A Lifetime of Identities
Many years ago, I was at a company retreat held not too far from my house, a few weeks after returning from maternity leave. Normally I worked from home, so this was the first all-day outing on my own.
At the time I was excited about getting out of the house, picking out a fun outfit, driving my car to a new place, seeing coworkers, and talking to other adults.
Gosh, this all sounds oddly familiar.
During the retreat, we engaged in conversations about the state of the business, how to be more inclusive, and honestly I don’t remember much else.
What I do remember most, however, is an activity our facilitator led about identity. She asked us to take a moment to write down all of the identities that we associated with ourselves.
At that time, for me, everything was about being a mother: a new mother, a working mother, a mother with a very young child, a tired mother. There just wasn’t much else I could think of.
That night, we all gathered for dinner at a local restaurant. Again, more excitement about this grown up activity, and the opportunity to eat delicious food made by someone else.
My partner texted me that some weird stuff was going on with our son (literally, everything is weird with an infant, especially your first child). I could no longer be present at that dinner, as much as I tried.
I started bawling. Tears were flying off my face into my dinner, and I could barely breathe.
One of the owners of the company came over and asked if I was ok. Another teammate (also a mother), pulled me outside and gave me the kindest, gentlest pep talk I’d ever received.
I marched inside, asked the server to pack up my dinner, and said my goodbyes. I drove home calmly, and rocked my son to sleep.
About 6 months later, my father passed away.
My evolving identity shifted to a person who had lost their parent. A person who was grieving. A person who was navigating how to be a parent, and reflecting on the parent who was no longer in her life.
It was a long year.
These experiences (having a child, losing a parent) were very Big for me. Life-altering. Transformational. Necessary.
They were a huge part of defining my ever-changing identity. They shaped who I am today, and how I meet the next big experiences that will change me yet again.
Throughout our lives, aspects of our identity will continue to shift, based on the landscape of our internal terrain (what is going on in our own life) and the external forces that are out of our control (what is going on in the world around us).
If you asked yourself today, “Who am I?” — how would you answer?
Here are some prompts to help you investigate:
- How do you show up in your daily life? What, if anything, would you change?
- What experiences stand out to you as helping you become the person you are today?
- How do you want to feel at the end of the day? At the end of the year? At the end of your life?
- What is the one thing that is calling out to you the loudest right now? How will you answer that call?
- What does naming or claiming your identity open up for you? What does it help you release?
You are ever-changing and always evolving.
A version of this article was originally published in my weekly(ish) newsletter in November of 2021. If you want to catch the next one, you can subscribe here: newsletter.rozduffy.com