Losing Your Identity…And Trying to Find It Again

*Just offering a quick disclaimer. This isn’t super gloomy, but it is just a little. So feel free to skip if you are just here for some pretty pictures and travel tips!

I was sitting in TLF recently, pecking away at the computer trying to finish up another blog post while Aubrey napped, when the doorbell rang (still find it odd they have doorbells in what is basically a hotel, but anyway). There was a man there to replace the cable box for the TV. I let him in then made a quick scan of the living room and kitchen for unsightly messes I hadn’t gotten around to picking up.

When I looked at the dining room table I took in the scattered pieces of what makes up my day-to-day life. Not our life as a family. Mine, personally. My camera and lenses sat where I last left them after dumping the over 600 photos from our recent excursions onto my computer. My coffee cup was filled to the brim with coffee I had just heated, now getting cold because I got wrapped up in the post I was working on. Papers with lists littered my work space, meal plans, grocery lists, blog topic ideas, and random notes of “to-dos” I needed to get done in the few days while we are here in Germany. Leftover ibuprofens we bought from the “farmacia” on Capri because once again too many glasses of wine left me with a crushing migraine for days on end. One of Aubrey’s bibs, the edges starting to fray because it’s the one bib I’ve packed with us on every trip since she was born. A map of the base so Aubrey and I could find our way around since we would be without a car for a few days. And my phone, which I try to keep handy JIC.

It was my life on that table, and I couldn’t help but wonder, when the man looked at it, what did he think of it? What did he think I did? I immediately thought he must assume I just waste my days playing around on Facebook while my rugrat wreaks havoc. I don’t know why, but in that moment it mattered so much to me that this stranger thought I actually did something worthwhile. I hoped he saw the papers, the pen, and assumed I wrote or worked from home (wherever that is) on my computer.

A scene from our past popped into my mind, a moment in South Dakota when a local DA looked over to me as we all enjoyed happy hour on a Friday night, and asked what I did. I remember slightly panicking inside as I looked to Will for help. I had just resigned from my job because Will had been selected to deploy and I was moving back home. It was my most favorite job I ever had, and suddenly I didn’t know my purpose in life anymore. I can still feel the pain on my face as I tried to figure out what to say, and the look in his eyes when he proudly told the man I was a writer.

A writer. Isn’t that the answer so many jobless souls respond with when asked? Yet, in that moment I felt relief. And I felt loved. And I was proud to be a writer. I had been paid to be such previously, and just because at that point I was writing for myself, for a blog that will probably never make so much as a cent, it didn’t matter. My husband was proud of me, and that was all I needed to latch onto the new identity I found myself wearing.

So much of what we do for a living defines what we perceive to be who we are. I know there are those out there who insist that you should be able to describe yourself beyond your profession, but when it really comes down to it, for many, your profession takes up the vast majority of your life. It can’t help but be entwined with your sense of self, and the person you portray to the world. Sure it can change, and surely it does over time, but pretending it has nothing to do, at least to some degree with your person, is lying to yourself.

I’m struggling with defining my identity these days. I first lost it when I quit my job. I found it temporarily in the form of fitness when I got into Crossfit. I had to learn a new identity when Aubrey came into our lives and I dove headfirst into motherhood. But now, I’m not sure where I stand. It’s not that I’ve got this motherhood thing so figured out that there is nothing left to do, it’s just that I know deep down I’m not one of those women who were just made for motherhood. I envy those women. They are magical at being moms. They make running a home, and wrangling their children look like a piece of cake. There are many days I still feel like a college kid having to find the motivation not to sleep in till noon and eat cold pizza out of the fridge.

But it’s also not that I want to go back to the corporate world, or any office for that matter. I don’t know what I want exactly and that’s the problem. It’s been beyond wonderful getting to act the part of a nomad in the past few months, flitting from the states then back to various places in Europe. But in a way it’s only lent itself to the overall theme of feeling lost. Aubrey has slept in a pack ‘n play more than she has in her own crib. She knows the ins and outs of the TLF kitchens more than she knows her own toys. And I’m starting to feel like it’s a luxury to use regular sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

We’re once again in the dreaded holding pattern that is waiting for an assignment. Except this time there is also the consideration of separating from the military and moving back home, as well as the possibility of being moved back to the states early due to the strife in Turkey. So much that will determine the path of our future falls in these next few months, and in the midst of it, I can’t help but wish for some sort of certainty. Some sort of plan. It’s hard to start rebuilding your identity when you don’t know when or where you are going to be, even in a month’s time.

I am a mother, and in this chapter of my life that comes first. But I am also a writer, a photographer, a fitness fanatic, a holistic living advocate, and when inspired, a foodie. I don’t know where life is going to lead us from here, but I’m hopeful to find the balance of all these things, and to discover the identity they create.

0 thoughts on “Losing Your Identity…And Trying to Find It Again

  1. whatever ensues, hold onto your own identity,your own ideas, you are your own person as well as wife, mother, daughter….

  2. clearly writing is not my thing. i just posted on here twice because i thought the 1st one disappeared in cyber space. feel free to delete as you'd like:)

  3. Oh my goodness girl. This was me. Totally struggling for my identity when I left my job. I remember going on a business trip with Stephen right after I left my job and some man at a bar asked Stephen what he did. After all the glorious details of his job, the man turned to me and said "what do you do?" My heart sank and I wanted to crawl in a hole. I literally whispered "I stay at home with my 2 girls" and I felt a crushing weight on my shoulders. I was embarrassed to admit that I was a stay-at-home mom (completely ridiculous, I know) and I thought I wasn't good enough to call myself a photographer. I also thought that the job I just left defined me (even though it didn't make me happy). Fast forward a couple of years, things have really fallen into place. I have gotten to experience things that I never would have been able to had I stayed at my old job, I have a deep love and appreciation for my family, and my passion for photography now makes my heart explode. Just be patient and trust in the process! You are doing amazing things with much passion and they will lead you places you'll never expect, I'm sure of it!:)

  4. Thank you so much Mandy! I've been silently stalking your photography project (and business) throughout the year(s). You are definitely an inspiration. I keep thinking if I just keep plugging along, one of these days something good will result from it. I appreciate the encouragement!

  5. Ugh, I feel this pretty hard even though I still work from home. It's so hard to transition between any big life changes, but I feel like motherhood is the worst of the bunch – there's so much emotion and sacrifice built up into it that just can't be easily said. Suffice it to say I don't blame you for feeling a little lost because I think every mom does at some point! 🙂

  6. Oh gosh, I've written a very similar blog post, I think. It's so hard to have a career and be a trailing military spouse! But it's also hard to have a career and be a mom, so there's that, too. Are you guys expecting an assignment this month? Rumor has it all the slots are "penciled in" and thus it could be "anywhere between 9 and 72 days" til we find out 😉 I hope it works out well for you guys! It sounds like you've had a couple tough assignments, location wise!

  7. Thank you Theresa! I haven't heard that rumor yet, but it is good to hear whether it's true or not. We've been told we should hear sometime between November and December but who really knows right? We would really love a good assignment this go around haha! Or a job back home would be even better 🙂 Just trying to keep my head above water for now though!

  8. This resonates so much! It's hard enough to find your niche (and a job) with every PCS, but doing so as a mama is a whole new challenge! I identify very strongly with my profession and job, so leaving my full time work in 2013 was really difficult. I dreaded the "what do you do?" question, too. Eventually I found part-time work while we were abroad but I always felt a bit off about it. Moving back to the US with our new little one has been great- but different since I knew I'd be staying at home this year. Some days I really, really miss working. Feeling accomplished and efficient and like I know what I'm doing. Other days- most days- I can't imagine missing our baby's sweet giggles and smiles. But the mama thing is hard. Be gentle with yourself- and thanks for letting us follow along!

  9. Thank you so much Lindsay. It's always good to know you're not alone. It's always crazy just how much the military keeps you torn emotionally with being away from family, but throwing in parenthood takes it to a whole other level. I'm thankful to have a network of women out there who at least understand!

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