new light. A light that shows me parts I hadn’t seen before… and I am starting to see that because I started giving myself to everyone else before I even knew who I was, I never did get around to finding me. Thankfully I got a lot of wisdom through the life experiences that I *did* have and I suppose I could say there were plenty of mistakes along the way, but I never could just make selfish decisions that only affected me.
I have been everything to everyone else since I was just a kid. I’ve been a wife to my husband. I’ve been a mother to my kids. I’ve been a student to my teachers, a businesswoman to my clients. I love it all! But at the same time, I feel like there has never really been any room left in my world for ME. I am 30 years old and I’m all given out.
I don’t even really know what I’m saying here. I just know that I’ve had some sort of epiphany and that I need to know me. I need to find myself and I need to be comfortable being myself separate from everyone else. I can’t continue to define my life by what I am to everyone that I love. At some point my life has to be defined by who I am to me. But that is terrifying.
What if the 30 year old me isn’t what everyone needs? What if the core of my being has changed so much fundamentally that once I emerge from everyone else’s shadows they don’t recognize me anymore? Do you know how scary it is to wonder if the people you’ve loved for a lifetime will like who you really are? Or if they will want you back in that box? Maybe that’s the real reason I’ve let myself get caged, clumsily strolling along all of this time running in place because I knew I wanted to find myself but I was too damn horrified of what might happened if I wasn’t that girl anymore… Maybe I was not sure if those around me would care to get to know ME after knowing *this* me for so long?
Maybe I’ve been apprehensive because they’ll wonder what they did to make me not like myself anymore — maybe my little identity puzzle will make them want to know why I am so unhappy that I’ve needed to change so much? I am happy, though. I’m just not … me. Not really. I just want to shed my skin and reveal myself but I’m scared of being exposed — of feeling emotionally naked and misunderstood. I’m afraid that the people I hold dear won’t get that my need to know ME — my need to BE ME — has nothing to do with them or their place in my life. My outer world hasn’t changed any. I still love my personal atmosphere. I just have outgrown this funky ass box and I can’t spend any more of my life trying to consider who I am to all of them because it’s time for me to figure out who I am as a person. Just as me. I want to be in this same environment without the box. That’s it.
I’m to the point now that I have to be more important to myself than anyone who doesn’t appreciate the me that I’ve become inside this box… and I am not making any apologies for adding myself to my list of priorities.