Answering the Big Question: WHO AM I?

When I was my in twenties, at least the early twenties, I was still downloading from Napster and using AIM. The world has changed significantly in the last 10 years and with it, the challenges young women face and the roadblocks to success, as well as the expectations we set for ourselves and the ones set for us, are simply different. Thankfully, not so different from one generation to the next, that we don’t still speak the same language. While I didn’t have to worry about after-frat party pics posted to Facebook, or even MySpace (because I didn’t get one until after I graduated from college), I still don’t want crazy bachelorette photos adorning the internet; the same principle applies: being caught on film doing something mother wouldn’t be proud to see. What hasn’t changed, though, are some of the simpler things.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, some for good, some for bad, some I share, some I say happened to my friend. I didn’t have a place available to me when I was younger that I could find someone who would honestly speak about the things that were happening to me. I wasn’t always proud and sometimes I was downright ashamed to talk to my friends about a myriad of topics. Come to find out, they were all dealing with the same things. Now, I can say I’ve improved with age. I’m able to share even the things I’m most embarrassed about with friends; but, even now, I’m not exactly an open book. My friends, if this were a forum, would tell you that they can tell me anything: I reserve judgment. That’s mostly true. I’m a good secret keeper and whatever my friends tell me, I meet them where they’re at. I’ve made mistakes; so have they. Sometimes I’m glad about the mistakes I made, sometimes I envy them that their worst flub is somewhere near my best. Either way, I make them feel like it is safe to talk to me because I’ll be honest, and help them be honest with themselves, and the entire world won’t discover whatever it is they tell me. I’ve slipped a few times; one stands out in particular. But, I wouldn’t take that moment back for anything, so I’ve had to live with sharing one friends’ secret with another. That might be a good story to tell one day. Maybe I’ll edit this and link it here:  (maybe not)

My point is that I want to be able to share what I’ve learned, to answer questions and to give a guiding light to the ones coming down the path behind me. There were some dark places there and if I can at least give a “caw caw” somewhere down the line to let you know you’re heading in the right direction, I’ll be pleased to do so. Additionally, I know there are some things that are just too hard to talk about with friends. I want to offer something especially for women like me. I don’t mean Jewish women who studied journalism, were cheerleaders and enjoy cooking. I mean women in their twenties and thirties facing challenges, obstacles, reaching goals and making life choices that are long-lasting. Since I haven’t made it through my thirties, I guess we’ll have to stumble down that road together.

Where I came from:

I grew up in Fresno, California, a town that tends to be the butt of California’s jokes even though most people say they’ve never visited. I’ll tell you this without equivocation: Fresno makes the best people in the world. I said it. I mean it. I can’t live there, for a number of reasons, foremost being that I like the beach. But, I love my hometown. I’m proud to be from there and the people there have been my support net since I was 13 years old.

Where I am going:

I’m “reaching for the stars” if you will allow the generic cliché. I’ve spent thirty years doing what I thought I should do, or what I had to do to survive or what I had no choice, but to do. Now I’m doing what I want to do. I’m living the life I wanted to lead and doing exactly what I wanted to do. It took me thirty years to figure it out, but I think that’s ok. I also think it’s ok if I had figured it out at forty; it would have just been a little more complicated. I’m headed toward motherhood and I can’t wait to see how that new identity will change me. I’m headed towards a new reality and I’m in charge of shaping it.

How I got here:

Oh, if this isn’t the question of the century. In short, I left my hometown with an ex-boyfriend to move to Southern California. I had a few friends who lived there and every time we visited I just felt like staying. The weather, the opportunity: everything seemed cleaner and brighter. So we moved. And then we broke up. I muddled through because my new job was super intense and right around November, my boss turned into a bully. She did it slowly and slyly and had a henchwoman to help her, but by end of January, I was crying almost every day at work, sometimes uncontrollably. I sat in a back room for 45 minutes while two students consoled me. I could not get a grip and she cut me no slack. I went to the proper authorities to get some support and I got nothing. So, at the end of the year, I said I was moving to Israel to volunteer. And I moved to Israel to volunteer, albeit reluctantly, because I’d just spent the greatest summer of my life in Southern California. On the first day that I arrived in Israel, I met my future husband. We had a whirlwind romance; he proposed after five months although we were married almost 2 years after we met. The first year in Israel was fun and hard, but wonderful. The next year and a half were a nightmare. Teaching was a disaster and I was paid a pittance. I was isolated on the farm where we lived. My husband worked 16 hours a day (at least) and I had few friends. Six months before we were scheduled to move to America, I said, enough! I was depressed to the point where my body hurt and I couldn’t get anything done save for what I had committed to doing. I did not commit to getting dressed or making dinner, so you can see how well I was. I got back to Fresno and it was like returning to the womb. I still can’t get over how safe it is here; albeit boring at times because I am used to a bigger city life than ol’ Fresno has to offer me. At the time of writing, I’m waiting for my husband to come over.

How I’ll get there:

Hope is not a strategy. I’ll get there by sheer determination, will and fortitude. I like setting goals and I love the feeling of reaching a goal especially when you can look at the final result and say, I said I’d do it and I did it. Here I am. That’s how I’ll get there. I just don’t believe in the no-win scenario.

Who I was:

Depending on when you’re asking about, I have a lot of different answers. But, I’ll focus on who I was before I realized what I wanted and figured out how to get it. When I was in Israel, in the last few months of 2011, I was a depressed, lonely, bitter, angry, sad person. I knew what bothered me and I couldn’t figure out a single way to make it better. I was still me somewhere in side, but the people who really knew me and understood me were so far away and everyone around me seemed like strangers at a dinner party I’d been forced to attend for two years. And every dish was hummus! It was the lowest point of my life.

Who I am:

I’m still working against some of those feelings of depression, loneliness, bitterness, anger and sadness. But I’m so much better now. I excised the cause of all those feelings. I left the dinner party. It was hard, because I left my husband behind. But if I had stayed, I’m pretty sure there would be no husband left to bring to the United States. I’m certain I would have ruined our marriage. In my defense, life wasn’t very easy on me there. I was jobless, alone in a house that made my mother cry when she saw it, isolated by a language barrier and second fiddle to my husband’s job. To put it succinctly: it sucked. As you can see, the bitterness hasn’t shriveled much, but I’m not lonely anymore, at least not in the same way. I miss my cats terribly, but I’m looking forward to a time when my husband and I have reset our relationship button and can start over in a new place with new determinants, when we’re not ruled by his job completely taking over our lives. I am working on figuring out who I was and what parts of her I want to retain, and merging that with who I want to be. I am midstream, neither here nor there. I’m in a transitional space and I’m curious to see who will emerge on the other side.

Who I want to be:

I want to be a good wife who leads a productive and happy life. I want to turn that into being a mother, sooner than later, but I’ll wait for the universe to tell me that it’s time. No use in rushing a good thing. I want to be a valuable resource and I want people to listen. I want to be grateful and spiritually fulfilled. I want peace.

Who I want to go with me:

First and foremost, I want my husband to go with me. Even after we married, we weren’t living a married life, at least not the one I had imagined or was familiar with or found acceptable. I can’t wait for the time when we sync up and can move forward together. I want my family and friends to go with me. I know I’ll have to leave some behind, but I can’t imagine who or when. In my life, I’ve intentionally said goodbye to one friend. Perhaps some of us will grow apart, but my idealistic little heart says, nay! We’ll always be friends! I believe by the end of my long long life I’ll be able to say that I walked with many on my journey.

Now it’s your turn. Create some headings on a word document, or if you’re old-fashioned, get out your lined paper and write the following with space under each:

Where I Came From

Where I’m Going

How I Got Here

How I’ll Get There

Who I Was

Who I Am

Who I Want To Be

Who I Want To Go With Me

Now fill it out. Even if it takes you a few days, complete it. Part of understanding what we want out of life begins here. It doesn’t take a scientist or a counselor to help you understand who you are. You don’t have to read this out loud in class later, so you can write whatever you want, hopefully the truth. Once we can admit the truth to ourselves, it’s easier to change if we don’t like who we are, or admit that who we are is pretty good after all.

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Susanna Dvash is a professional blogger, podcaster, motivational speaker and radio host helping women create the life they want to lead for the rest of their lives by focusing on the issues in life which create moments for grace, growth and change.

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