I was at the DMV a few weeks ago, changing the name on my driver’s license. I just recently went through a divorce, and let me tell you, nothing adds insult to injury after a divorce like waiting in line for hours and paying money to change your name.
But anyway… that’s beside the point…
The point is that when I got to the front of the line, the woman behind the counter asked me why I was there. I told her I’d had a legal name change and needed to update my license.
“Marriage or divorce?” she asked. I told her it was a divorce.
“Congratulations” she said, and smiled.
I laughed a little at that, but told her I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone.
“It’s pretty miserable” I said.
“I know” she told me. “I’ve been there… twice.”
Suddenly the mood shifted a little bit.
She was looking down at my paperwork, signing things and checking little boxes and trying not to make eye contact. I knew how she felt. Divorce, at least for me, has felt like the ultimate failure of my personhood, let alone my womanhood. Admitting my one divorce—saying the word, letting it be what it is—has been hard enough… but two…?
I could only imagine the pain and even shame she must have felt. I wanted to say something, but honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say.
When she spoke up again, a minute later, she didn’t seem pained… or even shamed. In fact, she said something quite profound. She said, “you know, it took me a long time to figure out who I had been all along.”
Wow. Take a minute to let that sink in.
It took me a long time to figure out who I had been all along.
Deep thoughts from the woman at the DMV.
That will stick with me for a long time.
I’m not sure what it is about relationships that make us feel like we should pretend to be somebody we aren’t. Maybe it’s that the thought of being alone—really alone—is just too devastating for us to wrap our minds around. We think, “oh, I’ll just change a little bit of this, and a little bit of that—it’s not that big of a deal, really.”
We tell ourselves we can make this work and that we’re “finding ourselves” when really it’s more like losing ourselves. New experiences. New aspects of ourselves. Maybe.
But then we wake up one day and think… where have I gone?
It’s taken me a long time to figure out who I’ve been all along.
We spend so much time and energy talking about “finding ourselves”.
And I get it. There is a certain extent to which, in our twenties especially, we are collecting experiences and relationships and all these things are shaping who we will become. We go visit places and meet people and eat things and drink things and “find ourselves” in those moments… sort of.
But what if you don’t need to be found?
What if who you are—who you truly are—has been with you all along?
My nephew is a year and a half and It’s so fun to see his little personality shining through already. He loves playing basketball and reading books and he’s a little bit shy but he’ll giggle like crazy for you once he gets to know you. I think about his little heart and spirit and how evident and transparent and available and RIGHT HERE it is, even at his age.
Does he need to find himself? No. He just is himself.
And thankfully, because he has great parents, he knows he doesn’t need to perform to earn love.
I wonder what it would look like for us to embrace who we’ve been all along.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to pretend we were stronger than we are, or that we have it all together, or that we aren’t scared or questioning or that we don’t know what you’re talking about when you are talking about Pokemon.
What if you were just you? What if you knew that that was enough?
What if who you are has been with you all along?