Earlier this week, I shared the first half of my lifelong struggle with identity, with calling, with purpose, with fitting in, with finding friends. Today, I'll pick up the story again. To recap, as the daughter of an Army officer, I grew up moving all around, feeling like a nobody, willing to do whatever it took to become people's friends, even if I became lost in the process. Here is the second half.
Eventually, even my longest-standing label went away, too. Daughter of an Army soldier. My dad retired from the military when I was 16 and we moved from our street named after a general in upstate New York to one in Colorado where our neighbors didn’t wear camouflage to work.
When I graduated from high school, I went to college in my eighth home state of Pennsylvania and finally didn’t mind answering the question closely related to “Who are you?” This one: “Where are you from?” because they didn’t mean “Where did you grow up?” but really “Where do you go for Christmas break?”
“Colorado,” I’d confidently say, though I’d only lived there for two years of 18. If they really persisted in knowing where I was really from, like “Well, where were you born?” I’d admit to my Hawaiian birth, but rush to say that I didn’t remember it and no, I don’t know how to hula dance.
But at least at college, everybody was new the first year, and everybody was going through an identity crisis.
After graduation, I jumped into my lifelong dream of being a writer as a reporter at a small newspaper in Texas. I loved seeing my name in print, with the word “reporter” following it. Not because I was so very proud of myself. But because I’d found a safe way to link my name to others’ stories. And I got paid to do it. I could be Somebody, though as a journalist I was supposed to stay neutral, no opinions, no ideas, no presence in the story. So, I hid behind the label that would eventually disappear in yesterday’s trash.
I got married and loved filling the role as wife to Brad because he loved this Me that was always changing, whether it was every three years or two years or six months or hour. The things he called me had nothing to do with what I could do for him, but had everything to do with how he felt about me. Sweetie. Lovie. Babe.
Then we moved overseas to Indonesia where I stick out with my white skin, tall body, accent, college degree and scientific explanation for a cold—though I try as best as I can to hide these things from my Indonesian friends.
In many ways, though, the hard things in my life have made me perfect for the job. I know how to figure out how to fit in. How to dress. How to talk. I’m good about listening to who others are, feel comfortable with being out of my element, and don’t mind surrendering my own culture—whatever that is—to enter into someone else’s. Simply put, I’m good at hiding in other people’s worlds.
But there is Somebody who is intent on finding me, drawing me out and giving me a name. He labels me by how He feels about me. Daughter. Bride. Lover.
I love finding the other Nobodies and introducing them to the Friend who entered my world, took on my own mistakes, learned my language, even entering my own label of Human. He worked really, really hard to become a friend, not settling until my answer to the question, “Who am I?” becomes one that never goes away.
So, I use what has been broken in my own life to introduce others to the One who can fix what is shattered in theirs. And I wait, hoping for this question from my Nobody friends.
“What are the ingredients to an identity that lasts?”
Faith. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Bake in a lifetime of talking to God. And take and eat in a place where we all belong forever.
photo credit, Pink Sherbet Photography