Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sense of Self

I went digging around in some old writings today and found this, which I wrote two years ago, intending to submit to some radio request for personal stories. Things have changed a bit since I wrote this, but instead of fuss with details, I'm going to let it stand. I don't think I ever published it, and it was a bit of a pick-me-up to read it today, so here you go.


I love going to art museums.
I photoshop for fun.
I enjoy multi-course meals with wine pairings.
I write short stories and poetry.

If you ask me to describe who I am, I think of statements like these. Most are hard-wired into my sense of self, along with “I have brown hair” and “I am 34 years old.”

These statements feel true, but when I say them aloud, I realize they have expired.

I see friends nearly every weekend.
I swear. A lot.
I attend the Coachella music festival every year.
I am ready to go anywhere in 10 minutes.

In the past year and a half, I have learned how to do without these aspects of myself. I discovered after 6 months of parenthood that most of my concepts of who I am and where I am going have become a remnant of another time and a hopeful forecast for some distant future. The list continues to grow with every passing day.

I’m the last person to leave every party.
I can dance until dawn.
I’ll crash on anyone’s couch.
I travel light.

I was ready for parenthood. I actively pursued advice from every mom I met. Everywhere I went, I heard the same reassurances: “This will change your life but it will be worth it.” “Don’t forget to make time for yourself.” “When it gets really tough, just hang in there.” I listened carefully and took their advice to heart, but it was no use. Can you warn a six-year-old about the pitfalls of college romance?

I sleep past noon on the weekends.
I don’t want to bother with gardening.
I don’t care if the place is a mess.
I almost never cook.

They said I’d be tired, but I didn’t understand that I wouldn’t get to truly sleep in for years. I knew I’d have to limit outings, but I never thought that I couldn’t visit people for lunch (naptime) or dinner (bedtime). I knew my outlook would change, but who is this person staying sober in order to leave at 11pm and get some sleep?

What I also didn’t fully understand was that in losing the freedom of independence, I gain the insight of caring for someone else. I draw on other aspects of my personality that have been lying dormant, waiting for the parenthood programming to kick in.

I can be strategic, patient, quick-thinking and perceptive.
I can be resilient in the face of countless pitfalls.
I can take screams of protest and turn them into giggles.
I can teach kindness.

It’s these new descriptors that surprise me more than anything. I miss my old social life and my carefree ways, but I like this new person I’ve become.

I love gardening in the cool of early morning.
I often sing and dance in my living room.
I take slow walks and smell the flowers.

What parenthood has taught me most of all is this:
I can, and will, adapt.