My friend Melissa has a yardful of chickens, two dogs, several reptiles that I avoid, and a cat named Phineas. Phineas has always seemed like a normal cat who does normal, catlike things. But lately, he’s exhibiting new behaviors that don’t seem very feline at all.
Several times, Melissa has caught him on the kitchen table, shredding napkins and creating napkin nests, one can only assume, for laying cat eggs. You see, at Melissa’s house, the chickens are a-laying, and Phineas wants in. After living a life doing cat things, scratching poles, licking paws, and pooping in a sandbox, he’s nesting like a chicken. Phineas is having an identity crisis.
I can relate.
Rebel Grunge Rocker Girl
Throughout my life, I’ve hunted for my identity in a number of places. In middle school, I tried “Rebel Grunge Rocker Girl.” Unfortunately, my parents forbade me from buying Doc Martens and I’m such a rule follower that the idea of rebellion chafes against the very fabric of my personality. Case in point, my boyfriend in college teased me because one time I had to miss class and called the professor ahead of time to explain why, apologize, and ask for the homework. He tried to convince me that I couldn’t call it “skipping class” if I was going to be all responsible about it. (That boyfriend is still trying to get me to loosen up.) I cannot break rules on purpose (unless they’re grammatical and I’m making a choice to be weird), so trying to identify as a rebel makes zero sense for me. For an entire decade, I did wear an exorbitant amount of flannel, so at best, I was faux-grunge, or at least grungy. Considering I waltzed around belting out the lyrics to Kiss of the Spider Woman, a rocker I was not. More like Responsible Musical Theatre Nerd.
Preppy Organized Detailed Girl
After college, I tried “Preppy Organized Detailed Girl.” I moved to D.C., bought a pair of khaki pants, a braided leather belt, a couple of suits, black pumps, and got a job as a meeting planner. I am capable of that level of organization and attention to detail and it serves me well with all the adoption paperwork I continue to slap together. However, waking up every morning to suits and tucking shirts in waistbands and lists and meetings gave me hives. I made it a year before I finally couldn’t breathe. Every Sunday night before the beginning of the work week, my brand new husband would find me huddled in a little ball of despair. I found another job, had a khaki burning party (not really, that would be against the rules), and bought a turquoise Velcro skirt.
Soft-Spoken Gentle Nurturing Mom
My latest identity crisis was in what kind of mom I am, which significantly relates to what kind of woman I am. I found myself wishing I was “Soft-Spoken Gentle Nurturing Mom.” Unfortunately for my kids, I parent the same way I do everything else, With Gusto. By Gusto, I mean loudly, passionately, creatively, oddly, and with a touch of sarcasm, okay more than a touch. I wistfully peered at other moms who respond to their children’s bajillion requests with sincerity and poise. The ones who cheerfully volunteer to lead two-year-olds at church. The ones who count it joy when their toddlers booger up their blouses. The ones who manage not to reference Stockholm Syndrome when their daughters watch Beauty and the Beast. When I started to compare myself to other moms, I lost the joy of my own version of parenting.
Messy Oddball Rule-Loving Gusto Girl
These days, I’m feeling pretty much at home in my skin, and the older I get, the more I embrace the Real Me. I’ve discovered that I might be different than my original idea of motherhood, but I’m a great mom, and my kids feel loved and love me back. I still wish I was a little more rebellious and a lot more organized, but last week I invested in a purple tutu and am just going with “Messy Oddball Rule-Loving Gusto Girl.” Next time I see Phineas, I’m going to tell him to stop trying to lay eggs and be himself.
I’m starting a list of advice to myself on how to be myself. How not to be a chicken. Since I’m not you, please add your own advice to yourself below mine!
Advice to Myself On How to Embrace My True Identity
1. I am adopted by God. I love adoption and I love that God adopted me into His family (Romans 8, Ephesians 1). Just like my kids are in our family no matter what they look like or what they wear or their personalities, I’m in God’s family no matter what I look or act like. Don’t forget this.
2. Be 100% me, 100% of the time. No faking.
3. Have a few days a week when I don’t wear makeup. Learn to like my face.
4. Dance in church. Clap as loudly as I want, even if no one else does.
5. Wear my purple petticoat with neon tights underneath. This is essential.
6. Laugh loudly and don’t worry about who hears me snort.
7. Don’t be afraid to chug the waffle fry container.
8. Hug people hard and often. Be the hug slut that I am. No shame.
9. Stop feeling guilty about not turning in the volunteering signup form. I say yes a lot. It’s okay to say no sometimes.
10. Keep rocking the jazz hands.