“Where’s my mother?” I asked when I was 3. She had been ripped from me in what must have been an ugly divorce case – like tearing a picture in half to exclude an old boyfriend. How do you know who you are when you’re told, “Don’t be like your mother”? What am I supposed to be like? What am I not supposed to be like? I don’t know HOW to be me.
And then I was a teenager – who looked younger than her years, dating a guy many years older. “Where do I belong?” With my high-school friends or with the ones 8-10 years older? “Are you a kid or an adult?” they asked. I lived in both worlds.
Married at 17, I was a mother at 19, with two more by age 24. I was a mom that people saw as a teenager. “Can I speak to your mother?” they asked in my Mom Years.
Then came my Young Adult Years. Once my children were in school, I went to college, where I was the oldest student among all the young just-out-of-high-schoolers. But how I loved to learn! And I excelled – straight A’s and affirmation and acceptance I had never felt before. “THIS is who I am,” I said.
My career days began as a journalist and a theater critic and then as editor of a suburban newspaper. I loved having my hands in all parts of the newspaper pie, and I loved knowing everything that was going on and all the important people and getting invited to lots of great parties. Let’s face it – as a newspaper editor, I was SOMEBODY! Until I wasn’t. My whole identity was all tied up in my role, and when the paper was sold and the job went away, so did my identity.
At the same time, I developed carpel tunnel and was on workman’s compensation. I also faced a breast cancer scare, the threat of homelessness, and an eventual bankruptcy. The SOMEBODY became a NOBODY.
But then I began clawing my way out, finishing my degree (at the age of 52), getting a teaching certificate, teaching high-school journalism for two years, and then doing some part-time work fact-checking and proofreading. I was becoming a new person, little realizing that I was beginning a new career that would last more than 20 years and that would include writing, training, human resources, and quality assurance. Until it didn’t.
But I didn’t fall apart that time. Instead, I began a new career – No, a new life! One for which I was being prepared for nearly 70 years. I became a pastor, and in doing what I was good at and what I loved and what I was called to do, I have thrived. I know who I am.