Tuesday, March 10, 2009

:: :: identity, no crisis :: ::

if for nothing else (and i'm not saying that's true, but just if), motherhood is so good for learning things about yourself. i've spent the last twelve years thinking there was something wrong with me for worrying so often and so fiercely about my identity. i've agonized over so many things relating to "who i am" and "how i see myself" and "what i aspire to be like."

and i've always sort of thought that agonizing was (a) extremely self-centered (which yeah, it is) and (b) really petty and pointless. i've always thought that i must not have anything else going on in my life to be so obsessed with my own identity.

(an interesting and potentially related side note: since early childhood (and still today) i have always been easily preoccupied by and interested in my own image in a mirror (or any reflective surface, for that matter) so much so at times that i'll miss what someone was saying to me because i am watching myself.)

watching evan, though, and learning about childhood development and about the "terrible twos" (yeah -- they start some time before two, folks. sorry to disappoint you if you didn't know that already) has given me new perspective on my own interest in identity.

identity's not some petty thing, after all. needing to know and be secure in "who you are" isn't some maudlin, moody teenager thing. it's an everybody thing. in a lot of ways, it's the only thing evan's doing right now at 20 months: he knows how to control his body now (cups, spoons, steps, they're child's play), and he's learning to communicate, but from where i'm standing it looks like he's busiest figuring out who he is, asserting his independence from me, figuring out his boundaries, deciding when he needs others and when he doesn't, choosing which sneakers he wants to wear and which pants he likes and doesn't like. learning about what is and is not funny -- to him and to others.

"but you're turning thirty!" you might be thinking. "you should have figured all this stuff out by now." that's what i've been telling myself since i was 18. only, in those last twelve years i have encountered nothing but change: change that has put me in different environments, different situations, different positions of authority.

since i was 18 i've attended four universities and lived in five states (one of them three different times in those years). i have had 15 different addresses. i've been a freshman and a transfer student; an IT consultant and a graduate student; a teacher and a girlfriend and a wife and a mom. i've been a ph.d. student and then a ph.d. dropout. i've suffered postpartum depression.

the only constant in my life other than my name (oh! wait! that changed, too!) has been change. change every year, sometimes every two when i've been lucky. it's no wonder that i've struggled so with questions about who i am, what i like, how i want to live my life. identity's an important thing and mine's been too plastic.

and yet at the same time, it's been reassuringly firm. it's like there's a deep core within me that never changes and that holds me steady when i start careening wildly through my life. it's the part of me that feels most at home in navy blue and that hates wearing sneakers. the part of me that thinks lyrics are more important than music but that few songs are good enough lyrics-wise to make up for bad music. the part of me that wants to be noticed, but for my merits and strengths and nothing else.

the part of me that watches my reflection in shop windows to the point of tripping on sidewalk cracks.

the part of me that likes to know the answer to the "who am i" question.


mom March 10, 2009 at 12:25 PM  

do you think we ever know who we are? is who we are our identity? and at what level? i think who we are is very fluid.....i think that who i am now is not who i was at 18...24...30...50. my core identity and my basic beliefs have remained the same, but i have had to change over the years to accomodate what stage i was in in my life. in college, i was in the me,me,me stage. when i got married, i was in the young wife stage. each time someone i loved died, i was in another stage. when i became a mom, i was in that stage. when my kids left home for college, that created a new stage. when i got divorced, i began another stage. in each stage i have had to change something or other in who i was to be able to move from that stage on to a new stage taking with me all that i have learned and liked about myself. i have enjoyed each stage (except for some leading up to and through the divorce stage). my life is better because of who i have become and what i have learned about both myself and others from each stage. there have been some very rough patches, and there are traits about myself that i don't like, but they don't define my identity. (except on really bad days!) (please remind me of this when i have my next really bad day.) so, i muddle through each day living by my core beliefs, rolling with the rough patches, enjoying the happy times and smiling faces. the days that are my best are the ones where i feel as though i have made a difference in someone else's life, and who they are or might become. but in the end, i still don't know who i am or where i'm going....

Anonymous March 10, 2009 at 2:31 PM  

wow, you guys got me all wound up. i agree that it's hard to know who we are at all times and if life were a fixed object it would be easier to tell...but life is ever-changing and so must we be...when I notice somebody that is totally comfortable in who they are and in their own skin I'm in awe and wonder why I am not more like them...but that's just it...I'm not them...then it can get muddy "well who am i?" Currently my goal is to concentrate on good things and positive thinking, I have learned a lot from 3 years of therapy but it's not what I want as a long term solution. And sometimes when I think I don't know who I am I just look at how far I've come and that can ease my mind somewhat. Sometimes, I struggle with thoughts of if I will ever be a mother(I'm about to be 33, aren't I supposed to be a mother?) and I actually try not to think about it because it brings up so many questions and what ifs that I just have to stop and be where I am right now, and right now I'm home with the flu, but thank you for being so honest and insightful in this post, gonna go back to bed now...

mom March 10, 2009 at 8:49 PM  

feel better soon :-)