Have you ever felt you were losing yourself? Maybe you don’t even know what I mean by that statement. And, in that case, it probably hasn’t happened to you. But, if you’ve had these feelings, then you know what I’m talking about. This has happened, or come close to happening to me, at several points in my life.
Once was when my first boyfriend broke up with me. We had dated roughly three and a half years. He was three years older than I and went into the armed services following high school. When it was time, I went to college, as was always the plan for me. He was stationed in Japan just as I went to college. Right after my freshman year of college, I went to visit him – in Japan. I had never flown before, let alone go to a country located on the other side of the world. But, I went. Alone. And, there, we broke up. It’s slightly a longer story, but he should have told me not to come, as he was dating someone else. This person was also in the service and stationed at the same base. I was crushed. But upon arriving home early from what was supposed to be a three-week trip abroad, I realized that I had lost who I was…….in the process of becoming and being his girlfriend, even in a long distance relationship that persisted during my first year at college, I was really nothing more than that – his girlfriend. Everything in my late adolescent life revolved around him and what our future might be, as well as what our past was. Stupid. Really stupid. I remember writing a note to myself and placing it in my confirmation Bible, embossed with my name. In that note, I vowed I would never, ever, lose myself to anyone else. When I arrived home, intact, all except for my very fragile emotional state, I promised myself to always retain an individual identity.
Years passed. Near the end of college I fell in love with a wonderful young man who had been a very good friend for some time. We married. We started a life together. We moved from our home state to the odd little state of Delaware. He had a job, I was finishing grad school (for the first time). I went to a job interview – my first, as a nearly finished pediatric nurse practitioner – and had a woman physician accuse me of doing nothing but following my husband around the country. I should have turned her in for she disregarded several laws when she asked me our plans to have children, and how that fit in with my employment plans. I wanted the job. I didn’t turn her in. I didn’t get the job. She was wrong about what I was doing but her comment has always stayed with me.
Then, I became a mother….after a great deal of trying and some discouraging turn of events; I was finally a mother. After a move cross-country, and the birth of our second and third child, I made the decision to stay home. Being a stay at home mom is hard, don’t let anyone tell you differently. I had a great career as a nurse, and an advanced degree, and yet I decided to stay home. I was a mom. It was fortunate that I could do what I wanted, and concentrate on raising my family.
But, soon, that feeling began to creep on me again. Was I something other than a mother? Yes. Of course. But, what? I let my nursing license lapse, and eventually my national nurse practitioner certification lapse, too, as the establishment decided NP’s all would need a doctorate to stay certified (ridiculous, in my opinion). I started volunteering. First, the local museum, then the master gardener association, and finally the local school district. I found where I belonged. Education.
I was a dedicated volunteer. I was a master gardener. I founded a garden club for children at my son’s school, which was to be the first of several educational enrichment groups I went on to lead or found. I became a student advocate. I was good with kids. I was good at teaching. I love nature. I love learning. It all came together. I gave hundreds to thousands of hours to community projects and the educational sector. I went back to school. Finally, I knew; I knew who I was.
All the while, life had been moving forward not only for me, but for everyone. My husband has now retired. My children are nearly grown. I gave up some activities because I knew who I was and that person was not valued by those institutions to which I dedicated so much time. But, I knew who I was. And, I knew my worth.
I did not lose myself. Ever. Again.
It is something I will always guard – my identity, my personhood, myself.
Don’t lose yourself.