Sometimes I forget who I am. Or maybe I never knew. Or maybe I thought I knew, but that person had to die and now I don’t know who this new person is.
I’m so busy trying not to think, not to self-reflect, that I haven’t stopped to wonder about who this person that lives inside my head is.
My psychologist recommended that I do some quizzes on strengths and personality traits, but I forget what the results are as soon as I’ve read them. One quiz told me I needed to be creative, but another told me that I am not creative, but needed meaning in my life, work and relationships. It’s very confusing. How can I want to be creative when I am not? And these weren’t Buzzfeed quizes, but actual ones recommended by another psychologist.
I never remember where I sit on the Myers-Briggs scale and I’m pretty sure that I get different results every time I do the test. I’ve done the actual pen and paper questionnaire a couple of times and I still don’t remember what I am. Then I’ve done various online versions and I still got confused. Every result I read seems like me, but how can they all seem like me? I even came up as an Extrovert once. My psychologist says that the reason these things “read” like me, or anyone doing them, is because of confirmation bias. We see what we want to see.
So I still don’t know who I am.
I am a mother, a woman, a human being. I like to sleep late and stay up late watching Netflix. I don’t like parenting, but I love my kids. I love blueberry pancakes, thanks to a Brunswick cafe I used to frequent and now I know how to make them myself. I am a good cook, but I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. Am I defined by my actions? Cooking, parenting, writing, cleaning the kitchen? I hate cleaning by the way, I hate all housework. I would love to have a full time housekeeper and the money to pay them. Are we defined by our likes and dislikes? Character traits? I don’t know. Does it matter if I don’t know who I am? There is a book I’m reading, one of several, that asks the reader to explore this question – who am I? I’ve been avoiding doing this for months, if not years. It asks that you just write whatever comes into your head as a response, so maybe I’m doing this now?
For someone who loves labels, I hate being pigeon-holed by others. It bugs me no end when people assume things about me from the way I look, behave, write. I am not any one thing, I am complex. Some people assume I’m gay because I have short hair. They assume I can’t perform at work or at business because of what I share on social media or here. I am not just one thing.
I am capable of being depressed and excelling as an employee – I did that for years in the public service. The only thing my short hair says about me is that I like short hair. It is not a statement, it is a preference. Being a single mum on Centrelink, doesn’t mean I’m a lazy, unwilling to work slob, it just means my ex was an arsehole and I’ve been unable to get a job. Being a single mum means that I have low self-esteem – battered by my ex, who made me realise that I couldn’t even find someone to really love me and marry me for me, rather than for what he could get out of it. Being a single mum means that I have at least two people who love me for me – my kids. Now, they might not really have as choice in the matter and they might stop one day, but at least I would have had this time of being their everything. I might not be lovable in the romantic sense, but I know my family of origin loves me, too. I need that to be enough.
So who am I? I am a middle aged woman, mother to two boys, a blogger, a freelancer, a writer, an entrepreneur. I am a daughter, a sister and a friend. I like making things from scratch – blankets, gardens, meals, cakes, jewellery.
I love the beach, the ocean, the surf, the ocean breeze – its smell and its feel on my skin. I love watching the weather develop and pass over the ocean and sitting on the beach, absorbing it through all of my senses. I love swimming in the ocean, but I don’t like how I feel afterwards, salty and sticky with sunscreen. I do love how my muscles feel in the water and afterwards, like they’ve had a workout, pushing the water behind me to propel me forwards. I love playing in the ocean with my kids, but I’m also terrified that something will happen to them and I won’t be able to help. We love going into the deep water and letting the waves carry us upwards, always keeping our heads above the surface. I love how the water can hold me, but I hate not feeling the sand under my feet and my mind is always imagining scenes from Jaws and Jaws 2 as I swim.
I hate clutter, but I also hate cleaning and tidying up. My desk is a mess and it’s too overwhelming for me to do anything about it. I have one pile I moved off my desk two years ago in a box, untouched. I have another pile next to my desk and a new one already growing on my desk. I love reading, but I hate how much space books take up in my house. I have a huge book collection, which I can’t bear to part with, so I guess I am a walking human contradiction. I have a shelf-full of craft books, three shelves of self-help books and I still have a CD collection, which I don’t know what to do with. I rarely listen to music and when I do, I use iTunes or Spotify. Sometimes I wonder – what if the end of the world happens and online technology goes bung? At least then I will still have my books and CDs for entertainment. Assuming we still have houses and electricity. My imaginings are not always logical.
I worry that the end of the world will look like “The Walking Dead” and I feel sad about humanity in general. About its greediness and inability to cooperate and live together in peace. I had kids before I knew about “The Walking Dead” and the end of the world, so I have to believe that the future will work itself out somehow and that the end of the world will happen when I’m dead, not before. What will my CDs and books mean when I’m dead?
My younger son has discovered his mortality recently and is worried that no-one will remember him when he dies. Like really worried. Depressed. I don’t know how to help him – I accepted death somewhere during my Buddhist studies, but I don’t have the words to explain this to him. He is desperate to become a famous YouTuber and gets sad when his views aren’t rising exponentially. I need to explain to him the concept of living in the now – of enjoying every moment, even the prosaic ones. I need to tell him how much I love going back to bed after they’ve gone to school and how I relish the extra time in my safety cocoon. How do you start a conversation like that? I can never think of the right thing to say when he comes to me with his worries late in the evening and I just want to be left alone.
Sometimes I wish someone would come and take a way all my stuff, leave me with a suitcase and make me free. All this stuff is weighing me down, but as long as I have kids in the house, I’m going to need at least some stuff. Even as I think of getting rid of my stuff, I get a scared feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m a wannabe minimalist, but a materialist inside.
I’m also a wannabe painter and drawer. I love using the materials of art, but I have no idea how to create art. I just want to play with paints and pastels. I was terrible at Art in school so never pursued it, but I clearly remember spending a lot of time with my paints and pencils at home. I now have a sizable stash of art supplies, but they sit in a cupboard unused, because a) I don’t have a space for art and b)I get disappointed with what I create. But, see paragraph above about enjoying every moment. It’s about the process for me, not so much about the outcome. My ego wants to make it about the outcome, but my visceral self revels in the feel of the paint smearing on paper, of how it mixes with other colours and the different textures I can create with different tools.
Who am I? I am a social media junkie, an obsessive gamer, a consumer of podcasts and audio books. I love technology and the online world it has brought me. I’ve been using computers since Year 10 and building websites since the 90s. I never thought I could or would make money from this, but here I am.
I never thought I was wise enough to call myself a coach, but I know that when I talk to people, that’s what I tend to do. I challenge them and question them and encourage them. I can also have casual conversations. I learnt communication skills in my 20s through a psychologist. For some reason I wasn’t able to learn them as a child, even though I had plenty of social contact – it just didn’t click. Now I can do small talk and introduce myself to people. I don’t love it, but I can bear it.
It bothers me when people say, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!”. Yes, you could, you just have to try. You can learn anything. I learnt how to ride a bike all by myself and I learnt how to drive a manual car, not mention how to be a single mum. I find that you can’t do a thing only until you have to. When you have to, you just do it. You figure it out. I’ve changed flat tyres when I had to and learnt how to use a hammer drill.
OK. Clearly I’m being ableist. I’m sorry. There are things you can’t do if you have a disability. Or if you choose not to. I probably wouldn’t choose to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. Or cold call potential clients for an employer. Not without a migraine from the stress. That’s my disability. Are depression and anxiety chronic illnesses or disabilities? I never can tell. Some people say they are. Centrelink seems to think so.
I’ve written nearly 2000 words and I still don’t know who I am. Clearly, I am not any one thing.
I love helping people and get upset when people reject my advice or help. I tend to stick my nose into other people’s business, especially in a work environment when I think I can help. Apparently, this is not always welcome.
I am quite possibly autistic, but haven’t as yet been diagnosed. It would explain a lot about my childhood and my current thinking and behaviour. At times, I have trouble thinking in shades of grey, but at other times I can see all the nuances of a situation. It’s very confusing.
It’s not easy defining who you are. Are we defined by our actions, our preferences, our values, our relationship to others? By all of the above?
Do you know who you are?
Also published on Medium.