My parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade. I remember the day vividly when my dad left. My mom was standing at the mixer licking the dough off her finger while the two had exchanged a few words and out the door he walked carrying some of his clothes on hangers. It was awful, in a flash, my life had changed. Immediately I thought about my friend crying at school one day, about a month prior, saying that her parents were going to get divorced and I told my other friend that if my parents did that, I would kill myself. Those words wrecked havoc in my mind that day and night. Resolving that I wasn’t going to do that, the pain left in my heart haunted me for many years.
As a teen I had no identity to stand on. Other than a girl that comes from a divorced family, struggling to make ends meet. A dad that was admired in the community for his profession. And my mother that felt most of the women in town talked behind her back about what an awful house cleaner she was. (I would be too, frankly, if I was handling eight kids day and night.) My mother worked graveyard in a potato factory to make ends meet after the divorce. This was my identity.
With a hundred dollars in my pocket and my first month’s rent paid, I moved from a small farming community to a large city. I was in my early twenties, had a high school diploma and felt inferior to peers I met with a higher education. But I never stopped dreaming of being a professional of some sort. I knew that I wanted to do great things. I wasn’t sure what, but I had a desire. I walked onto a college campus one day trembling with fear. I waited in line to speak to someone not even sure if I was in the right line. When my turn came tears flowed from my face as I explained that I wanted to go to college but didn’t know how to register. Shame fell over me like I had never felt but I wanted to somehow, some way change my life. She was kind and suggested I take a career decision-making class. My identity: “Lost.”
Years later in my late twenties I landed a job I absolutely loved. I worked with a company that managed a University and I continued my education while working with them. I represented a group of consultants in management development as Sales and Marketing Director. The maturity, personal and professional growth I experienced was outstanding. I participated in every aspect of starting up a company with them and thrived in my position. With fear in my every move each day I conquered and prospered. My identity was defined by my performance.
Shortly after my career was established, I became a mom with a husband building his career and had two little ones. Life was great until a huge dark cloud loomed over me. I had accusations made against me and my truths, which triggered memories of days gone by and I didn’t feel equipped to deal with the memories of tragedies that I experienced or the relationships I had to endure. I shut down and as hard as I tried to stay positive; I couldn’t bear the struggle. There were too many memories and realities I was trying to make sense of. My identity as a mom was stricken. I didn’t have the right tools to deal with what I was experiencing in my heart and soul. Identity: “Messed up.”
For now, at least fifteen years has passed since that time. I identify with being equal and without an inferiority complex. These are the days where I can rejoice and be thankful that I do respect and forgive the scenes of yesterday. As hard as that feels to write, I rejoice in those experiences as they are what lead me to the place I am today. I have shared what I have learned with my children and they have learned from them too. Identity: “Loved.”
No longer inferior. I am beginning to understand what fear truly is. We can only live in this very moment.