I am standing witness to my story.
When the idea first started to tug at my soul I resisted it. Too afraid and overwhelmed of what it might mean. What it might cost me. What it would require me to examine. I pushed it down.
But when something’s being born in you, you can only shove it down so many times.
Is it time to leave this organization? This company I love?
I couldn’t yet consider leaving China.
China had become so intertwined with my identity it became the most prominent adjective describing me. Oh you’re the China daughter. The aunt who lives in China. The college friend in China. The foreign teacher in China. The sister in China. What word is used over and over and over? Not daughter, aunt, friend, teacher or sister.
Even now as I write this, I’m not sure I’m going to share it with you.
This is my greatest fear. What if China is what makes me and the story of my life interesting and without her, I’m dull. I fear that I may not matter and people only listened to be because I was a bit exotic.
If you’re like me, this is the part you want to rush in, to interrupt and say, “No, no, YOU are interesting. I like you. China, sure, she’s nice too.”
But don’t we all wonder?
What makes our story enticing to others? What draws people to us?
Once we’ve been in a certain plot line long enough, sorting through strands can be a bit like untangling a messy ball of yarn. How much do our jobs, our roles, our family define us?
We are made to be communal. To ebb and flow. Of course our jobs, our locations, our children are going to leave their marks on us, like waves hitting the beaches. They will change the contours of our soul’s shorelines.
But don’t you at times wonder who you are? Really are?
Like Jacob, I wrestled. If only it had been for one night and not long and hard! I wrestled with the calling I have and the longevity and my identity. When you’ve thrown your lot in so long with a place and a people and loyalty is also your story, what does it mean to move on? To outgrow? To hear other whispers?
Was I willing to stay in a story I thought was interesting on the surface so that people would think I am interesting even though I was fading in it? Was I the kind of person who cared so much about others opinions I was willing to prostitute myself to being interesting? Was being interesting my altar?
I too, now walk with a limp. It’s metaphorical and I don’t show it all that often. But my identity has taken a hit. I feel like a mom whose last child has flown the nest. But I have no children to point to. Instead I’m the one who has flown. And a part of me will always be China Amy. The daughter, sister, friend, aunt who lived in China.
Now I’m having to find out who I am without China in my daily life. The story will continue, but the plot isn’t as predictable as it was. There is comfort in predictability, isn’t there?
Parts of this new phase are exciting. I needed a change. But fear is here too. And loss.
What will become the new defining adjective? How long will it take? What if I really am boring? It is tempting to rush through this in-between phase of life and to hurry on to the next thing. Yet there is much life to be lived here too, in the in-between phase.
I’m too close to it to see clearly. But I am far enough into this identity changing process to be glad I listened to the voice that wouldn’t let me go instead of clinging to my idea of who I am.
Have you walked away from one of the most defining parts of yourself (or had it walk away from you)? What adjective if used most frequently to describe you?