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Identity Crisis: Averted

I chose to write about PURPOSE this month for, well, a purpose. I thought I would need to prepare myself for the feeling that I was losing my current life’s purpose by giving up mommy-time and writing-time in favor of going back to work. I thought this transition, from stay-at-home to working mom, from writer back to musician, would provoke a mini crisis of self. I’ve had these crises before- when I transitioned from college to professional life; when I got married and took my husband’s name; while I was pregnant and becoming a mother. I’ve always felt a lack of center when I needed to re-think the ways I identify myself. So it seemed reasonable to think I’d go through something similar during this next transition.

Except it hasn’t happened. I feel completely prepared for everything to come. Sad, yes; extra-emotional, yes; nervous, yes. But readyI puzzled over this, even while feeling grateful for my own firm sense of self. This is what I came up with:

My identity hasn’t changed. Only the proportions have changed.

When I went from college into my first teaching job, I had to completely discard my college identity and become a professional. It was very difficult for me, and I struggled that first year. Strangely, the change that seemed to help the most was getting a second job as a fitness trainer; it was a very “young” job, and it helped me maintain a connection to my college self. Moving out of my parents’ house and striking out on my own also pushed me further into the adult world. Eventually, I was able to find a work identity that reflected both youth and professionalism.

When I got married, I was shocked to realize what a difference my new name made. It took me almost a year to get used to identifying myself as a Sowul, not in terms of signatures or salutations, but in my own head. I wasn’t prepared for the process of detaching from my parents’ family and re-forming a family of two with my husband. I was able to feel settled in my skin again when I accepted my new identity of “wife and partner” as a priority over any other relationship.

When I was pregnant, it took me the whole nine months to start thinking of myself as somebody’s mother. It felt like I was growing a brand new piece of my sense of self, along with the physical growing of the baby. Fortunately, that identity fused for me immediately at birth; it felt like I’d discovered new depths of my character, and I loved becoming a mother almost as much as I loved Edwin himself.

Since Edwin’s birth, the primary parts of my identity have been, from greatest to least:

Mother/Wife + Writer + Music Teacher (part-time) 

I’m proud of this identity fusion, and it’s given me a very happy life over the past two years. Yes, things will be different in two short weeks. But I’m not being forced to add an identity, as I did when I became a mother, or change one, as when I became a teacher and a wife. I’m simply changing the proportions. Once I start working full-time again, I will be:

Music Teacher (full-time) + Mother/Wife + Writer

I may have less time to be a mother and a writer than I did before, but they will still be a part of my identity equation, and a priority every single day. (On weekends, they will even be the ONLY priorities! Well, and housework. Bah.) I feel confident that I can continue to feel fulfilled by all three primary aspects of my identity. The actual time you spend on something doesn’t have to be an indication of its importance. It’s how you identify yourself in relation to those things that matters.

In what ways do you identify yourself? Have you ever had an “identity crisis”?

 

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