Figuring out who you are is a big piece of the journey
I have a confession, Dear Reader. I have always had a sense that I am a bit of an oddball. As a young child, I can vividly recall questioning people in authority. For instance, when the well-meaning preacher of long-ago church stated from behind his pulpit, that certain faiths were doomed for hell, I could not accept his opinion. This bothered me a great deal because he was supposed to be a "man of God," and I, the quite young child, did not believe him.
I remember rolling his thoughts around in my mind as we made our way from my home to this church, some 30 minutes away. We would pass at least 10, perhaps more, churches on the way; and, I just could not reconcile myself to the fact that some of the churches had parishioners who were doomed to hell because this was the church in which they chose to worship God. Yet, at my tender age, I was unable to put my confusion into words.
As a teenager, I tried very hard to walk that balancing act between what I knew I should do and what I thought others, especial other kids, felt I should do. I wanted to be, well, quite honestly, popular. I knew that I was not considered a "pretty" girl. A boy named Wayne explained that to me as a freshman. "We like you as a friend. We can copy your homework. But, we don't want to date you." He said this to me as if he was handing me a prize as big as an Oscar, but inside, his words burned.
"Well, if I can't be 'pretty,' I can be likeable," was my logic, however twisted it was, at the time. Therefore, looking back at many of my actions in high school, I can see my behavior was quite incongruous with how I felt on the inside.
My first year of college was miserable. I worked nearly full-time at McDonalds on the early morning shift. Depending on the day, I would arrive at work anywhere between 3:30 to 5:30 a.m. as one of the members of the opening crew. Then, I would go to class from 5 p.m. until 9 or 10 p.m. It was not a schedule for which I had the organizational tools to handle. I gained weight, battled constant fatigue and felt extremely lost as to who I was and what I would do with my life. Looking back, I realize it was my first real bout with depression.
Upon deciding I wanted to earn a degree to teach special education, I decided, along with my parents, to secure a student loan and head to the main campus of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio. It was the best and worst decision of my life. I quite literally and figuratively fell down countless times, and there was no one to rescue me, but me. I did not have a vehicle. Additionally, there were no cell phones and no Internet. Despite the fact I was two hours away from home, I could have been a world away. The mistakes I made while there are too numerous to count. I am certain I continued to battle depression my first two years there as well.
Yet, by the third year on campus, I am proud I was able to rally above the fray of my age and the darkness in my head. Walking across that stage in June of 1987 was a high point of my teen years -- even though I was 21, I still of think of that time period as being a "kid."
While at OU, I began to recognize something about myself that I learned as a young child, but somehow lost in my high school years -- the love of being outside, alone in my thoughts. During my senior year at OU, I would take long walks, and sometimes even jogs, alongside the meandering Hocking River. As I trekked alongside this moving body of water, my thoughts ebbed and flowed while I "wrote" stories in my head. Naïve stories set in real life about how I thought the world should be. Sadly, reality never matched the running narrative inside my head.
Thus, I have spent most of my adult years trying to be what "I thought" I should be -- trying to prove my worthiness to the world, to God, and to myself. Pushing away thoughts of who I am to the background. Yet, all of that façade began to crumble a few years ago. Chinks in my armor began to form; and, I began seeing life in a different light, as one does upon waking -- eyes still bleary, as the recognition of daylight unhurriedly seeps into the brain.
Writing this weekly piece has been part of the process -- part of the awakening, if you will. My time spent at the computer writing is a blessing and a tool for self-learning. I am able to share with you what my "life-chinks" are revealing to me. Each time a piece is removed, something new is discovered, and I have the privilege of sharing it with you -- be it simple, cheery, invigoratingly funny or unpleasant. I share, because writing is part of the real me. No longer am I satisfied to "write" in my head.
Several months ago, I decided to take a personality trait test. HumanMetrics has a website that claims to acquire results similar to that of a Briggs-Meyer (Jung) test, popular in the business and psychology world. I did it on a whim, yet what I discovered was an affirmation of me. While I recognize there are fallacies and flaws in this "test," it was a blessing to me nonetheless. Reading the test results, I knew in my marrow the "personality type" description was dead-on. It was bittersweet serendipity.
All of these years of trying to be who I should, instead of embracing who I am are coming to an end. That said, with knowledge comes responsibility. As with all personality types, (and if you are to believe Jung, there are 16 types) there are strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, while I was euphoric at first, excitedly realizing, it is OK to be me; the "real me" has some serious flaws that need work. Still, just like the anecdotes I wrote in my head all those years ago in college, I firmly believe it will all work out. After all, I am alive and on a journey only God knows. Life is, I believe, a gift worth savoring as, bit-by-bit, I remove life's wrapping paper.
Recently, one of my dear friends sent me the following quote: "Blessed are the weird people, poets, misfits, writers, mystics, painters and troubadours for they teach us to see the world through different eyes." (Jacob Nordby). It is my continued hope and prayer that what I observe, disclose and write, resonates, from time to time, with you, Dear Reader, allowing a view of the world through different eyes.
May we all live our truth.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.