For many of us, we can get into a rut of thinking ourselves as one person, one role. We identify by who we are in one area of our lives and sometimes forget who else we might be. It happens because we get busy, overwhelmed even, and lose the room to think and be someone else. It happens because others see so much of us in one way, in one context, and forget that we might go somewhere else and be entirely different. Perhaps we become so engrossed in our careers that we live, eat, sleep, and breathe only being the woman fighting her way to excellence and the top of the ladder, whatever that looks like. Perhaps we are “Mom” all day and all night until we have to be reminded that we are also “wife” or “friend” or “woman” and have to rediscover what it means to be an individual without a child attached to us for a moment. Perhaps we are so defined by a particular event in our lives that we are only that girl who survived that thing or was at that place or who did that stuff, and haven’t figured out who we can or have become afterwards.
Being subsumed into a particular, singular aspect for a time is not necessarily a bad thing. A sole focus and dedication can be required for us to accomplish goals that are important to us, and there is no shame in being proud of who we become when we work so hard on those things. At the same time, we are and can be so much more. We are not limited to only being good in one field or known for one thing, and we are not limited to being just one kind of person. It’s not about having it all, because sometimes we need to sacrifice a bit here and there, but it is about having more than just one thing we can be. We can be high-powered executives by day and night and also loving mothers in the middle. We can be experts about some obscure literary sub-genre and also about a popular, nerdy fandom all at the same time. We can be precise chemists in laboratories, and creative experimental cooks in kitchens, one at home and one at work. We can be victims of horrifically newsworthy experiences or champions of excitingly newsworthy events, and quietly anonymous and successful in a completely different field later.
Developing a more complete life and a more well-rounded identity is healthy in multiple ways. It keeps us from getting burned out or bored. It allows us to remain inspired when our growth in one area stalls or plateaus. It ensures that we can continue to find the fun, the beauty, the joy in life. It allows us to value ourselves in more ways than one, to support our self-worth on multiple pillars. It gives us more to fight to preserve. It releases the pressure of perfection in our identity, because we are more than that one person, that one role. We can be good at one, and less so at another, and that’s okay. When we worry we aren’t enough at the former, we can remember we are also the latter and know that we are enough as a complete person. We can change our minds about what we want to do with ourselves whether for a few hours or the rest of our lives. When we allow ourselves to be all of those people we want to be, we aren’t limiting ourselves and suppressing those secret dreams and selves and we can be our whole selves.
It’s not about mastery of everything, of being the talented professional and the thoughtful and loving partner and the gifted artist and and and. It’s about letting yourself be a professional and a partner and an artist and and and. It’s about being a work in progress in all of the ways you find yourself interested in whether by necessity or desire. It’s about seeing yourself in the mirror and recognizing yourself every hour and every day, and not wondering how you became a one-dimensional cartoon of yourself. It’s about being amazing at some things and a failure at others, and seeing them flip from one to the other some days. It’s about being you-as-you in all of your glorious messiness, not you-as-role perfectly fitting into a singular box.
It’s like this: This past weekend, I got dirt ground under my nails, dried grass tangled into my hair, and bled from rocks and marking cartridges – like paintball or airsoft, but more intense – as I learned and practiced how to shoot and fight in a gravel-and-grass pit. On Monday, I wore a dress and heels, applied makeup to my face, and danced nearly until last call at the beautiful wedding of a dear friend. The very next morning, I put on a professional demeanor and fielded calls, answered emails, reviewed documents, and advised coworkers at my day job for a few days while slipping out in the middle for a therapy session where I continued to face and wrestle demons from my past. Then I hopped on a plane and spent a day in meetings and spirited discussion of new projects I’m working on with a company in the firearms industry (can’t wait to share with you!) before heading home again where I’m just a girl with cats and a boy and a hope to snuggle and nap a little extra this weekend, maybe see what’s streaming, but only after I head in to the gym to train jiu-jitsu because I miss my teammates too. In the middle of all that, I’ve written several posts so many of you have read. And every one of those days, I was and will be an authentic version of me. I am a student, a friend, a partier, a lawyer, a survivor, an expert, a homebody, a girlfriend, a fighter, and a writer, all at once.
So tell me, who are you?