When I turned 23 I found myself in the midst of a full-blown identity crisis.
I had just moved to a new city where my tomboy Vans and self-deprecating humor were not welcomed. In a desperate attempt to assimilate I chopped my hair off, tried to dress more “business-casual appropriate”, and researched topics that my peers were interested in (but I wasn’t) to find some semblance of common ground, but absolutely nothing felt right. It was all wrong.
The final blow came on a night out with some fellow classmates in which I started complaining about my new office job and was emphatically telling them how sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day was miserable. The guy to my left chuckled, no he scoffed at me, and said, “Welcome to the rest of your life”. I went back to my tiny, dark apartment and cried for hours.
That was not going to be my life.
So I trusted my instincts and I left. But by the time I left I was broken (both physically and emotionally).
Physically I felt like I was dying. I would get tingly from head to toe and was so unbearably tired that I couldn’t get out of bed. I bought a carbon monoxide alarm believing I was slowly being poisoned, much to my chagrin it never went off. I researched brain tumors and autoimmune diseases for hours on end, but after countless blood tests and way too many doctors appointments, my diagnosis was stress.
I was depressed and now I felt like I was going insane.
Emotionally an inner turmoil was unearthed that forced me to look at myself in a way that I never had before: as the person I wanted to be, not just the person I accepted myself as.
This sounds ridiculous, but I had never questioned who I wanted to be before that moment; I had always just accepted who I was without taking the time to question if I was happy with myself that way.
I went to Grad school after college because I never stopped to ask myself what else I wanted to do! I just did what I thought I was supposed to. But then I quit school and was slapped in the face with the realization that I had no clue who the hell I was or what the hell I wanted out of life.
The simplest way I can describe how I feel is this: Inside I feel like a girl with a middle part, but I have always worn my hair neatly parted to the side.
I am confused about the person I portray myself as to the world. I am confused about who I am to myself. I am confused about whether I just feel like I am that cool girl with the middle part but really I’m not. I’m just plain confused.
I’m just plain confused.
I don’t have a total lack of self-awareness. My entire life I have been frustrated with certain personality traits of mine; like my inability to be my true, unabashed self in front of anybody other than my family or my severe social anxiety as diagnosed by a professional.
But I think that I got so hung up on these things that I hated about myself that I never stopped to wonder what I loved about me, or what I could love about me.
My brain constantly wants to hide and display as little information as possible to strangers, so the woman inside me shies away from her true self. But I truly envy the girl who is so effortlessly herself that nobody dares question who she is because there are no questions. She just is.
Me on the other hand… the unease and vulnerability exudes from my pores and strangers can sense it. They know I am trying to be something I’m not.
The beauty of this identity crisis is that every single day I am learning and growing and discovering myself. I recognize when I am caring too much about what other people think of the way I dress or the way I did not style my hair. I am learning to appreciate who I am as a woman.
At 24 years old I have learned that if you don’t already know who you are, figuring it out is a process of elimination. You have to put yourself in different situations to realize who you are or are not. And the journey might be a struggle and scary, but your gut knows when something isn’t right. So trust it!
I don’t have a whole lot more figured out than I did at 23, but I don’t intend on stopping until I know exactly who I am.
If only finding my identity were as easy as parting my hair in the middle…