Lately, I’ve been feeling identity fog. All my life I’ve been able to answer the question, “What do you do?” or “What are you doing these days?” with a sentence or two. I’ve been able to respond with “I’m in grad school” or “I’m working as a blank at blank restaurant” or “I run a business.”
I intentionally took some time off from defining myself that way, hating the question every time someone asked it of me. But my break is over. I’m ready to move on. I’ve had a few interim jobs, places to hang my professional hat, during the last few years. I’ve been totally open, saying yes to lots of things. I intentionally spent these past years actively releasing myself from the need to define myself for the sake of answering the proverbial, “What do you do?” question. But lately, I want to answer the question for myself. I want to feel more focused, more rooted. I want to be able to answer that question for myself.
I am a curious person. When I go to Costco I think the people who work there look happy and I wonder what it would be like to work there. When I walk in the park and see rangers giving little kids tours of the waterfowl I fantasize about doing that job. Every time I go to the post office I can see myself in knee-length blue shorts and a matching baseball cap delivering mail. I dream of working in health care, real estate, finance, and baking.
As a result, I am flooded with possibilities and the feeling is exhausting. I imagine a flooded street after a hurricane or heavy rain — lawn chairs, couch cushions, picture frames, cars, teddy bears bobbing around a flood-formed river. All of these lost items floating somewhere near their home but undiscoverable in the flow of the water. These items cannot be restored to their rightful owner until the water recedes and the lost objects stop floating.
I have lots of possibilities right now — potential roles I can fill, jobs I might take, that will make me feel like I am on more solid ground, out of the flood. And that’s part of the problem. All of these possibilities are floating around inside. For some reason, I’m unable to claim any particular one of them and hold on to it.
I remember reading about a woman who had a beloved, prolific heirloom tomato plant that was returned to her after a flood. Someone in the neighborhood had recognized the pot and returned it to her. She was so happy to reunite with this plant that she’d grown and cared for and loved. She nursed it back to health and celebrated its new harvest.
I find myself waiting for something to stick. I want one of these ideas that are bobbing around in my brain to stop moving so that I can attach to it, welcome it, and engage with it like that woman with her lost tomato plant.