Is this what an identity crisis feels like?

I’ve been chewing on this question for about a month now. Silently wondering who I am, and who I’m trying to become. Do I let go of who I was, let her fade into the back of my memory? I can draw a distinct line at the changing point between who I used to be and who I am now. His name is “J”, and on our wedding day this June will mark 4 years since we started dating and since my perspective of myself changed irreversibly.

Who I used to be:

  • Young, single mom
  • Welfare recipient
  • Non-traditional college student
  • An advocate for underprivileged and underserved women
  • Passionate about helping others and social welfare causes
  • Involved in activities to support all the above
  • Someone who worked their ass off no matter how tired to get shit done

Then.

Who I am now:

  • Young, not single mom
  • Administrative assistant in a trade association
  • A hateful, jaded person that is socially awkward and inept
  • Someone’s fiancé
  • Still broke, but not on welfare anymore
  • Someone who is lazy and self-centered

Now.

Who I want to become:

  • ?

Up until the past couple of years, I considered myself a single mom. I still do, but saying it out loud makes me feel guilty to my fiancé who has taken on the role of step-father long before necessary and shares with me the emotional, financial and logistical issues of raising a child. On the inside though, I still feel like I’m the only parent my daughter has. I can’t explain why. She’s my baby. So I’m now a not-so-single mom. Not sure how to get comfortable in this two-parent situation, it feels funny and itchy still.

Up until a couple of years before that, I considered myself a welfare mom. I embraced that title and shoved it into the face of many unsuspecting nosy people for the shock value. I enjoyed the confused looks of people trying to understand this white, clean, university attending, seemingly normal person who was on welfare. I don’t exactly fit the stereotype.. in fact I’m the opposite of what might come to mind when you think about Welfare Queens. That was always my “thing” – it defined who I was. Because of my education (and sadly, my appearance) I was in a unique position to advocate for welfare recipients. I hooked up with the right kinds of mentors and professors at college and had an internship that opened up lots of doors for me. I published an article (that people actually read!), I spoke to my peers in their social welfare classes about my experiences… Again, getting welfare was literally who I was.

Then I graduated. I stopped getting welfare. Real Life slapped me like a little bitch and brought me to my knees before I could even realize what was happening. It was 2008 and I couldn’t get a job to save my life, let alone one in the human services field. I spent those first few months in a dark place where money was not enough and the stress was too much.

That was a weird time for me. Any activities that did not put food on the table or keep the lights on came to a screeching halt. Nothing else mattered but surviving, and once things started getting better – I never really went back to all the things I was involved in before. Then along came J and BAM here I am.

Don’t get me wrong – the change that came with being in this relationship is not bad. The problem is that it’s different, and I don’t do change very well. Everything I used to identify myself with is gone, and I have all these new things all at once that I don’t know what to do with. The new job in a different industry that makes my BA degree useless.. little J’s friend’s moms are my mom’s age and don’t want to be friends with me.. my friends are disappearing due to family obligations and geographic distances.. I’m broke but not enough to be on welfare.. my daughter considers my fiancé her “Dad”.. my Dad recently dumped me..

I’m really not sure what all of this means for my future. I guess this would be considered a “crossroads” – however I like consistency and predictability in my life. All of this change and all of it at once has got me questioning who the hell I am and as cliché as it sounds: what is my purpose? Am I really destined to be just some kid’s mom, the GS cookie coordinator, the administrative assistant, the little young woman who other women are nice to but don’t invite over to hang out?  It all feels awfully unsatisfying.

I know it’s within me to make my own path, but how do I start if I don’t know where I want to go? As sad as it is, I don’t want to be the person I used to be. So how do I come up with a whole new identity? Doing so with this blog was a monumental task in itself, I can’t even imagine the same type of overhaul for my LIFE!

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10 thoughts on “Is this what an identity crisis feels like?

  1. Boy, I can relate! I’ve been through so many transitions and identity-changes in my life that the only one I’m really left with is, “Well, I’m…. different?” One thing I’ve come to conclude is it can’t be what’s happening to us that gives us our identity, but rather how we handle it. So for your situation, maybe you’re not on welfare anymore, but maybe you’re still the kind of person who’s always going to stick up for the little guy? If that’s who you want to be, then be it… there are always going to be little-guys out there who need people sticking up for them, no matter your station in life!

    If it helps, I think it’s a good sign that you’re actually thinking about it… It can be so much easier to just close your eyes go with the flow, and then later wonder how you ended up where you are. Good luck! :)

    • :) I always enjoy your thoughts.. thank you so much for continuing to read my stuff on this new blog! Those little guys out there.. my heart still pulls in that direction but my head is like pfffft, get over it. Living in the DC area would mean going back for an MS degree to get back into the same type of work I was doing in DE. And I’m not sure that it would satisfy me in the same way now that I’m so far removed from the world of underdogs.. the “system” here is drastically different. I like where I work now but I feel no connections to the membership of our association (the dental industry). I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up anymore!

      • Ohhh, I missed that you were talking about a career-identity crisis. Ha, I’m no help there, except that I don’t think one’s career and identity have to be the same, any more than “who you are” and “what you do from 9-5” have to be the same. After all, part of who you are is a mom who has a roof to help put over everyone’s heads :-) If you want my advice (and if not that’s OK too!), I’d suggest you work through your identity crisis before figuring out what you want to be when you grow up.

        Also, I missed you were a health care admin! Woot, that makes two of us!

        • Hum. You raise a really good point here… I hadn’t really given thought to whether my identity crises is career or life oriented. I was just mushing it up all together for the sake of the post. Interesting nugget to think about today… thank you :)

  2. I have been doing the same thing lately. I am now 40 and I feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere in my life and I feel stuck. I’m not even an Admin assistant and I wonder how I am supposed to support two kids and a wife on less than that. Writing has come along for me at this time and has made me feel like I love it so much I want to do it forever and all the time. I don’t know how to make a career of it yet, but I want to. The immediate need (feeding the family) outweighs the joy (writing) and I hope to someday be able to do what I love as opposed to what I do career wise.

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