05/07/2020

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I‘ve been feeling pretty out of sorts for a while now, however, I think most people can relate given the current situation. Being in lockdown for the past few months has given me time to think about what my priorities and values are. It also kickstarted a period of self-reflection and helped unearthed some clarity about what I want in my life, both now and in the future.

The last time I really felt this way was about twenty-odd years ago when I was an angst-ridden teenager dealing with an unimaginable amount of nonsense. It felt like I went from being a relatively care-free kid to living in some intense adult conditions practically overnight. I struggled to adapt and my reaction to most things was to rebel. When people commented on my body or incited conversations I wasn’t ready or mature enough to be a part of, I’d get another piercing or dye my hair pink or deliberately dress provocatively as a juvenile attempt to reclaim my own identity. I soon got used to being defined by labels.

A few weeks after my seventeenth birthday, I gained a new label – mum. An unexpected twist but one I embraced and I slowly learnt how to fulfil the role, even doing it all over again three years later. I picked up many other contradictory labels in the decade or so that followed. Some self-imposed, some fabricated by others. Some accurate and some not so much – introvert; victim; wife; fragile; reckless; quiet; auntie; sensitive; codependent; colleague; scared; stoic; mistaken; lover; weak; friend; widow; strong; pushover. By the time I was in my early thirties, I had a pretty concrete sense of who I was.

My girls slowly began to grow up and, when the lockdown restrictions were put in place earlier this year, my eldest decided to temporarily move out of our family home and stay with her boyfriend until it was safe to return. Even though she’s a fully-fledged adult now after turning twenty a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time we’d ever been apart for more than a week. Things got weird after that. I’d find myself bursting into tears every time we ended a phone call or when I saw a picture of us together. I was haunted by a persistent feeling of being unsettled and incomplete while carrying on with the whole ‘business as usual’ facade.

After forcing myself to address whatever unexpected shift was going on in my head, I understood that, for more than half of my entire life, I’d pinned most of my identity on being ‘mum’. It was intertwined deeply into that solid family unit we became and the life-changing experiences we have been through together as a trio. My girls were my safety net.

Now that they no longer depend on me in the same way, I’ve had to start contemplating what my life might look like when they fly the nest for good. That vast blank canvas on the horizon scared me. After a heartfelt outpour to my nearest and dearest, they gently reminded me that my ‘job’ was almost done and that this unfamiliar impending freedom and the possibilities it offers should be something to look forward to, not fear.

The Identity Crisis Lisa Valentine Blogs (1)

The future of my blog has also been uncertain recently as the industry has changed drastically since I first began. Many of the more organic, old-school lifestyle bloggers have bowed out of the game and I’m questioning if I have a place as a more modern ‘influencer’ in this day and age. Alongside that, I don’t know if I want to keep sharing my life online anymore. I do tend to go through this thought process at least a few times a year so it’s a story for another day perhaps.

I love to write and know that my experience and skills are strong, however, my voice isn’t and I’m not sure that my elbows are sharp enough for me to truly progress in a corporate environment. I’ve never had an interest in climbing the ladder, especially not via traditional, autocratic management roles. Instead, I’d like to be involved in some form of mentoring one day, to help others bloom and gain confidence, to gently guide them as they realise their own potential, strengths and ambitions but I don’t know what that looks like yet or when that could be made a reality.

Another misconception about myself that I’ve had to address is my previous tendency to hibernate. I always thought I was a cliche introvert, an INFJ who needed plenty of time alone in order to function. The first week of lockdown was manageable but in another unexpected plot twist, it turns out that I thrive on connection and human contact and I pined for my friendships so much that it hurt. Even at my big age, I’m still surprising myself; maybe I’m not the antisocial hermit I’d always pigeonholed myself as.

I now realise that none of us should be defined by labels. We’re a complex accumulation of all those little things that make us unique. Me? I like to give a home to rescue cats and I have a Pinterest board solely dedicated to my ‘One Day’ home. I adore music and biscuits and romance and long conversations. I cry when I read about injustice and repression. I value wellbeing – in myself and others – compassion and sincerity over anything else, especially over social status and wealth. I lean more towards spirituality than religion but will never judge you on your own beliefs. I know my own strengths and weaknesses and will challenge myself to keep evolving, remembering that identity can be transitional as we learn and grow.


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