To continue this series on callings, I want to get personal. I plan to share with you my journey to finding out my own callings in life. These next two posts (today and Thursday) are a couple of my most vulnerable thoughts. I wrote this eight months ago, but have been afraid to be this honest until now. (Deep breath). Here we go.
My friend bites into the nut bread that I know she likes and asks for me to explain how I make it. I list for her the ingredients—flour, honey, butter, nuts, cinnamon, salt, baking powder. Bake in the oven for an hour, done.
This Indonesian friend of mine, who lives in a shack and can’t afford an oven or even real butter for that matter, nods.
“How much did your oven cost?”
“And how about this house—did you buy it or did you rent it? And that table? That couch? How much were those? How much does your husband make each month?”
She talks fast and I work hard to think of answers that will be polite for her and still hide things I don’t feel like telling her. She attributes my hesitancy in answering to my lack of language comprehension.
But really, I am pulling away from the label she wants to give me. Rich white lady.
It’s one of those labels people call me that makes me cringe, right next to “straight A student” or “good girl.” The labels that others have stuck on me over the years and that are kind of true. I am a rich white lady because I got to go to college and I got to have my babies in a hospital and I have enough food in my fridge to feed my family for at least a week. Most days anyway.
Of course, our ministry salary isn’t enough to save for my kids’ college or and our retirement savings will be just enough for a one-bedroom apartment where instead of travelling the world, we’ll spend our days watching Price is Right.
And yes, I was a good girl who never smoked and always did my homework.
There are, of course, the names people call me that I like hearing: Mom, Wife to Brad, Friend to Muslims, Writer, Healthy Eater, Runner.
But to be honest, even with a lifetime of labels behind me, and even though I’m well into my 30s, I still struggle with the question, “Who am I?”
How embarrassing that I shrink when I think about the answer that I’ve felt most of my life. As the daughter of an Army soldier who grew up moving all over the country, I fell into the role of New girl and Outsider, trying really hard to get friends and find a place and fit into some label that maybe I didn’t even like.
But really, the answer to that question was always, “I am Nobody trying really, really hard to become Somebody.”
So, I would join a sport, willing to warm a bench just so that I could wear a uniform to class on game days. I’d join a club and jump into the new skill, hoping that someone would say that I could sing or play the piano or act in the play, because at least they saw me.
And the label I most desired in life? Friend. I put my whole self into becoming what the other person needed me to be.
Need a funny friend? I’ve got jokes. Want a serious person? I can discuss world poverty. What is your hobby? Reading? Swimming? Playing basketball? Yeah, me, too. Your favorite color? That’s funny, that’s mine, too.
So for three years or two years or six months—however long I lived in a place—I accumulated as many labels as possible, running from my “nobody” status. Then we moved and I watched them disappear, and I’d start all over in the next place.
As long as I lived in the Army world, though, I got to be a Nobody with other confused kids who were living with the mixture of their life. Kids who had a white father and a Korean mother, or a Mexican father and a Chinese mother, or a white Midwestern mom and a black dad from California.
They were from everywhere and nowhere, too. And I didn’t have to work quite as hard to be friends with them as the ones from my civilian schools. So, I’d cling to them until they moved or I moved to some other place with a whole new set of labels waiting to be earned.
Come back Thursday for the rest of the story.
photo credit, HaPe_Gera