Identity. 8 little letters. One big question. Who am I?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a book I shamelessly run to often, "Identity" is defined as, "The name of a person" and "Who someone is."
Ok, cool. I'll start there.
"The name of a person." I am a lady of many names. Sure, nicknames are enjoyable and I've had a few fun ones over the years, but my name is something that has always seemed to change. From the moment I drew my first breath in this world, I (and my beautiful twin sister) were put into Foster Care together. Some of the homes we stayed in were with real family members, but later in the years at least 10 families weren't. Throughout my youth I had 4 legal first names and 3 legal last names, something many people don't know about me.
I'm getting ready to move for the 9th time in my life. Every time I move I take it as an opportunity to purge, clean, and start over. I generally like the process; the idea of organizing puts my OCD brain at ease. As I begun my pre moving rituals; de cluttering, donating clothes, and sorting through memories I had collected over the past year, nostalgia set in. My roommate and I took our time looking at old photos from my childhood and I shared with her bits and pieces of myself she hadn't really seen before. I proudly showed her goofy pictures of me posing for school dances and relived adventures. Halfway through this show and tell she half jokingly, half seriously asked me "have you always been this in love with yourself”?
I have felt the pressures of social media from friends and people I haven't even met. They would post on how great their lives were. I would see women take "selfies" 50 times until they get the "right" picture to post. I was the girl that would never leave the house without makeup. However, last week I was running errands without makeup. As I have been following this movement, I have learned that we all have our own stories, heartbreaks, triumphs and struggles, but we do not have to 'pretend' to be anyone else or to be jealous of other people successes. There is only "1" you and that is what makes you unique. I believe everyone has a purpose and a story to tell and that is what makes you beautiful. I've learned to embrace my uniqueness, and have learned what I am is enough.
I’ve always been the girl who needs assurance from others to feel confident in myself. At the nail salon, I am always the last of my friends to pick a color so I can see everyone else’s first. My favorite princess as a child depended on who I was hanging out with, along with my favorite sport, color, school subject, & tv show.
I wasn’t the girl who wore red lipstick and strutted cowgirl boots to school in utter confidence. But I didn’t want to be. In fact, I was most confident when I felt like I matched someone else, or blended in to the other “typicals” my age.
To put it simply, I wanted to feel accepted by everyone around me- those who were significant players in my life, and those who weren’t. I thoroughly believed I needed to be in agreement with everyone to be loved, appreciated, & accepted by them.
A few months ago, I watched my world as I knew it crumble into dust. I lost someone I cared so much about due to wrong choices I had made. This person wanted nothing to do with me when I wanted so badly to make right my wrongs. I wanted them to want to work through it and rebuild what had been broken. But we all have agency, and they chose to close the door. I felt alone, I felt abandoned, I felt hurt and I felt lost. I spent months in therapy trying to understand, trying to heal. I felt broken inside when I prayed every night for a second chance. I cried myself to sleep so many times I lost count. I started to have panic attacks in the middle of the night which then made me fear falling asleep. I was exhausted and so confused as to why I was dealing with this. I started to address traumatic events in my past during therapy, but it only seemed to reopen closed wounds.
It wasn’t until my 20s that I recognized that I was a care-taker, a giver, and a lover because for the first 20-something years of my life everyone had described me as the “sweet one” and the “innocent one” of the four sisters in my family. I’m very much still that way but it sounds so much more mature when written as the former rather than the latter. Am I right?
As the youngest of four I had always been expected to ‘go with the flow’ although this wasn’t a verbalized reality. It was just how our lives evolved. I became the hour hand on the clock while my sisters became the minutes and the seconds. Their lives were evolving and changing while I watched in the back seat of the car with a juice box and fruit snacks. For many years I was, very literally, toted around as a spectator, and, in return, I was very spoiled for my quiet cooperation—some sort of twisted operant conditioning.
Timing is a funny thing. I look back at my life and see that things have happened when they needed to. I graduated college in May and have since entered the fun new phase of trying to find a job. This process is one that I started back in October, I was unhappy with my current situation and was ready for change. In fact, I was craving it. Yet here I am ten months later still looking.
This process had taught me more patience and humility than I even thought possible. I am a big picture person, I look forward to what is next and I don’t like being told to wait. Graduating college was the hardest thing I have ever done. It took me six years and a few failed classes to get there but I did. It is so easy to have the mindset of moving on to what is next and that is why I love that quote everyday is a process and I am learning to be “content with where I am, and eager for more”.
One of my biggest weaknesses is that I always look for the good in people. I ignore the warnings from my friends about who not to get involved with. I open up my heart and my home to people that couldn’t care less about me. I spend days, weeks, months trying to get to know people that will eventually dump me from their lives unapologetically. Worst of all, I give people way too many chances. I never know when to stop searching for the light inside of people and I remain oblivious to the layers and layers of ugliness that they bury their hearts under. I let people lie to me, make me feel inadequate, take advantage of me physically, and use my affection to feed their selfish needs of affirmation, and I am ashamed of my foolishness.
Fashion was something that I loved to explore because it was my way of being “different.” It also terrified me. What if I didn't have that “perfect look?” What if someone didn't like my style? I certainly was no professional stylist or designer.
Everyone correlates the fashion industry with having having a size 0 waist, perfectly clear skin, and ever glowing summer tan. In no way am I a size 0, but I am average for an almost eighteen year old. Don't even get me started about having perfect skin. I have probably been on every medication under the sun, from simple lotions to monthly doctors appointments testing new products. And even though I’m only 15 minutes from the beach, I have yet to experience a tan what so ever.
“I Shape-Shift for a Living”, and Other Tales of Being an Actress
It’s hard to define “real” when you live in a world of dual realities. Each day I go to work and walk into a different circumstance, as a different person, with a completely different history than my own. Sometimes I’m a sweet daughter, other times I'm a snide tomboy, and sometimes, I’m a Power Ranger (okay that was only twice, and I didn’t get the part). As an actress, it’s my job to walk into a room, embody someone else, and essentially “shape-shift” to become a living, breathing version of what a carefully selected team of writers, directors, and producers has cultivated in their heads. It’s a strange, sometimes-wonderful-other-times-demeaning, job. And when you’re constantly stepping in and out of this world of make-believe, it’s hard to define what is reality and what isn’t.
Let's be real. High school is rough. Specifically, my senior year was the epitome of hard times. Many people that I deeply cared for walked out of my life for reasons that were not backed with truth. It hit me hard. Life got really tough very quickly, and with no warning. Quite honestly, I felt extremely defeated. I felt that I had given my all to these people, and it was taken for granted. I realized that when all of this was quickly taken out of my life, although it was tough, it brought me back down to earth. I realized that although many people had walked out of my life, the true friends stayed. That all I needed were those couple friends to help me get through this tough time. These hard times and reading posts through Be Bona Fide taught me to be genuine.