Let’s go back to three months ago, about the last time I wrote a blog post. It was a dark and stormy afternoon. One of those scary sort of storms right out of a movie that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Derrick and I were out exploring the Philadelphia Zoo (America’s first zoo, and also the home of James McAvoy’s 24 split identities) when the rain makes its flash flood appearance. By the time we get home, we’re soaked. As we mindlessly work to peel off our pasted on layers, I casually pick up the mail. We’ve received two pieces labelled Priority Mail. I open one with my name on it, and stare. After three years in red tape purgatory, my work authorization has arrived. This has been the letter I’ve been waiting for. Yet as we pour the champagne, my sense of identity instantly falls apart.
First I was the struggling Canadian trying to find my way in America. Then the life of a retiree set in, volunteering around the city, and watching too much TV. The Trophy Husband who cooks (some), and cleans (enough), waiting (in my apron) for my husband to come home. The blogger. The movie critic. The gym bunny in training. Over the previous few months I felt more internal peace than I had since we arrived. I had finally embraced these roles as enough, and had stopped pushing against my circumstance. Now in this single moment, when the ability to work in the US shows up at my door, it feels like 24 steps backwards, instead of a giant leap forward. Funny that when the thing we’ve been wanting finally happens, it’s not the internal firework show that we expect.
The few people I told replied with jubilant excitement, which only made my new uncertainty amplified. So instead of shouting this news from our rooftop, I buried it. I felt shame. I felt pressure that I needed to find a job yesterday, that I owed it to Derrick, and to my own life story. Self doubt overcame me; that maybe I couldn’t do what I used to be able to do. A weighted feeling of judgment that I hadn’t got myself together, and what was I doing wasting all of that time? I was given this game changing decision that was nagging for an immediate response. I froze. I stopped blogging, thinking I had lost my story. Instead of seeing the opportunity door open, I could only stare at the vast blank wall, stunned. Does this mean I need to start all over again?
Instead of charging through the door, and going on achiever autopilot like the old Mike Plumton would have, I paused. I also stepped out from the wall, to get a better picture of all that is in front of me. I gave myself permission to pause, and to sort this identity crisis into an identity resolution.
It has been a very messy three months. Overwhelming. Scary. Lonely. Yet clarifying. Hopeful. Meaningful. I tried to do too many things right off the bat. I tried to launch my new direction without really thinking out a plan. I wanted to do everything and more. I panicked and decided (briefly) that the same old is the easiest and therefore is the practical path I should take. My too many identities were fighting. I stepped away again. I need to find my resolution.
There has to be a way that I can (and you can) own these different identities. Just because a new big change has arrived, doesn’t mean everything else has to disappear. If I have one key takeaway from my semi-retirement years, it’s that all of those identities matter, not just on weekends. They are all priorities that shift from one day to the other, yet always stay as priorities. The old saying of less is more is very true, if we focus more on what we want, and less on everything else.
It’s all taken a lot longer than I expected, but I think the exact amount of time that I needed. This journey is not a straight forward one, nor is it over. It takes work. Conflicting identities can (and do) coexist within in us, and they all need to lead.
For me to live these identities well, I prioritized which ones truly resonated with me. I gave space to evaluate and drop those that aren’t serving me, and to focus on those that bring me the growth that inspires, and that joy that pushes me. Our identities are so much more than a job.
With this new working life chapter, I am going for the American Dream: The ideal that every US citizen (or in our case, US alien) should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative (thank you Google!). I have taken my favorite parts of my last three years, and have started my own business based in coaching, training, and travel, all based in personalization and positive psychology (stay tuned!). The American Dream also applies to the other parts of my life. I am continuing to see as many movies as possible. I have cut back my volunteering scope from four places to one. Derrick and I are cooking more together. I have a prioritized gym schedule instead of just “going whenever”. I realized how much I value flexibility and creativity, and how thrive when I have clear goals and a more defined schedules. Conflicting identities working together.
In many ways, I am getting lost and found all over again. And I think I’m okay with it.
To be continued… next year 🙂