I went to a poetry reading recently and the writer talked about his identity being completely wrapped up in his wife. He spoke about if he lost her, he’d be lost, struggling with his own identity.
It really resonated with me.
Just a week after my wedding back in 2015, AJ and I went to visit our friends at their lake house. It was always a great time because the guys could keep each other occupied while my girl friend and I talked “girl stuff”.
We sat on the front of their boat, drinking large solo cups of wine, gushing about how much we loved our men. We discussed, drunkenly, about how we couldn’t survive without them. We’d need to be locked up in padded rooms in straight jackets! Surely, we wouldn’t be able to handle a life without the loves of our lives…
Until I had to.
I didn’t see it coming and there I was about to sever my tie to someone that I thought was with permanently – ‘til death us do part. It was my identity being that was being threatened. My whole way of life. If I wasn’t going to remain a wife… I’d be a divorcee… What does that even mean?
Who am I now?
I was a wife who woke up every morning with a purpose. I had breakfast to make, lunch to pack, an office to go to. Later in the day, I’d go to the grocery store and pick up all the ingredients to make a special meal for my husband. Every day I thought about how to improve my husband’s day. Every day I was a wife.
But when I was stripped of that title, that identity, I woke up with less purpose… If I didn’t make breakfast or lunch, I could just pick up a snack, or not eat… eating didn’t seem important anymore. I moved through my workday, wondering what working was for. I didn’t know what the purpose for anything was. I was lost. Perhaps I didn’t need to be locked up in a padded room, but it wouldn’t have made a difference. I didn’t feel, I didn’t want to feel. I questioned everything about my life and myself. Quite literally, I had an identity crisis.
I had to think back to who I was before AJ.
I was a hard worker… I held an office job and at least one waitress job on the side. I was fun… always filling my weekly calendar with dinner dates with girlfriends. I was always seeking something new… from dance classes to open mic nights (whether I was just observing or performing), I pushed myself outside my normal environments.
So, there it is… my B.A. (before AJ) identity. I can get that back…
Unfortunately, soon after my divorce from AJ, my identity was threatened again when my company and I parted ways. Now add “unemployed” to what makes up my identity and we have real problems.
Thankfully, the “hard worker” in me wouldn’t quit. I hustled as I had always known, Lyfting and Ubering while searching for full time jobs and part time service jobs.
I set date nights with girlfriends, usually something cheap ($1 oysters nights!). I took my pups on a few hiking adventures, joined a writing class, attended the ballet solo.
Soon, my small attempts to bring myself back started to add up and I had my pre-AJ identity back.
A strong, independent, creative, resilient, hard-working, adventure-seeking hustler. I got me back. I don’t think I was ever different, but I think I thought I was all of these things BECAUSE of AJ, not BEFORE AJ. But I’ve always been this way and always will be.
My identity will not come in to question again.
If you are struggling with wondering who you are now, just invest yourself in something you love. It will come back to you.