She called my number. I almost missed it. I had been sitting there for hours waiting. It was a simple routine transaction. One that she did multiple times per day. She talked to the teller next to her about weekend plans as she rapidly typed my information on the keyboard. I don’t think she even looked at me once. To her I was just another transaction. Just another number. But to me this was so much more than another “change of name” transaction. For me this was monumental. This was a tangible symbol and representation of my new way of being.
This was about reclaiming my identity.
Now I first want to say that I do not believe the act of marriage and taking on my ex-husband’s last name caused me to lose my identity. I think for years I was going through the motions of life and never stopped to really ponder the question “Who am I?”. Add to that becoming a mother of two small children and my life went on autopilot trying to just survive.
Becoming a parent is hard. Like really hard. There are tons of resources about how to raise children but no one prepares you for the toll becoming a parent will take on your sense of self. It brings up questions, doubts and insecurities many of us don’t even know we had.
As a new parent I spent so much energy trying to care for my children that I forgot to take care of myself and lost myself along the way. Six months after my second daughter was born I went to a place of complete darkness. Everyday tasks became hard and I could not see anything positive in my life. I just wanted to shut down. I thankfully recognized that I was suffering from postpartum depression and sought out professional help.
It was at this time in my life that I discovered the power of self-care.
Self-care is not about being selfish – it’s about consciously going in to discover and respond to our deepest needs and desires. It’s about taking care of ourselves first so we can in turn be more generous with others.
Fast forward two years and the power of self-care helped pull me out of the fog of my marriage separation and move me forward. Rather than go to a place of darkness I saw a light. It was a light glowing inside of me that wanted to shine. I made a declaration to myself that I would have a Year of Jen. I would not date anyone — I would only date me! I wanted to reconnect with the person I once was and discover the person I wanted to be.
I sought to explore different areas of my life – spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. I started a meditation practice. I took myself on a yoga retreat. I dug into eastern philosophies and the teachings of Buddhism. I learned how to cook healthy meals for myself and my family. I took an improv class and pushed myself outside my comfort zone. I learned how to use a grill and mow my lawn. I discovered my inner artist and writing as a form of self-expression.
It’s now been a year since I made that declaration. And here is the biggest thing I learned. There is no Year of Jen. The path to self-discovery is ongoing. It is not something that has a time stamp or that I cross off my to do list. Reclaiming my identity is a frame of mind. It’s a new way of being that makes self-care a priority. The truth is I did date during my year of Jen – but I did not abandon myself in the process.
I will not allow myself to get lost again.
There is a light inside of me that wants to shine brightly. And I have the power to let it shine. Here’s to the Life of Jen.