I think I might be in the midst of a transition – between who I was and who I’ll be next. I like to think I’ll be many different women in my lifetime if I say “yes” enough! Granted, every moment in life we’re changing to some degree, but at age 31, I’m feeling a greater shift in my identity and nearly feeling the physical stretch of it all.
Who I was as a younger person:
I rejected the physical card that I was dealt. Much like the protagonist in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I wanted to be all American, which to me meant a pointier nose, long hairless legs, and looking good in colors like teal. I had a lot of opinions and ambitions that were concealed with a snotty attitude and generally disliking all things, but it was mostly because I didn’t feel accepted for exactly who I was. I hid behind funny, I hid behind cool. My older sister paved that path of coolness for me for many years, but I suspect her own transitions are to blame for that road drying up for me… All the hiding and all the fabricating didn’t make for real friendships or much life experience other than partying.
I sought validation through boys. I always thought boys were landmines of meanness that I thought I’d forever try to avoid until I learned all they really wanted was to touch my boobs. I leaned into this power more than I leaned into friendships, self-sufficiency, or efficacy. I learned well how to “get” boys, and then I learned well how to “get” men. They liked it when I called them sir (regardless of their age). They liked it when I would be forward and handsy, as I assume they were relieved to learn I wasn’t holding my virginity over their heads. I knew what to say to make people feel seen, and I was content with the idea that I could be of use to them, remind them that they are desirable, and then slither away and on to the next.
Only once I became a weightlifter did I turn all of the attention I sought from others to myself.
I learned that my body was useful (finally), it was really good at getting strong, and lifting a barbell over my head in front of a crowd made me feel like a rockstar. My whole life began to settle around the sport of weightlifting – my high protein diet, my extensive athleisure wardrobe, my friends, my worth, and what I thought would be my entire future.
But even in that world I still fell prey to old tendencies. Wanting to be a propeller for men’s self-esteem made for inappropriate relationships with coaches, which eventually led to power plays and my rising status as an athlete and coach in my community being swat down… I was still hiding things, still scheming. There are just some grooves that are too deep to change entirely, and moving on from that identity will take a lot of undoing.
Having all of this time to look back on that time of life, as I’m so far removed from it by time and miles between where I live and where I lived – I’ve come to learn that something as ordinary as a location change can alter everything. I’ve been able to observe it for what it was, and awesomely I can make decisions about my future. Will I take that girl along with me?
I had been warned that everything I knew would be flipped on its head about now… Yes, I still love to shop, play loud music when I respectably drive a manual, ask others to kill the spiders that cross my path, and still use hashtags as an opportunity for irony instead of what they’re actually for – but a lot of those things are just little elements of how I operate and don’t speak volumes of what kind of person I am.
I can almost see who I’m growing into, and a lot of that is due to trying a lot more newness these days. For a long time, I thought I might’ve already hit my peak in my mid-twenties. My confidence, my appetite for learning, the depth of my relationships, and my physical condition were all at an all-time high. As a young person, I felt more comfortable playing a role or a caricature of who I was, both conscious and as a means of survival. But through the practice of sport and all it showed me, I came to reject many of my old means of self-preservation and damn near crave novelty and unknowns.
I feel this way again now, and this notion alone is how I know I’m in some sort of limbo.
I like to think of myself as more pliable than ever now. Currently, I find myself unafraid of the road not taken, allowing me to feeling transient and incredibly creative. I may not be having the best ideas I’ve had yet, but there’s an inhibition to explore my ideas and even say them out loud. Letting them out to breathe, regardless of their merit is the most freeing thing.
I attribute my lack of interest in image to my age – coined the tumultuous thirties – but I also attribute it to the people who I’ve come to surround myself with and practicing honestywith them. Sure, not everyone has earned hearing it all but through diligent practice with my partner, friends, and family, I have come to build up my integrity solidly. I practice, what I consider to be brave, regularly. Being honest is admitting that I don’t know it all, and doing so no longer feels like exhaustingly propping myself up. I don’t hold my stomach in anymore. I don’t buy clothing that doesn’t really fit me anymore… My sense of self has become someone I like and respect much more than I had up until now, and I don’t even need sport to define that for me anymore.
I always thought growing up meant I would, at some point, transform into a totally different person. But that’s just not true. There are deep grooves and tendencies that I still bump up against, but I recognize them more than ever and actually question whether I still want to carry them along for the journey ahead. I don’t know exactly who I’ll be and the details of my life – where I live, what I’m doing, who I’m with – are all comfortably yet to be determined.
Yes, those very things have had a hand in shaping me, but they’re all external after all. They’re all external representations of what’s happening within. My husband, for instance, is a perfect example of how I finally figured out what I was deserving of romantically. I’m with someone who is kind, supportive, emotionally mature, and also thinks of partnership as a team effort. My profession is still up for grabs. Though for the first time in my life, alongside Cody, I’m participating in growing a business we’ve started. Being my own boss had crossed my mind at times, but I’ve never really seen how it’s done. I always resonated with big boss bitches who dressed snappily, said what they really thought, and had a great eye for innovation. I know I have that in me, and I’m flexing that muscle now – something I could’ve gone my whole life not trying.
I know now that I don’t want to be anyone but me.
I will never be what I aspired to transform into as a young child, and I’ve come to believe that what I’ve got might even be better. It’s alarming to me how many boxes I thought I had to fit myself into, and then to realize finally that there aren’t any boxes….if you don’t want them that is. It’s a lie we buy into far too young if you aske me.
Living out in the county I’ve come to see how much I thought about adult life was a construct, and that I wasn’t just rejecting the rule book – turns out there isn’t one at all. It might’ve begun well before I moved to the country – I married my husband (16 years older than I) at 28 – we had very little figured out beyond that we deeply trusted each other and though what might’ve looked like red flags, it all felt right. Fuck red flags. None of them were reg flags by my means anyway.
Giving less fucks I think, is inevitable as we age, but looking around and simply questioning “what is serving me” and ridding myself of all things that aren’t has allowed me to more deeply grasp who I am and feeling optimistic about my future. I don’t encourage scratching out all things that cause friction – no, no – but I do invite you to free up some of the seemingly concrete structures that lay ahead of you. Be curious about what attracts you, about where your relationships might go, and what opens up when you let the wind carry you a bit more. I love having complete and total control over my life, I really do, but what’s the fun in knowing where it all goes? Letting go feels pretty damn good!
Smiling in the face of challenges, intrinsically believing that you’ll be alright, and carefully curating who you are surrounded by can shuffle the cards drastically. Always one for novelty and shock value, I believe taking any sort of step forward, within or outside of your comfort zone, can illuminate the infinite opportunities around us. Closing ourselves off to possibility is what makes life colorless, sticky, and sad.
My desire to forge a new path has felt mysterious at times – why now, why not earlier, and will it stay? To find comfort in discomfort is no static state of being. But I’m grateful to feel inventive, to be producing something I’ve never done before, and to be secure saying I just don’t know when I truly don’t. It just feels like I’m far more interested in finding out what happens rather than having it all laid out for me.