Who I am

Who am I? It’s a question that I started asking in earnest only a short time ago, and it seems like an endless process. It started with trying to figure out where I felt the most like me, the most at peace, the most beautiful. Little pieces came together slowly, separating who I am from who I was told to be. Some pieces were rather easy. I knew that I loved to read good books, that I love to write, that I enjoy messing around in the kitchen. But other peices felt mysterious to me, like looking in the mirror at a stranger.

Who was that person?

For a long time, I believed that question was wrong. That it didn’t matter who I was, it mattered who God was, and my only purpose in lifewas to serve him and love him above all else. In my understanding, that meant being a godly wife and mother, doing anything else was much less important, or even “selfish.”

Even though I have 4 children aged 5 and under, and often find myself overwhelmed by the amount of needs and just how badly I want to be there for all of my children, I still have that pull to keep having babies. It’s as if it will somehow make me valuable. If I am just pregnant, then even if I fail in every other area at least I’d be making a baby! And yet, I value my babies too much to turn them into my perpetual security blanket. My children will never understand their value and worth if I make their existence about their mother’s value and worth. So I continue my quest to learn who I am, and what makes me, me.

So over a year ago, I pulled out my old journals and read through the early entries, the ones where I dreamed of being an ice skater or a lawyer or a politician. The pages I wrote before I realized that girls weren’t supposed to dream of anything but a home with a husband and babies. Were those old dreams still part of me? I didn’t know anymore.
It felt so awkward to be me. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. At first it was an endless circle of doubt. Is such and such really me? Did I really feel that way? Did I really want that? But as I started the simple process of actually saying yes to things that I wanted to say yes too, and no to the things I didn’t want to do, slowly I began to find peaceful moments.

They happened when I was rolling around in the grass, playing with my kids, when I pumped my legs to swing higher on the swing at the playground, my hair going crazy in the wind. The moments happened when I gave myself permission to have a style that felt comfortable for me, even if that meant wearing pants to church instead of a lady like skirt, or cutting my hair short even though “it would make my face look fat”. When my muscles ached, I had dirt under my nails or flour up to my elbows, I felt confident. When I had no place to go and lay in my lovers arms, I felt peace. I’ve begun to believe that I don’t have to be perfect, I am good enough.

Slowly, Melissa is taking shape. When I am in the moment instead of worrying, when I am living life accepting it as is, when I am present and engaged and getting messy instead of doubtful and reserved, that’s when I feel most ALIVE and beautiful.

Asking who I am is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. Even though I am finally starting to have this new confidence, I have one area that still triggers that circle of doubt, (and like I said here, I think it will get better once I’ve actually taken the dive and gotten started) that would be school.

I know I want to go to school, but for what? Do I get a GED first? Or try to make up a high school transcript to enroll in college courses? I wonder if I should get on track to study for a career like being a Doctor or a Counselor or Social Worker? I love the idea of helping people, and humanity fascinates me. Or maybe it would be better to take a bunch of random classes to figure out what floats my boat. I love to research, maybe I could be a Scientist or a Teacher.

My doubts about my abilities to perform well in school, and my artistic side sometimes make me wonder if I am just getting distracted by the idea of school? Maybe who I am is more of a free spirit, an Artist-Musician-Writer sort of person who never really makes any money but revels in the artistic things they love. I question my motives. Maybe I only think I am interested in school because I wasn’t allowed to go and I feel like I have to prove something, except I am pretty sure that neither of those are entirely true, because the thought of not going to school makes me feel sad.

Maybe I could try a career that takes less school time and more hands on training, like a Massage therapy, that’s helping people, and I could have flexible hours. Or maybe an on the job training to be a Mechanic, machines are fascinating, and I’ve always wanted to know what is going on under the hood of my car.

And then there is my ongoing interest in food. The way I love serving something I’ve made, how I love to invent new recipes or try new things. How even though I don’t want to be cliché and choose one of the few things I was able to try as a woman in the quiverfull patriarchal movement, I find myself watching shows from the Food network and getting completely sucked in despite myself.

*Sigh*

Regardlessof all the questions, and the unkown future, there are two things that are becoming clear.

One: You probably can’t be an Artist, Mechanic, Doctor, Teacher, Social Worker, Counselor, Coffee shop/Bakery Owner, Writer, Chef, Massage Therapist/Esthetician, Librarian all rolled into one.

Two: As a person who used to describe herself with words like “stupid,” “lazy,” “hopeless” and “worthless” I am finally begining to see who I am. I am finally learning to accept and love the things that make me, “Me.”

I am:
A gentle parent
A loving spouse
A feminist
A writer
A sister
An advocate
A researcher
A community person
Contemplative
Queer
Compassionate
Creative
Passionate
Happy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09697215030563741501 Sisterlisa

    That's right, Melissa!!!! Good for you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17871256362646081536 Amber

    I think that definitions of self shift throughout our lives. So who you are today, isn't necessarily who you would define yourself as tomorrow.

    I am so thrilled to be part of your journey – through the internet – as you often inspire me in my own journey.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle Hughes

    This is great. And I am not sure where you are located 100%, but lots of metropolitan areas have several community colleges where you could take general course of instruction and get an Associates degree. Most 4-year degree programs have the first two years as general education anyway (Biology 101, College Algebra, Statistics, History, etc). But regardless of the steps you take in the immediate future, you seem to have made great strides. And it makes me so sad to think you would have ever described yourself as "worthless." I just can't imagine believing that ANYONE is "worthless." So I am glad you don't do that anymore. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01007257169361470843 Sarah

    ahhhh! This made me so happy! :) I love you Melissa!! Whatever you end up doing, you're gonna ROCK at it. And remember, you have your whole life ahead of you. Whatever you end up doing doesnt have to be the ONLY thing you ever do. You can change your mind whenever you want! Just do what makes you happy!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10254315970336710941 Catholic Mutt

    I don't know what you'll decide to do, but I know that who you are is a beautiful person!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06410682651072046347 TwisterB

    "My doubts about my abilities to perform well in school, and my artistic side sometimes make me wonder if I am just getting distracted by the idea of school? Maybe who I am is more of a free spirit, an Artist-Musician-Writer sort of person who never really makes any money but revels in the artistic things they love."

    If you have a serious fear of going to school, all thoughts you entertain about NOT going to school, and doing something else instead, can probably be regarded as a psychological defense mechanism. Your unconscious mind is influencing your conscious thought in order to protect yourself from this thing that you find so intimidating on so many levels.

    Since going to school is tied in to careers and what you want to become, and it is confusing to know what you want to become if you don't know who you are (believe me when I say that what you are going through is what most 18 year olds go through upon making choices about their future)I think it would be a good idea for you to just decide if you want to tackle your fear of school or not. If you want to tackle your fear, you can worry about the details later, and if you don't want to tackle your fear, there is no use getting hung up on the details. There are career paths for you both ways, and most jobs are what you make of them, so really it boils down to yay/nay on going to school.

    I do hope you take on the challenge of school, if only to prove to yourself that you can.

    If you choose to go into science (yay science!) it would be good to have some prepatory classes under your belt. Science isn't harder than the arts per se, but it does take some time to learn the skill of studying for science, and it might be easier to learn those skills with a high school science class (although believe me when I say you likely won't learn anything cool in a high school science class, it is just a skill building exercise, all the super cool stuff comes later).

    Most general arts degrees will ask you to take a wide variety of classes in your first year. They don't even let you declare a major until year two, so don't worry that every one on campus looks so self-assured. They are not.

    If you want to be a social worker, you need to get into a formal social work program at a university, otherwise you will be even more underpaid. All other things on your list, including counselor, can be achieved with a science degree (you can get a degree in psychology as a bachelor of science at many universities).

    I think that deciding to be a doctor now would put undue stress on yourself to perform, when even going to school is stressful for you. That is not to say you can't be a doctor, you absolutely could be if you worked hard enough, but the pressure might kill your dream before you even start.

    Unless you are really inspired to do something (which most people aren't) the best thing to do is to just tackle your fears and see what comes of it. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    Love this post! If all else fails, I'd be willing to bet you'd make a good writer!

    That said, I'm very familiar with the problem of not knowing what I want to do. The problem has always been that there are many things that I would enjoy! In fact, now that I have learned more about various other fields, I am quite sure I would have enjoyed many more than the specific field (physics) I chose to major in at the university. I'll never regret selecting physics, for a few reasons:

    1. I'm not limited by my education. To the contrary, it enables me to do amazing things. And not necessarily just in physics either: right now I'm actually working as a software engineer for a major software company. I really enjoy the job itself, as well as the people I'm working closely with. Plus it pays well! Selecting one specific field didn't limit me in the least.

    2. Even though I don't have the time to really learn in-depth other fields I might be interested in, the Internet is such a tremendous resource for learning whatever it is I might be interested in at the time. As such, since I've gotten my degree in physics, I've learned a huge amount more about biology, economics, and computer programming in particular. Books help too. So I don't feel concerned that there's a whole lot I'm missing by not having majored in these other subjects. I'm sure there are some things I would have learned that I don't now know, but that's okay.

    3. I didn't need to select the best option. In fact, I'm pretty sure there is no best option. All I needed to do was select an option that would lead to a life I enjoyed. And I do enjoy my life very much indeed. That is enough. It matters very little if I might have enjoyed, say, marine biology more. All that matters to me is that I am happy with my life now. So I guess I'll just end with a bit of advice: don't worry about picking the "right" option. Just pick an option that you think you'll be happy with, whether that's school or no school, biology or literature.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02937595210702899473 kalipay

    it took me about 2 years of freedom to come to a career decision, and i start school in a few months for Air Traffic Control. i have less exterior concerns and pressures to worry about (no kids, primarily) but just take you time… take a bunch of classes regardless of whether or not they will transfer or apply to anything. i took a dance class my first semester (might apply to PE?) just cause i wanted to. and now i'm happy and focused.

  • http://www.iammoms.com Indian American Mom

    Another great post! One thing I know you are is an excellent writer and prolific blogger (guess that is two things!). The journey of self discovery is a lifelong one, and I'm glad we are along for the ride on yours.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03280291191286962710 Kacy

    Beautiful post! I offer these lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses as you continue to explore:

    I am part of all that I have met;
    Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
    Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
    Forever and forever when I move.
    How dull it is to pause, to make an end.
    To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
    As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
    Were all too little, and of one to me
    Little remains; but every hour is saved
    From that eternal silence, something more,
    A bringer of new things; and vile it were
    For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
    And this gray spirit yearning in desire
    To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
    Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

    The poem is about the legendary Ulysses, but I use it in my own life as inspiration for further self discovery, looking back at my past but always looking forward, searching for truth but never being comfortable with easy answers.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    I agree about Medicine. I was like like Jason doubting between several careers (English Philology and Lit, Law, …) and decided on Medicine because English I could study for myself but Medicine is very hard to study by yourself. I did very well the first 4 years but after that family problems + personal problems +getting completely depressed has gotten me to the point of being about to flunk it (luckily here university is relatively cheap and I'm not drowning in debt). I don't want to scare you and Medicine is a beautiful career but it requires quite the effort and time. That said, if you do decide to study it, I wouldn't mind giving you a hand ^^

  • Aurora

    Hi Melissa, I've been reading for awhile, have only commented once or twice. I wrote most of this, then looked back and realized it's awfully nitty-gritty for a such a big and personal topic, but sometimes being able to imagine details can help with the bigger picture stuff, so here it is anyway.

    Have you taken any/many classes outside of a school context? I don't know the details of where you're living, but a lot of places have various cooking and art classes (or sailing, mushrooming, animal training, yoga, poetry, etc.) available. Maybe one of those would be a good place to get a little experience with something school-like. Also, a lot of colleges have lecture series that are free and open to the public. They avoid the grading-and-being-judged aspect of school but can give you the chance to be in college buildings around people whose lives are really focused around school (at least at that moment in their lives). You can take notes, ask questions, perhaps meet people and talk about the topic if you're feeling social and engaged.

    You said you've been wondering if school would be a distraction. Of course, only you can figure that out for yourself, but it seems like school can be a really good place to focus on a lot of the things that clearly really matter to you; self-discovery, intellectual engagement (both with ideas themselves and with other people around ideas), and writing. It may be important for you though, that you pick your earliest school experiences carefully. I don't mean that they should all be central to your future, but that they need to be well taught. A lot of my professors (and high school teachers) would have been very open to an email from a student entering the class explaining that they haven't had much experience with school and that they might need a little help with some of the structural elements of the class (like what academic papers look like and what sort of thing to expect on tests). (And part of being a professor is being available for office hours to talk to individual students who need something extra.) Teachers don't usually like giving extra help/time/chances to students who aren't putting in an effort, but the good ones are usually glad to go out of their ways to help students who engage with the material, do the work (and I don't mean perfectly), and do their best to recognize and do something about their own problems. If a teacher doesn't respond well to an email like that, you might want to consider waiting to take that class until you've had some positive experiences in other classes.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

    "Or maybe it would be better to take a bunch of random classes to figure out what floats my boat."

    Do this. Tell your advisers that you want to keep your options open before you decide on a major. For the first year or two, focus on gen ed courses that will apply to as many majors as possible. A good "Intro To [psychology, geography, anthropology, whatever]" course will include info on careers in that field. Your dream career might be one that you don't know exists yet!

  • Anonymous

    I think what you ought to do is truly challenge yourself. Something that would enable you to doubt yourself, yet allows for no doubt at all, because questioning what you're worth is the first step to failing. That's the kind of job, I think, you should be doing, because you'd be really good at that kind of job. :)

    If you're thinking along those lines, I think you'd be the perfect lawyer. Or even an engineer, if you like mechanics, but I'm biased because I'm going to be an engineer, haha.

    But ultimately, what if you truly want to help people, perhaps you should study sociology and specialize in helping those, who like you, have escaped from similar situations? That would be fantastic, and so perfect. Or, if none of those work for you, you could certainly be a motivational speaker/writer.

    Good luck deciding. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10219032831132156995 Sheila, Canary Islands

    This sounds as though you're finally doing the self discovery that you weren't allowed to do as an adolescent.

    Obviously you know you're own situation far better than I do, but I have two comments.

    1) Your natural ambition was heavily discouraged, so I think you're likely to underestimate your own abilities.
    2) You don't have to get this right first off. It might be an idea to go for a temporary career with a comparatively short, cheap training period and flexible in order to have some money coming in while you work out what you want to do for the next few decades. Massage or catering or the easier levels of counselling might fit.

    And even if you make a less-than-ideal decision about his now, I bet it turns out to be a scenic detour rather than a dead end.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08875211218150475138 Rosa

    I am so happy that you're finding real happiness. It's really lovely to hear about as you put your future self together.

    And, you totally can be an Artist, Mechanic, Doctor, Teacher, Social Worker, Counselor, Coffee shop/Bakery Owner, Writer, Chef, Massage Therapist/Esthetician, Librarian. Just not all at once. Pick one to start with (I'd suggest the easiest to break down into achievable goals, which to me looks like massage therapist or paid writer – I say paid because you already are a writer, a very good one.) But remember you have decades to do things with your life – you can do one, and then another, and then maybe another that's not even on the list yet.

  • Cici

    I wish you luck on your journey. Just an FYI – you do not need a high school diploma or a GED to take classes at Community College. It is a great place to start and is comprised of people of all ages and experiences.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17967070182847617840 kisekileia

    " It might be an idea to go for a temporary career with a comparatively short, cheap training period and flexible in order to have some money coming in while you work out what you want to do for the next few decades"

    This, especially if you do some research on which fields are in demand in your area. That's basically what I'm doing right now. I did a bachelor's degree and found out there are no jobs for people with bachelor's degrees in my subject area, so I'm now in a community college program to train me to do something that's more in demand. What I really want is to go back to university in something totally different than what I did before, where there are more job opportunities and I'd probably get much better marks, but I'm going to need some money coming in to be able to afford that.

  • Musical Atheist

    What a beautiful post. I find reading your account of your journey so inspiring. You know, you're already a pretty good social anthropologist… as well as a very articulate and moving writer. Taking a bunch of different courses at a community college or similar might be a great way to explore, discover the joys of research, be inspired by lots of different things – so what if they don't become your career! And you know, if you don't feel they are too private, you could probably submit some of your blog posts as writing samples if such are required. They are articulate, intelligent and demonstrate an enquiring critical attitude and a well developed authentic personal voice, definitely enough to show your (massive) potential for higher education.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17967070182847617840 kisekileia

    I agree with the idea of going for a temporary career with a short training period, Melissa. Research what fields have jobs in your area, and go for something you can get into relatively quickly and easily. That will let you ease into school and gain confidence in it. It'll also allow you to earn an income while you figure out what you really want to do long-term and get the education to do that.

    I'm basically doing the same thing right now. I have a bachelor's degree (Hon. B.A.) that doesn't qualify me for anything much job-wise, which means I haven't been able to find steady work for a year and a half now–ever since I finished my degree. Right now I'm doing a community college program that is mind-numbingly easy, but will qualify me to work in a field where I can earn enough money to meet my needs. I'm hoping that once I have a job in this field, I can go back and do science at university, and hopefully end up either getting a job in the biotech industry or training to be a pharmacist.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps an internet class would be a nice way to start.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03567549830059823566 Christine

    Looking at what you've already done, I see no reason to believe you aren't going to succeed past your wildest dreams. Just bear in mind – full-time coursework is a full time job (and then some). So is taking care of 4 children under the age of 5. If you manage to do both, that is scarily impressive. If you find the courseload to be difficult, it doesn't mean that you're not smart enough. It means that you might want to scale back to merely "difficult" levels.

    And don't let the patriarchy movement continue to define you. If you choose (honestly choose) to be a cook, you are just as much being yourself, and being a worthwhile person as if you choose to be an engineer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17501113625204052812 Esther Woods

    Your post is very inspiring. While I was reading it, I felt that you were actually speaking to me. You are passionate in what you are writing, which will make your audience to relate more to you.

    associates degree online

  • Caroline

    I came across your blog today and can't stop reading it. Thank you for such an open, honest and human account of your experiences. I grew up in a 3rd world country in a middle class family. There, very early on you learn to curb your dreams to update them to change them. I wanted to be a gymnast. I paraded around in bathing suits doing cartwheels, but I knew it would never happen. There was no gymastics school there my parents would say, but if only we lived in the USA… Then every single one of your dreams could come true. You could become whatever you wish to become. I now know this to be sadly untrue. Today, after reading through many of your posts on a variety of subjects, the biggest shock for me is still that somewhere in American girl was growing up at the same time as me and that someone was telling her that she had to limit her dreams in that land of inifinite possibilities.

  • Jen

    One: You probably can’t be an Artist, Mechanic, Doctor, Teacher, Social Worker, Counselor, Coffee shop/Bakery Owner, Writer, Chef, Massage Therapist/Esthetician, Librarian all rolled into one.

    Ah, but you can be all of those things and more! In fact, you already are! Because you are a Wife & Mother, you are already doing a little bit of each of those things in your daily life. Also, a Teacher, an Artist, and a Writer are careers which include all of the above skills, roles, and then some.

    You may not be able to Do It All, or Be Everything, but none of us can. And yet, even as our culture pushes us towards perfectionism (either conservative christian perfectionism or liberal superwoman/career-mom perfectionism), which isn't real, there are many life skills and career paths that are interdisciplinary, intertwined, and interrelated. That is a Good Thing.

    But what you do, both in a career and in a home with family, still does not constitute Who You Are, and so your Second statement, including all of the things you see in yourself, is still the Truth.

    When you start with your schooling, don't think so much about the end career goals, just start with a few classes, trying things you enjoy doing. That is the point of most traditional 4-year degrees, during freshman year: to open your world to the possibilities. Just start there, and be open, and engage in your already deep love of learning. Meet people, talk to professors and students and your husband, and your path will open up for you with time.

    Because of your gravitational pull towards reading, writing, contemplation, research, hunger for knowledge, sharp and ever-evolving mind, empathy, and gift for storytelling, it seems clear to me that the Writer & Teacher paths are already a large part of who you are. I'm just a casual observer reading many entries of your story, but these are paths that are both intertwined and relevant in countless ways to your interests.

    I would suggest, in your next deep research phase, you look into some Interdisciplinary Arts degrees and Teaching Certifications. All of the Arts are intertwined, and Elementary Educators have to learn all of the subject matter, so I think an approach that combines many of these aspects into one path would speak to you.

  • http://puddinsilovemylife.blogspot.com/ Tonya Richard

    Melissa, I can totally relate to this whole post. You are getting out of the crazy way earlier than I did. I didn’t start truly questioning anything until I was almost 40, and I am 41 now. My whole existence was wrapped up in being a mother and wife. I thought that was all I could or should want to be. Now that I know better, I have no idea who I really want to be. I am lucky that I do enjoy being a mom and staying home with my children, but they will grow up and move away one day. Who am I really? A Mother and wife are only two parts of me, I am still trying to figure out the rest.

    I think this is my first time commenting, but I really enjoy your blog. You are an amazing woman!

  • andrea taylor

    Greetings Melissa,
    Much love and light and inspiration may you continue to have upon your path of never-ending evolution..and self-discovery.
    Your words and accounts are heart-warming…thank you for sharing!

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