I can say with full validation that I have dismantled, deconstructed, re-built, revised and destroyed many, many various identities over the course of my life. From being born into the role of an abused child of an alcoholic Mother, that led me to be a runaway addict, becoming a US Navy Petty Officer, to then becoming a fitness trainer, yoga instructor and a database specialist with NASA. We are always ONE decision away from changing who we THINK we are in this world. Yet, so often many people live their entire lives operating out of the downloads and imprints of identity that were handed down to them from their parents, family and social environments.
For me, all the early imprints never seemed to align, I never felt like I “fit in” even in the dynamics of my family. My thinking was always outside of the box, even early on, sitting back at holiday gatherings wondering, who are these people and was I delivered to the wrong bunch? Nothing in my environments made me feel understood, Catholicism was terrifying, hours of endless chores listed on a wall were baffling, all of this rigidity was suffocating and it never felt like it made any sense. School was boring, I never felt like I was learning anything that would lend to my survival out in the world. Any time I’d questioned things, no one had any answers or they looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. In the midst of it all, I was debilitatingly shy, yet somehow in the “popular crowd” during junior high and into my limited time at high school.
By the time 9th grade came, I could no longer take the confinement and constructs, my soul was screaming to be free. I befriended an older friend of my sisters’, who was in an abusive environment at home. We quickly collaborated and would “skip” school. I recall how the idea of having nothing to do all day, no one telling us where to be, how to be just to savor the hours of freedom. That feeling and sensation quickly began to override any rationality, we devised to run away from Ohio to Florida, and we did just that for several months. Me, all of the age of 15, she was 18 and we were free, free to create our lives however we felt to, no rules, no structured protocols. Not having the emotional maturity to construct a real identity, we both allowed that sense of freedom and escapism from “reality” to run the show. Needless to say, a lot of abuse of alcohol and eventually drugs amplified things.
After a few months, I didn’t want to be this “person” anymore, it was becoming too much, too painful. I craved the structure, the security of “home” and parents, yet upon my return I was not welcomed with open arms. In fact, my family disowned me to some extent and I was left alone to navigate the choppy waters of the world. Who am I? I am turning into an addict, just like my Mother, just like most of her siblings. This isn’t who I want to be…I’ll die if I continue on this path, and for the next few years I drank, I drank to escape, to not have to be anyone in the world, to not have to make concrete decisions, to not conform, to not play the standard template life.
Until after a few years of waking up with a terrible hangover and no recollection of how I made it home the night before, I looked at my reflection as I was getting ready to work my second shift as a hotel front desk clerk. I was in my 30’s, overweight, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, living off fast food, closing the bar every night and quite frankly disgusted at the reflection of the shell of the human being that was looking back at me. Who are you? Nothing, pathetic, no one. That’s the voice that answered me in contemplation.
Who do you want to be? Someone of value, with a purpose, with pride and walking in integrity and dignity.
How are you going to be that person? Join the military…someone needs to knock the chip off your shoulder, someone needs to give you lines so you know how to clearly
drive and navigate in this world.
A few hours later, I was at the recruiter, I signed my life away. Now I can be of use, of
service in this world.
You would think this decision would be the answer to a “good noble life” lived with purpose and integrity, but that voice that screamed and overpowered me at a young age, that felt the confinement, came raging back louder than ever after a couple years into the military career.
I’ll spare the details of the trajectory my life took because of this one decision, this ONE moment in time that set the rest of my life up to be on a totally different path than I could have ever imagined.
Through the variations of the years that have followed, when most hear my story, they’d say, “I’m shocked you’ve lived through it all!” or “you have lived such an EXTRA-ordinary life.” I have, I have not only survived through it all, but have chosen to thrive. I took all these “labels” over the course of time, examined them to see if they were MY truth and ultimately got rid of mostly anything that I began this life with. You are the creator of your identity, YOU have the power to construct WHO you ARE in this world and at any given time step into that new identity and when it no longer serves you or rings true to your higher self, GET RID OF IT and start fresh. We are here to create, to live EXTRA-ORDINARY lives…we are limitless and only confined by the constructs of our minds.
Who do you want to be?
How are YOU going to be that person?