How did you accept / adjust to giving up your career and goals for the goals of your husband? Did you feel like you lost your identity?
When we first started on the journey we are now on, the scariest thing about the unknown of following my husband was exactly that. I was terrified I would lose my identity. A lot of the early parts of our love story felt wildly unfair. I was (truly) madly in love, but what embracing that love required of me felt entirely inequitable, and to be honest, there were times I even felt a little resentful towards him, even though I believe in everything he stands for. I wasn’t entirely sure I could be a part of this life, and so when he left to join the military on the opposite side of the country, I stayed behind. I stayed behind and convinced myself the reason I had stayed was because the good paying job I had could help pay for the wedding and help get us out of school debt. I told myself I wanted to make sure our relationship could survive the distance if the military would inevitably force us to be separated during long periods of deployment. It wasn’t either of those reasons – truthfully I was just afraid. I was afraid I would lose my identity, I was afraid I would be alone, I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in where I was headed, I was afraid I wouldn’t find work, and my God the thought of idle hands scared the crap out of me, because who was I if I wasn’t doing something important? My sense of identity used to be wrapped up in the act of ‘doing,’ and what was I to do?
Before leaving, I never really came to terms with what felt like giving up parts of myself to follow my husband. I simply loved my husband in such a way that a single lifetime to love him didn’t even feel like enough time, and I didn’t want to give up any more time with him. I remember the day I realized how much I loved him. I sat on the floor, cursing God that life should be so short once you actually felt a love like that, while simultaneously packing boxes.
When I joined my husband in the military I joined because I loved him, and I joined because I believe in serving this country, and because even though I was following the demands of his job, we shared common visions for what we want our life to look like. That was about all I knew when I left. That, and that I was marrying a man who himself did not make me feel second. But I was still afraid of losing my identity, of being a follower, of being second to this life, of being just a wife.
I flung myself chaotically out of my comfort zone anyway.
The ironic part about this adventure, for me at least, is that I was so afraid of losing my fragile sense of self. The self-image I had of myself was delicate and dependent on my accomplishments and didn’t do my complexity justice. By flinging myself into a new life, into a new adventure, into a love story in a new place, I got the opportunity to meet myself all over again, and that was really beautiful.
I found my passion in the middle of working with children. I learned the strength of my conviction in the middle of an altercation with a stranger. I uncovered my cleverness when lost in a place that tested my personal comfort zone. I discovered my people skills in a run-down antique shop. I recognized my own artistry in the back row of a play. I remembered my laughter at an absurd little petting zoo off the side of a highway. I realized my fragility walking down the hall of a church, carrying a box of ashes. I knew my kindness in every interaction that tested me when I chose grace above pride or judgement. I knew my propensity for Godliness when I chose to love people whom I didn’t know how to love.
It was through this journey, one I was so afraid would only take bits and pieces of me and never give them back, that I learned my identity more deeply than I thought I could, and as a state of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.’
In order to meet this woman though, I first had to trust that if God led me here, to this life, with this man whom I would have to follow in order to love, he led me with a purpose beyond being a ‘follower.’ I also had to learn to trust myself. Then I had to willingly fling myself into the unknown, and by some form of grace, be willing to see the love story that God was unfolding for me right before my eyes.
I have come to believe wholeheartedly that the life I am living is this beautiful manifestation of God’s love for me, for me to experience in every spectrum of emotion a person can feel. Because in each emotion, whether good, bad, or downright absurb, I get to know God more fully, myself more intimately, and the world around me more intensely. That’s an amazing amount of growth for a person who never saw their sense of identity beyond their accomplishments.
So dear writer, I remember that fear and feeling of loss vividly. It was when I got past the sense of loss that I realized how much I had been given. It was only then that I could really recognize that it was through chaos, through trial, and through navigating a new life that I could intimately discover myself and learn who I really am, what I stand for, and who I want to continue to become. I believe fully, for me at least, I never would have learned this about myself if I had become complacent and never left, like so many people I have come to know throughout my years.
It was in accepting the reality of being a little lost, that I found my identity. And my God, on this side of it…the world is pretty beautiful.
Love & Light,
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