‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the removable persona

A friend of mine sent me an old picture of an old boyfriend the other day and it has put me in a tailspin.

Not in a "oh no! I married the wrong man!" sort of way. More in a "what happens to all those people once we're done being them?" sort of way.

When you date someone seriously, you can't help but picture what your life will be like with that person. He was scrappy and idealistic. He was studying things he loved, with not much thought for how his degree was going to feed him. It was never an issue, because he always made things work. I admired him very much.

Meanwhile, I studied for the Foreign Service exam. It is maybe not a good sign when you and your boyfriend are preparing for careers on different continents. It is one of those things that made sense at the time. Neither of us was concerned about making a lot of money, but we did want to spend our work weeks doing what we loved. It's one of the things that was right about us.

Do you remember the commercial, where two young men are hitchhiking in Europe? One of them is talking about how he wants to be a potter and live off the grid as they walk past sheep farms and whatnot. And then a couple picks them up in their beautiful, quiet, comfortable, leather-interiored, European luxury car, and the boys are rendered mute. After a moment he says, "maybe a business major with a minor in pottery."

That boy, I'm sorry to say, was me. I tried on some new versions of myself. I envisioned big weddings with elegant gowns. I dated real estate developers and anesthesiologists and got a job in an art gallery because that's what I saw someone do in a movie once (sadly, not kidding).

It took me a long time to realize that real estate developers and anesthesiologists, though lovely people, are not my thing. I like my life partners a little scrappier, thank you.

The picture of my old boyfriend made me think about what was so right about our relationship. And after days of stewing about it, I've concluded that what tripped me up when I saw the photo was that I lost sight of who I was for so long.

There is a lot of talk about losing oneself when becoming Somebody's Mother. There is talk about keeping who you are alive, the you that is not defined by a mini-van and mom jeans. I love this idea, but the problem is, I lost sight of who I am long before I had kids. I'm not really sure what it is I'm supposed to keep alive.

At least, I wasn't sure until I saw that picture. I saw that picture and saw who I was when he was who he was.

I'm smart and scrappy and comfortable in my own skin. I think I'd like to revisit that version of me. And the funny thing? That's exactly the kind of person I married.


The Whispering Poppies said...

BRAVO! I love this post, and you've hit the nail on the proverbial head! I, too, recently had this very same revelation... BIL handed me a photo two weeks ago of "our gang BC" (before children) eating out in PTown at our usual hangout. I saw a very young "me" and a very young (also scrappy - you can attest!) hubby. I thought, "ooh! ooh! ooh!" (in an Arnold Horshack kinda voice), "I want to be that girl again"! I think because all my kids will finally be in school this fall, I'm finding I'll be with hubby fulltime at the shop as in our days BC, so maybe I can relive this feeling, even if a little.

Newt said...

I love this post, too, Susan. And my five measly months of motherhood have made me doubt the logic of this "losing yourself" stuff, too. The moms on the internet are the weirdest, bravest people I know. I hope I'm getting smarter and scrappier for my kid, not lamer and more invisible. But joining the foreign service is out, so adventure and heroism have to get redesigned.

But I'm not giving up my mom jeans. No way, nohow.

Zip n Tizzy said...

I ended up marrying my young scrappy boyfriend, and we're constantly struggling with the balance of stability, consistency and idealism.
Sometimes I fantasize about what it would be like to have more financial security, but I can't imagine doing it with anyone else.
Facebook is making a lot of people face their pasts I think. I was recently contacted by my first boyfriend and was glad to see that he's finding happiness in his life, and he congratulated me on creating the life (he thought) I always wanted. When he said this, I had to remind myself that my life really is what I want, but I have the same struggles with what my identity is beyond my children. These days the juggling comes with fully appreciating what I have and slowly putting one foot in front of the other so I'll be ready to plunge into a deeper sense of myself once my boys are in school.

Lisa said...

What a wonderful place to be ~ when you look at your life and find it's just what you wanted.


Anonymous said...

Susan, you devil you. What a great blog, again! You are able to write down what you (and with that also others) think and feel.
Me, I´m happy I did not turn out to be what I wanted to be when I was young(er). I then aimed for a lousy production job (for the money) and a rockband (for the attention and such). Apart from a brief fling with music, I turned into a man who loves his exiting job (in IT, yes, that can be exiting) and lucky, oh so lucky, to have a child.
Good thing dreams don´t always come true!


Lisa said...

Susan, I absolutely loved how you put this. And I'm so glad and not surprised that you wound up with exactly the right kind of person for you.

Laurie said...

Susan, it was nice to come across your blog. I'm a fellow writer who lives on the Cape.

I love this post and your writing style. I'll be back.

TwoBusy said...

"But the problem is: I lost sight of who I am long before I had kids."

That line? That one right there?

Belongs in lights.

Anonymous said...

just beautiful Susan.:)