Who Am I Becoming?

porthole mirror

I follow this Instagrammer called @gummergal. Actually, I think her real name is Laura. Anyway, I don’t even remember why I started following her, but I think it had to do with her having a cute house, or a cute sweater, or something equally superficial.

Tonight, one of her cute house photos came up on my feed, but the caption with the photo was far from superficial; she wrote about what it’s like to try to get back to your old self after becoming a mom, and it cut me right to the heart. Here’s what she writes (in part):

“I’m realizing more and more that I cannot ever go back to the old me and maybe I shouldn’t want to. And who is the ‘old’ me? I’ve been slowly changing and evolving for 33 years so which of those versions is the ‘real one’ anyways?”

I’m not a mom. But this point really got to me because I’ve been feeling the same way — that there’s a disconnect between the old me and who I am now, and I want to go back, to recapture something I feel like I’ve lost. I want to feel like life is magical again. I want to stay up too late and drive my Vespa instead of a car and define myself by the books I’ve read and care about people so much that it’s actually bad for me. These are all things that make me feel like myself, and they’re things that have lessened in importance in my life, even if I haven’t totally given them up.

Laura makes the point that sometimes we have to let things go — even when the things are our version of ourselves. Sometimes, instead of rediscovering our old self, it’s time to discover someone new.

“I think it may be disappointing to realize that even if you got back to normal, normal may now feel a bit strange and inauthentic.”

Those words don’t feel particularly hopeful to me, but they do feel true. Yes, I could technically live the way I did in my twenties — I could stay up late and eat cheese fries all the time and move to a crappy apartment and live my life by black-and-white rules and talk about art and community constantly. Or I could embrace the fact that I’m a responsible manager, far enough along in my field that I can be a mentor, and that my writing life isn’t as dramatic as it used to be in part because I actually have dependable work. Maybe it’s time to mourn a few things and move on instead of cherishing my past so much that I can’t move into my future.

Yes, there are things that I always want to be a part of me. I want to see magic and beauty in the world, I want to care for other people, and I want to get passionate about books sometimes. But I also want to learn the difference between things I like and things that I am. I hope that, if I do that, I’ll become the person I’m proud to be, even if she’s different from who I used to be.

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.

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