Most of us know ourselves pretty well. We’ve spent our whole lives growing into who we are; living inside our own heads, cataloguing our experiences, making decisions on why we believe the things we do, what we hold important. For many of us, we get to a certain point in our lives where we feel we’ve finally and fully grown into our own skin; it rarely happens in our twenties, perhaps in our thirties, but often it’s into our forties and beyond, when our experiences are truly outnumbering our years.
But what happens when you unexpectedly encounter a shake-up in your sense of self? When the course you thought you were chartering towards becoming “you” gets blown wildly off-track? What do you do when you’re faced with the fact that you are slowly realizing that who you are is not who you thought you would become?
It’s probably more common than we think. It may not even be that significant of an event, really. Maybe just a nagging feeling, an inkling that occurs in a random conversation when you start to agree with someone on a topic you normally would and suddenly realize you actually don’t. Or maybe you find yourself going through the motions of your daily life only to wonder when they became more motions and less life. Perhaps it’s the time when a colleague comments how good you are at your job, you must love it so much and you find yourself amused because you couldn’t possibly feel less engaged. Or maybe you’ve been promising yourself you would change something in your life for so long, you don’t even notice years have passed and you’ve stayed exactly where you were when you started, with no change happening at all.
For me, it hit me in the words of a song not too long ago. Currently, on various radio stations around the country, I am prompted with the question “What do I stand for?” courtesy of the band Fun. in their recent hit ‘Some Nights’. I immediately liked the tune when I heard it because of the melody and the beat, but the lyrics are what caught me most, as the lead singer repeatedly questions himself about the importance of his life. I find that every time I listen, I can relate more than I would care to admit.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I just crossed the forty mark, myself; certainly it’s a banner year not to be trifled with. The big 4-0 can cause some serious re-evaluation for even the most stalwart of females, or so I’ve heard. But I think it’s more than that, really. Forty was never really looming, for me, so I don’t think that’s the key to this tremor in my thought process. I think this is more of something that’s been brewing for longer; probably more like a decade, I suppose. We all change constantly, do we not? And perhaps it’s been that long since I really turned the internal lamplight on brightly to see where all the shadows and reflections landed. I know my internal daily voice but, really, where am I on the overall path? What do I bring to the larger life-table? Is this really where I thought I would land, and am I holding up the banners and brevity in the manner I thought I would by now? And of all that I have learned, lost or sacrificed along the way, has it been worth it so far?
I guess I find it surprising that I have so many questions showing their faces that I don’t immediately have answers to. Large, life questions; sand-shifting ones. It’s not that I’ve been plunged into the complete depths of mystery; I still have a good handle on my morals, my beliefs in spirituality, parenting, etc. It’s more of a life-direction type of re-evaluation that seems to be happening. Now that I’m here, in this soul-space, is this really the place I want to inhabit? Do the choices I made years ago still fit today?
In the immediate, I’ve decided to befriend the questions. Uncertainty is not always the enemy; questions lead to learning. Accepting that I don’t necessarily have all the answers is also key to moving forward to finding them. The next step is to take some time to really look at the landscape and decide what parts of it need to change to suit who I’ve become; and to know that the scenery will keep changing over time. When I finally figure out everything I stand for today, I’m sure ten years from now I will find that, again, I may not know. But at least then the question will be more familiar…