How 5 Words Caused an Identity Crisis
Back in 2007 my husband and I moved to Shanghai for his work. It was then that I decided to trade in my old leather-bound journals for an actual blog. I figured my life was finally interesting enough to start one, and at a minimum, we could keep our families updated on our adventures.
We moved back to the U.S. in 2011, and my desire to write came to a complete halt. I had moved from a dynamic and exciting metropolis back to suburbia. With two fourteen-month-olds requiring all of my time and energy; and the remnants of post-partum depression hanging on- I had a difficult time dealing with life. Sadly, I couldn’t see any value in myself or my experience then; so it only made sense that I had no desire to share what was going on with a larger audience.
Healing began when I started the Food For Thought project (read more about that here). Having something to focus on outside of my role as a mom gave me the space I needed to breathe and grow as a person; and in turn, allowed me to process how I felt about myself. As I started writing again; I found that my old blog no longer fit where I was going; so I scrapped it and started this new project. With the guidance of some other writers, I opted for my name as the title, and I haven’t looked back since.
I thought everything would be smooth sailing once I settled on the title, but I was mistaken. As I was working on the “fun stuff” like theme, layout, colors, and font- I hit a bit of a bump. There, right below the title of my blog, I needed to choose five or so words that would effectively communicate who I was and what this project might reflect. No pressure right?
Initially, I was wife, mother, traveler, city dweller, storyteller. It flowed and fit, yet something in me didn’t feel comfortable with the order. I tried to convince myself it didn’t flow, but the truth was- I wasn’t ok with wife and mom as the first two words. Why though? What was so unsettling? Hadn’t I put this discomfort to rest? Hadn’t I made peace with myself as a mother?
I had no idea that 5 simple words would create such an internal struggle.
My internal dialogue looked something like this: “I am a wife and mother first, but do I want to be identified as such?” “What limitations might that place on me?” “How might people perceive me?” “Do I then become “just a mom blogger”?” “Haven’t we moved past this?” “Can I put wife and mother in the end? Or does that make me a bad wife and mother?” “Am I allowing society to dictate and narrate my value and worth?” and on and on the argument went.
I realized that while I had become more comfortable in my own perspective, I hadn’t yet wrestled with how others might perceive me.
We haven’t come to a point in society where human beings are judged based on the fullness of their lives, and not simply on labels. Nor have we risen above dismissing people without digging deeper into their life stories. I will be the first to admit my shortcomings in this area. That’s part of the reason I started the Food For Thought dinners. But now that I am blogging with my name, telling my stories, sharing my perspectives, and putting myself out there for people to see and scrutinize- the stakes feel higher.
As a person who chooses words to communicate, I understand the weight that they can carry. I was still surprised to find that these 5 words and their placement on a page could cause me to question my identity, my perceptions about the words themselves, and even my priorities.
After much wrestling, I decided on “Story Teller, City Dweller, Wife, Mother, Traveler.” It fits and flows the best, but most importantly- it is true to who I am as a person, a wife, a mother, and a writer.