Is it possible for anything to strike more fear into my heart than these three words? I’m not sure.
So … I had my first life/career counseling session almost two weeks ago, and my coach left me with a homework assignment. “Write about yourself,” she said. It sounds easy enough, right? Who knows more about me than me? I mean … I live inside this head! And yet, I have been waffling around for the past two weeks, trying to figure out what I wanted to write. Trying to figure out who I am. And drawing a big, fat blank. But, I am at “zero hour” now, y’all. I have my next session tomorrow and, in true procrastinator-cramming-it-in-at-the-last-minute fashion, I’ve gotta come up with something. You know?
So, I think, first and foremost, it is important to say that I am a person who spends a lot of time NOT thinking about who they are. It’s more than not actively thinking about it. It’s not that I put others first or anything like that. I think I do tend to put others first. But this isn’t that. This is more a factor of how I actively run away from my own thoughts and wishes and dreams. Is it because I am a coward? I mean … maybe. But it’s also because I never felt I had the freedom to think about myself. I was not a person who mattered much at all. I was always expected to do what others wanted. I was expected to dress a certain way and smile a certain way and act a certain way. Anything I did reflected back onto those around me. The choices I made had to be made with others in mind.
You know how each family has its own “family lore”? These are the stories that make everyone laugh, or the memories that people tell, over and over again, at family gatherings. I grew up hearing all of these stories and funny memories about good times. But you know what all those stories had in common? They all happened before I was born. There are, maybe, two family stories about me: one time, when I was around two, I accidentally “stole” a tiny little doll from a five and dime store … and I used to wander around our house at night (I’ve always been a night owl), so my dad installed an alarm to make sure I could not get out of the house — an alarm that terrified me, because I have always hated loud noises. That’s it, y’all. That’s basically my entire childhood. I’m like a big, blank space in the canvas of my family. We never visited the places were I grew up as a little baby. We only visited the location of the place where I was born after my daughter was old enough to ask about it. My whole life, I had never even seen it. Sometimes, I think that, if I had disappeared, no one would have noticed at all.
It sounds pretty pathetic, doesn’t it? I almost want to go back and delete all of it and make up something better. But I promised myself I would be honest about this. So, if I’m being honest, I have to say it does kind of suck. I have trouble making friends. I feel like a fraud in most parts of my life. I hide most of myself from the people around me, even the people I love the most and who love me the most. It’s almost second nature to protect those soft parts of myself from the world around me. If you grow up as a kid who knows no one believes in them, you inevitably become an adult who doesn’t believe in yourself. And that’s me. I believe in other people. I can see the beauty and wonder in the people around me. I can see how they will succeed or how amazing they are. But I can’t see these things in myself.
But … also, if I’m being honest, I have to say that there are some good things about my growing up years. Being the blank space in the canvas makes you a good listener. It means you pay attention to all those little details that others might miss. And I have that ability. I’m that person that other people like to talk to. Other people love to tell me their life stories. Sometimes, this is a bummer, like when a perfect stranger sits down next to me and tells me about how his marriage is failing and he thinks his wife is cheating on him. Because, the thing is, I just don’t know what to say in those moments. But, in another way, it’s pretty neat to hear other people’s stories about what they love about themselves or what their hopes and dreams might be. There is something beautiful to me about the human spirit, and sitting and listening to another person … I’m not sure how to explain it, other than to say it feels almost sacred to me.
I’m a simple person, too. I don’t think this is a bad thing. There are things I love, like nail polish and jewelry and books and dogs. And I love those things quite a lot. But I don’t spend a lot of time in the pursuit of “stuff”. I’m happy with small things and little joys here and there in my life. And I like to find joy in small things. I like things that are intricate and detailed, like miniatures and funky jewelry with intricate designs. And I like bright colors, which is probably why I have purple hair. Oh, if only purple was my natural hair color!
I think I’m a story teller, too. I like to visit fanciful worlds in my mind and of my own creation, and I like meeting the people who live there. Writing used to be my escape growing up. It was also my escape when I was first starting out in my career, because my first few jobs were pretty crummy. I needed that mental escape, y’all! I used to feel incredibly driven to write, write, write. I had all these stories in my head. I had all these characters living those stories in my head. I find I don’t do this anymore. And you know what? I’m not sure why. Does it mean my creativity is gone? Has it dried up? Or is it just because I’m tired?
Because I think that has to go into my post about myself, too. I am so freaking TIRED, y’all. I work in a job that is a great job and with a great team and that I like. But, at the same time, I don’t like it. I am an introvert in a world of extroverts. It’s mentally exhausting to work ten to eleven hours a day doing the kind of mentally taxing work I do every day, while also pushing myself to step out of my comfort zone and talk to people on the phone or argue with people or negotiate with people. I get to the end of each day and I literally can’t even. It’s like I don’t have the energy to think, much less create. I basically have just enough energy left to drag myself downstairs at the end of the day, feed the dogs, and play Animal Crossing. (I am more than a little bit obsessed with Animal Crossing. It has to be said.)
I think I’m a kind person. I have a lot of empathy for those around me. Maybe, I have too much empathy sometimes. It’s hard for me to say no to people, and it’s hard for me to protect myself from the wants and needs of others. Sometimes, I feel like I give too much of myself. But, at other times, I feel like I can never give enough, and I feel guilty about that. Guilt is a big thing for me. It drives a large part of my life.
So, I don’t know. Does all of this explain who I am? Maybe it’s a start, and maybe I will learn more about myself as time goes on. Maybe I can learn to open my ears and my heart to my own voice. And then, I will start to figure out myself and my life. Because I’m in my 50s, y’all. And I thought I would have it all figured out by now. But … I really, really don’t.
But you know what? I think that’s okay, too. I think life is an adventure. I think even my life can be an adventure. I just need to learn how to take the uncharted path.