I’ve clearly pegged myself to a particular time in history when I say that My So-Called Life is probably my all-time favorite television show. It was short lived — only 19 episodes, but each was a piece of literature in it’s own right. And it is very quotable — witty quips, sarcastic bites, teenage angst and cynicism, and the glimpse of wisdom and clarity that comes hard-earned. I studied sociology in my undergraduate days, mostly for the love of people and the interest of studying all the strange dynamics that living in and around community creates (clearly not for the practical job opportunities). I could expound on a number of sociologists and theorists about different stages of growth and development of a person but today I’m going to let Angela Chase speak for me.
People alway say you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster or something. Like you can know what it is even. But every so often I’ll have like, a moment, when just being myself in my life, right where I am, is like, enough. ~ Angela Chase, My So-Called Life
My adolescence, like most everyone else’s, was full of trying on different pieces of myself, seeing what fit well. Some things stuck and seem rather permanent: a life-long curiosity and love of intellect, a tendency for few, but close, friends. Some things wrote themselves briefly, thankfully, into the story of my teen years: mismatched socks and a mouth that never stopped to listen. I’ve ebbed and flowed in my tastes and I know that I’ll forever be evolving as I grow, older and deeper.
It has been hard for me to not lose myself in my little ones. I have friends that I know feel like they have found their stride as they have moved from the insecurities of their early twenties into something more definite and steadfast in their late twenties and thirties. Me? Honestly, I feel the opposite. Being a mother has challenged many things that I thought were part of my marrow, interlaced with my sense of self. Being myself, at times, has never felt harder or more abstract of a concept. Sometimes I’ve given so much of my self that I wonder how there could be any self left for me. Sometimes I need fervent reminders that I am more than my children, more than my husband, my house, my cooking, my (in)ability to put clean laundry away. Because, honestly, some days if you had to look at it quantifiably, that might be all you could see. Who am I if not these things? Is my identity, my self more than my knowledge of current events, or my witty comebacks?
And than there are others times, times when Angela Chase’s words are all I can hear. That having this moment, with all my foibles and quirks, feels full enough to me. Times when I don’t need to know who I am going to be tomorrow, and I don’t have to be the same as I was yesterday. Just because I’m not a teenager any more doesn’t mean that I can’t still be figuring it out. Consistency is important in somethings, like raising little ones with strong love and conviction, but what if I can embrace this uncertainty of self and see it not as inconsistent, or insecure, but instead as resisting stagnancy? To employ an overused phrase, I am in a “season” of my life that doesn’t leave a lot of free time for me. That doesn’t mean that there is no “me” — it just might look different in this moment.
This idea of being myself — mostly I don’t even know what that means. Authentic is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and though it echos the strong sense of self, I think it has more to do with this concept of being true to who I am in the moment. Sometimes it has edges, like a toaster, and sometimes it doesn’t. I have the rest of my life to spend with this self of mine, so I better get to know her, and like her, whoever she is.