As I thumbed through some of my old journals, I admit that I hardly recognized my own penmanship or the stories that I had shared in them. You see, when I was growing up, I often took on the penmanship of the people who were around me.
In my middle school days, my best friend had tiny bubbly letters. In my early high school days, my best friend had slanted handwriting where the letters were tight and neatly woven together. In the last part of my high school years, I noticed that my handwriting became larger and took up the entire line of space, rather than the tight & neat letters from the years previous.
I think that example of my handwriting is a great way to explain how I was when I was growing up. The people I surrounded myself with seemed to shape me the most. If I was surrounded by my friends from church, I was passionate about God and had a desire to work in missionary work. As I ventured away from this crowd, however, I became passionate about other things in my life that had less meaning. No matter who I surrounded myself with, I never surrounded myself with myself.
When I got married, we moved away from our family and friends and relocated to the East coast. It was a tough transition for someone in their early twenties who had never been on her own or away from her family for any length of time. It was frightening to move away from all that I loved to start a new life, but more frightening for me was the fact that I had no one to help me be who I should be. How would I know how to act without the guidance of my friends? With only my husband and a cat, it was a very lonely time for me, but one that I credit as the reason for being who I am now. Since I had no one to look to, I began to discover who I was and who I wanted to become. I decided that I could sit around moping about my lack of friends or I could jump in and discover more about where we were living. With a new desire and purpose for our life there, we began to really enjoy where we were and I began to discover the person I could become.
I took a job as a waitress and as an administrative assistant in our first year there. Through these jobs, I discovered that I don’t enjoy waiting on others and that I have no desire to be in a position to serve others or to make coffee. My next job, working in insurance, taught me that I love to work with people and to feel that I can help them. I was able to learn an entirely different field and I was good at it. I loved the paperwork and the hustle and bustle of the job, although I found that I can become easily bored if I am not overloaded with work. After finally discovering what I loved, I found a new discovery … being a mother.
I discovered that I wasn’t that great at it. I loved my son, but had to return to work and although I was sad to leave him, the feelings of attachment weren’t there. I discovered guilt and shame for not loving him the way, that I felt, a mother should. After a time of unemployment, my husband found a job and the job he secured brought us back to the place we had grown up. I had to question why God would put us back in the spot that we started from. After having finally established ourselves and finally discovering who I was, I had to be planted back into the same old place I was before. It hardly seemed fair and I found myself digressing instead of progressing. When you have reinvented yourself and created a new life for yourself, returning to the people who knew you before is very difficult. The person that they remembered, that they didn’t like, that maybe they cared deeply for was a different person since she returned. To try and convince others you are different is hard though, particularly your own family who loved you the way you were.
As we have become more settled though, I have realized that maybe I will never prove to anyone that I am a different person than I was growing up. They will remember me as they have always remembered me- maybe as a beloved daughter and friend, maybe as the girl who ruined their junior year in high school, maybe as someone who was driven by her peers … and I have learned to accept that. I am making amends with the person I was before and although she was a nice girl at heart, she wasn’t my favorite person either. The person I am now though, I couldn’t be more proud of.
I am a wonderful mother, although I would have never known I could do it, and I am so in love with my children. I am a good wife who loves her husband the way that she should, even if I used to be a crappy girlfriend. I am a good person, even though I try far too hard to get people to like me when I should be more myself. I am a good friend, if you will let me be your friend. These are times of discovery for me. It makes me sad that it took me almost thirty years to get to this place in my life. Maybe in another thirty years, I will look back and think how I had no idea of who I really was, just as I look back on my life before.
Through this journey though, I have found my own handwriting and my own self. It has been a time of rediscovery for me and I am happy to say that I am finally learning to love myself.
By Amy Allen Clark