I’m proud to be a member of the national leadership honor society Omicron Delta Kappa. Throughout my education—believe it or not—I was super neurotic about participating with enthusiasm and leading others in the things I loved to do (re: overachieving). Yes; there was a time in my life when something was more important to me than cheese, and that thing was a college club called “Fakespeare” where I was co-president, and where I once portrayed Hamlet’s Ophelia as a contestant on a dating show. (I don’t completely remember the skit, but I’m willing to bet it didn’t end well for Ophelia…things rarely end well for Ophelia.)
Anyway, I’ve been receiving frequent (re: incessant) cards in the mail from ODK, requesting I call a hotline to update my information for their first-ever membership directory section in a very special publication coming out later this year. Normally I’d ignore these cards, but I like ODK, and I recently found out that my membership in the society gets me a discount on my car insurance. PERKS OF BEING A NERD-FLOWER.
So after I received my fourth reminder in the mail, I called the hotline. They just wanted some basic information: my full name, my place of business, my occupation, etc. Which, in their defense, really is basic information, and should never be difficult for a normal person to rattle off over the phone.
But from the very first question, “What is your full name?”, I had no idea how to respond.
Now, before you think I’m exhibiting early-onset Alzheimer’s, I am perfectly lucid and am 99% sure I know what my name is. What I don’t know, however, is what my name will be when this first-ever-very-special Omicron Delta Kappa publication is released.
I don’t know what my name will be. I don’t know what my place of work will be. And I certainly don’t know what my occupation will be anymore, unless I can ascribe it to more general occupational ideas like “daughter” and “animal lover” and “Jeopardy-enthusiast-who-isn’t-actually-very-good-at-Jeopardy.” (That last one’s probably too long to fit in my printed bio anyway.)
The truth is that I don’t know what my life will be by the time this publication comes out. All I know is what it won’t be, and all the won’ts burst simultaneously to life during this phone call.
So I told the woman at the other end of the hotline what my life is right now, and declined to pre-order two hardback copies of the book for $49.95 each, because that’s too much money to spend on something that, by the time its ink is set permanently in its paper, will essentially be filled with my lies. Or my footprints.
It took some time, but I’m finally feeling comfortable that, soon, a large part of my identity will be “wife.” And “army wife.” And all the little identities attached to those larger identities, and to the ones I’ll never lose. But what about the identities I have now? The person I am in them now? Is she just a lie (or a footprint) attached to some ink and some paper? When she no longer exists in me, does somebody steal her identity for their own identity, and in a few years when you Google some iteration of my name, the first result is the Facebook profile of a 46-year-old Norwegian automechanic who is still in the process of hacking all my credit cards and stealing my social security number?
It’s not uncalled for during a time of change to question your identity. The time of change, for me, hasn’t happened yet. But, like everything else in my life, I’m gonna go ahead and overachieve that time of change, and freak out about it ahead of time.
I’m someone who has always had two feet planted firmly on the ground. Actually let’s say it’s more like four feet (because I’m so committed to overachieving that I’ll bend the laws of anatomy and physics and possibly nuclear fission to do so). And although I’m approaching the changes—my impending marriage, my impending move, and my impending new life—in a structured, formulaic, feet-on-the-ground kind of way, the closer these things get, the more my feet begin to lose their hold on the earth. And what begins, instead, is a falling sensation. A tumbling sensation. An Alice-in-Wonderland sensation, where the doors I shrink or grow to open only lead to more doors, and even the caterpillars seem to be aware of my inner struggles.
One of the things I’ve always really liked about Alice in Wonderland is that, during her journey in Wonderland, the creatures Alice meets are constantly asking her who (or what) she is. They are constantly baffled by her for not being a wildflower, for her inability to become a butterfly, for being the improper height or the improper party guest or the improper croquet partner. But Alice never really gives a shit. She just wants to find what she tumbled into Wonderland to find (the white rabbit), and then go back to her cat and to avoiding her lessons, and to a place where everyone she meets isn’t a total asshole.
Alice may question who she is during her time in Wonderland, but she never changes who she is. There are times when she thinks she may be stuck in Wonderland indefinitely, but never once does Alice question whether she’s the crazy one, or Wonderland is; Wonderland is always the crazy one, and all she does is recognize her need to adapt to its craziness in order to find her way out of it.
I’m not saying that the world I’m about to enter (re: military life) is crazy; only that it’s still growing curiouser and curiouser to me. I’m afraid that, once I’m in it, I will lift up my petals to reveal that I have legs instead of stems, and nobody will have room in their garden for a common weed.
That’s a normal fear, I think. (Except for maybe the flower analogy part.) It’s a fear I’ve lived through many times in my life, and one I’m sure you’ve all lived through many times as well. And although there may be no one secret to surviving big life changes (or maybe there is and I just haven’t seen that episode of Oprah), I could use all the motivational success stories I can get.
What big life changes have you been through that required adaptation and/or stretching your comfort zone? What helped you get through the rough days, and what do you wish you had known or done beforehand?