Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Journal Topic: Who I Am Today...

What has it taken to allow you to be who you are today?

I have to say, I love this topic already!  A person truly is a combination of all their experiences, and I am no exception.  What has it taken to allow me to be the person I am today?  Well... everything!  

My parents are good, moral, strong people with amazing faith in God and love for family and country.  They taught me to love everyone, even if they don't deserve it.  Or perhaps especially when they don't deserve it, because that's when people need to be loved the most!  From this foundation, I took away some important lessons and inner strength that I know are the reasons I have been able to rise from so many ashes in my adult life.  

My teenage years, while filled with the normal angst of adolescence were very good nonetheless.  I have my share of emo poetry and songs - yes songs - written with tears dripping onto the page about unrequited love and loss.  But in the midst of what is normally a very dark time for a lot of kids, I discovered a new source of confidence and inner strength.  Artistic expression.  Writing, singing, acting... these things were always there for me to use when I needed to release some angst, anger, or anything else I may have been feeling at the time.  While I was never one of the most popular kids in school, I always knew everyone and they knew who I was because of high school show ensemble and drama club.  They got to see something in me that they did not have, and knowing that made me feel better about the things about them that I didn't have (beauty and wealth being the two most important to me at the time) but I had talent and that was important too.  I did not win "most talented" in my high school, but I was on the ballot.  That made me feel accepted and happy that people recognized that I had something to offer.  

My first experience with college was not successful.  A music major takes more dedication and love for the mechanics of music than I had at the time and I wasn't willing to study it to the point that it made me hate even listening to it anymore.  It was during this time that I got serious with my ex husband and we got married.  This experience really shaped who I am now.  And while our union was brief, I learned so much from it, about myself and about relationships, that I feel completely and totally prepared for my upcoming marriage and I know that this time, I have it right.  

I became an aunt before getting married.  That was life changing.  I've never loved another human the way I love my sister's kids.  They are so special to me.

After my divorce, I withdrew.  I didn't want to be with anyone, didn't want to have relationships, didn't want to connect with anyone in any meaningful way.  I had a friend who told me about 3 weeks after my divorce that she was amazed at how strong I was and how well I was handling everything.  I wasn't handling it very well.  I was heartbroken, devastated, and extremely depressed.  I even took antidepressants for awhile because I couldn't eat or sleep.  

But what can a person do in these situations but go on?  After a mourning period of a few months, I enrolled back in school and focused on that.  It was the best thing I could have done for myself at that time.  I worked my butt off in school, working full time while going to class full time, until I finally graduated in 2004, the first in my immediate family to earn a college degree.  I have never been more proud of myself than I was on that day.  And the ex husband played pomp and circumstance at my graduation, having re-enrolled in school himself after our divorce and still working on his degree.  

I was the only person who graduated from my program with a job lined up, ready to start as soon as graduation was over.  I worked for a nonprofit food bank for 3 years and it was a great first job. Disaster relief, dealing with hunger and poverty, and even going through a little poverty myself as the job did not pay very well, I learned a lot about the world outside my small tunnel.  

While working for this job, I became involved in local community theatre again and it was like fireworks on a dark night for me!  I felt alive again, and loved every moment I spent at that small, beautiful building.

When it was time to move on to something a little more responsible and with a little better compensation, I started working for a local Habitat affiliate.  That was also a great job, although the leadership of the affiliate was not exactly up to par and made kind of bad decisions.  These decisions led them to layoffs during the recession, and that's when I lost my job.  Another dark moment that led to growth as a person.

But also while working for Habitat, I got a message from a young man on an online dating site.  Through email first, then IM, then phone conversations, we started to get to know each other better.  When we finally met in person, it was comfortable and easy.  And in one month, we are getting married.  He has been a constant source of support and love for me since we started our relationship, and I am grateful for it every day.  People asked me how I managed to deal with six months of unemployment without going crazy, because they know me and they know how much I like to be contributing to society in a meaningful way.  I smile and tell them it wasn't so bad, because I got to practice being a housewife.  And I know if we are in the position financially, I will have no problems whatsoever being a stay at home mom.

Now in my current job I am able to contribute to society once again, this time in city government.  It is interesting and fun, and I'm learning how different it is from nonprofit.

I can't wait to be a wife.  And a mother.  Five years ago, I never would have believed I would be here.

Every single step I've taken in my life, every mistake I've made, and every right decision - every hardship and every joy - every sorrow and every happy moment, has shaped me in some way and made me the person I am today.  

And you know what?  I'm really, really happy with the person I have become.  Maybe we need to go through the fire to be refined into something beautiful.  Maybe I needed these difficulties to realize just what I needed to be and to help me become that person.  Maybe everything happens for a reason after all.

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