No crisis, but it was catchy eh?
Just typing the subject line of this post, made me think about my identity and how it has changed so much. I used to pride myself on my spelling ability. To the point of being a snob about it. I had a dear friend in high school who was in all honors and advanced placement classes but she would write the word to for too, or your for you’re and freind for friend. This always made me feel superior in some way because spelling had always come easily to me.
Typing the word identity today took me about 5 tries.
Yup. Things change.
Color me humbled.
In the past few weeks I have discussed identity with at least three different people on different occasions. It is such a complex concept. The idea that there are things about us that not only do we associate with our character, but that others do as well. When looking up the definition of the word identity, the word “sameness” kept coming up. Interesting. I had always thought identity was multifaceted, changing, colorful, textured. Same wasn’t really a word I associated with it. In one of the conversations, a friend asked, “Who am I? I am not sure who I am anymore, what is my identity?” She lamented that she was a mommy now, and that is fine, but she wasn’t always. She was a lawyer, a wife, a friend. Is she still those things? Or is her identity totally connected to motherhood? Another conversation I had touched on the different identities associated with working and stay at home mothers. My friend said that she sees herself very differently than her friends who stay at home with their children. I wasn’t sure where I fell in that discussion so I decided to examine the trajectory of my identity.
|Junior Year HS|
|Senior year HS at a haunted house|
As a teenager, my identity was wrapped in my friendships, my classes, my favorite bands. I listened to Tori Amos so I was early days emo. I wore peasant tops and flowy skirts, so I was hippie. I twirled a flag in the color guard so I was a band geek. I wore flannel shirts so I was grunge. All depended on the week.
|Sophomore Year (I’m all the way to the right in the blinding white peasant top)|
I constantly fell for boys who only wanted to be my best friend so I identified with Betty from the Archie comics. I was overweight so my identity was affected by who teased me that week or who complimented me and made me forget my monstrous insecurity for a second.
|College-not many of these pictures are scanned in. Thank goodness.|
In college, my identity was tested constantly by temptations left and right that I had never faced before. The little girl who was scared to go to parties because of the “drunk kids and druggies” who supposedly went to them was now knee deep in the trenches, trying to decide if she needed to be a part of that scene in order to fit in or be happy. I had once considered myself a strong student, many subjects came easily to me in high school. (aside from trig and geometry….ugh) College challenged that part of my identity big time. I had to study HARD for the first time, into the wee hours of the morning with note cards, outlines, and the Titanic instrumental soundtrack playing on cassette tape in the background. Gag.
Not until I was far into my education classes did I feel comfortable with the material being presented. I was constantly questioning if I could handle the work or not. I grew up a LOT in those four years. I worked hard, played hard, and made friendships that were real. For the first time I began to realize my value as a person. My value as a woman and a friend.
Post college years were interesting. First job, first apartment on my own, first boyfriend. (yup, late bloomer, sue me) My identity was almost solely associated with my occupation. During ten months
|During rehearsal for a show in 2002 maybe?|
of the year I was a teacher, and I was proud of it. My students were my life. I referred to them as “my kids.” I would go home at night and prepare for the next day mentally, how will I connect with them? How will they receive my lesson tomorrow? Two months of the year I was the director of a children’s theater workshop. My identity during that time was all tied up in the show I was doing and the kids I was directing. I still had a life on the side,I was blessed with a pretty full social calendar. But because I threw myself so hard into my job, I put that before everything. If you asked me who I was, I would say a teacher before I would say a woman, or a friend, or girlfriend. It just made sense to me.
Enter T Money. My identity was turned upside down. I now had someone to care for me, someone who had my back. For almost 28 years I had identified myself as the strong, sensitive girl who handled things on her own. I didn’t “need” anyone. Even though I desperately did not want to face life alone, it just seemed the cards I was dealt. Then this goateed, dazzlingly intelligent, sincere man entered the scene and he wanted to face the rest of his life with me by his side. Obstacles were faced together. We rejoiced in triumphs together. I was a wife, a lifelong best friend. We planned vacations together, picked out sofa colors. Ate out all the time, made other ‘friend couples’ and became a comfortable team. Happy to travel, discuss the future, and get an adorable dog.
|Day before Evan was born 5-26-11 (wearing same shirt that i danced in years prior)|
Then I became pregnant for the second time, and this time, things were going smoothly. The baby was doing well and so was I. Aside from about 10 weeks of yucky morning sickness, I adored being pregnant. My identity was in the pregnancy. Not yet a mother. I did not identify with other mothers, just with other pregnant women. We were part of this special little community of people who have odd body aches, ruched shirts, and a ridiculous number of food restrictions. Lovely people would tell me over and over that I would be the BEST mom. I was so caring and intuitive, I would be a natural. I believed them. I acted humble and pretended I was unsure of how things would go but deep down I truly believed becoming a mother was going to be no big thing. Gulp.
|First week home|
I became a mother. My heart was removed from my body somehow and was now swaddled in a Carter’s stretchy cotton blanket. His blue eyes gazed up at mine, looking for the person who gave birth to him, the person who he will call mother for the rest of his life. And I was broken. Broken into a million little pieces of identity that I thought I had together. I thought I would become a mom and it would just become another hat I wore. I managed to wear so many hats before being a mom, how would this be different? Since becoming a mother I have found that I need to stop assuming I know everything. I need to stop assuming I know anything, really. For I have found myself doing, saying, and believing things that I would have NEVER considered for a second before having a child. My identity was first that of a new mom. A new mom who woke up 5+ times a night. A new mom who feared she had post-partum depression every time she cried or had a down moment. Because having a baby was supposed to be 100% joyful and awesome, right? That is what I had been promised. So why was it so darn hard? Why did he cry for hours on end? Why was nursing so difficult? Everyone wanted to hold my baby, and I just wanted to nap. Did that make me a bad person? I would question myself and my choices constantly. Is the formula making him
throw up? Should we sleep train or not? Is he ever going to forgive me for only nursing him for one month?? Yup. That was just the tip of the iceberg.
Slowly, as my hormones got their act together, and we figured out a pseudo schedule, the pieces of my identity slowly began to gel and connect again. But this time, the multiple hats I wore were replaced with one big, ten gallon whopper of a hat that says Mama on the front. Gone were the friend, the wife, the teacher, the daughter hats. They were replaced with the Mother hat. And that identity became even more apparent when I made the decision to stay home longer with Evan, following his diagnosis. His goals became my goals. His feeding challenges became mine. His delays are mine, his smiles, his firsts, his songs. When he succeeds, I feel successful. When he gets hurt, I bleed. When other children look at him a little funny, I feel twisted up inside. When he smiles, I feel joyful.
I used to be Judgey McJudgerson about women who wore the huge ten gallon mother hat.
Shame on me for judging. Shame on me for assuming I understood until I wore the hat, spurs, and chaps myself.
Now almost two years after becoming a mom, I can feel the hats slowly starting to multiply again. The wife hat is reappearing, along with the friend, the daughter, the woman hat. The teacher hat made an appearance this past week when I subbed in a special needs drama class. And boy, did that hat feel fantastic. I had forgotten how much I love identifying with that part of me. I have a feeling the ten gallon mama hat is going to remain the largest one for some time to come. Maybe even for the rest of my life. But I am glad to also be re-identifying with the other parts of who I am.
I’m not sure I agree the definition of identity should use the word “sameness.” It feels permanent, and thank goodness our identity can change along with our life circumstances.