This question, Who Are You?, has bounced around in my life for years. At first, I thought that the definition of Lynette was something as simple as going back to who I was before marriage, kids, houses, pets, volunteer work, and life. No luck. When I tried, and repeatedly failed, to get a job doing what I had done for almost 10 years prior to the addition of offspring, I stopped and reassessed my goals. And I came up with more questions.
What do you love to do? What are you good at? What do you want to do for the rest of your career, which is now closer to the finish line than ever before?
I finally narrowed things down to two loves: animals and party planning. After a year of volunteering at a local humane society, I narrowed my focus even more: animals. I became a vet tech. I even went to school to become certified. My degree was over 50% complete when my marriage ended. I found myself having to pay my own mortgage along with all my other bills and tuition just didn’t fit into my new budget. So I quit school. I still work as a vet tech–May will mark 3 years. I am very proud of that. But here’s the kicker: I am getting old (she said in a loud, stage whisper).
Okay, so maybe not old, but definitely oldER. I will be 49 this year. My bones creak and groan louder than ever, my eyesight gets worse every year, and my stamina is about that of–well, something with little stamina. And being a vet tech really requires that those things work well. So now I am faced with change once again.
As I have moved along this path of healing from divorce, my therapist/guardian angel Sue Ann encouraged me to complete an exercise. She asked me to write 4 paragraphs about myself. Each paragraph would encompass a description of who I was (or at least how I perceived myself) at various times throughout my life, i.e., pre-marriage, in the thick of my career as mom/super volunteer, after we moved back to Florida (when my volunteer days ended), and now. It was an intriguing exercise because it made me catalog my life in a way that I had never done before. I always had forward thoughts such as “one day I will be or do_____.” This time, though, I looked back long enough to see the path my life had taken.
And I made a somewhat surprising discovery. I realized just how much of myself I had lost during those middle years of my life. Obviously, it is an integral part of marriage to lose a bit of your individuality. But I really lost myself towards the end. I forgot what was important to me, to my husband, to my marriage, to my family. I forgot what I was good at. I lost all joy in my life. I was plodding along like an automaton simply waiting for someone to enter the next set of commands, which I duly completed. I looked at the person I had become and I asked myself, “Who was that??”
Sue Ann then gave me another exercise: start cataloging things that appealed to the “now” Lynette. Try different things out and see how they fit. Sift through each experience and take away from it just what was positive and move on to something else if it wasn’t a fit. So I made a list.
I’ve never been a big foodie, per se. Don’t get me wrong. I love food. Want me to judge Krispy Kreme vs. Dunkin Donuts? Krispy Kreme will win hands down every time. I don’t think that really qualifies, however, as possessing a discriminating palate, in the strictest “foodie” sense. So cooking classes were out. I’m exceptionally UN-athletic, so team sports/social clubs wasn’t a good option either. I tried a few Meet-Up groups but they all seemed awkward and even cliquish so I bailed out of those as well.
I finally settled on my first two adventures: photography and acting.
I have always loved photography and have a wonderful camera, which makes me look like a better photographer than I am. So I took my first course, joined a local photography club, and began learning what makes a good photograph. That was simple. And fairly anonymous. I might just be good at this redefining myself stuff.
Oh wait, I mentioned acting, didn’t I? While photography might be simple, acting, on the other hand, is so far out of my comfort zone I’m in a different country! And its not just any kind of acting. It’s improv acting. Think “Second City TV” or “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
I signed up for an 8-week course. Hey, go big or go home, right? I figure by the end of 8 weeks I will either be well on my way to my next career, or I will sift it out into the “been there, done that, won’t mention it to anyone ever again” pile.
Something is starting to become clear to me: the experiences themselves are not so important. No. What is important is simply trying, and by trying, I am learning more about ME. I am not who I was when I got married. Life altered my persona. Whether it honed it, reshaped it, refined it, or just changed it altogether, is something I’m still figuring out. But what I am figuring out is, who am I now? And what must I do to be true to that person? I don’t have the answers to those questions just yet, but I do know that right now it is an ever-changing landscape. And in my most honest moments, I have to confess, it is a bit exciting. Terrifying, yes. But then nothing worth having was ever easy, right?
I just have to keep trying. The rest will fall into place.