Monday, October 20, 2008

Finding Myself

People tell me all the time that they love the message I have for my voicemail. It says something along the lines of, "Hey, you've reached Alyssa's cell phone; sorry I missed your call. I'm not sure where I am right now, but if you leave me a message, I'll call you back just as soon as I've found myself."

If my voicemail was telling the truth, I would never call anyone back.

I've always thought the concept of "finding oneself" was rather corny. Recently, however...I feel that's exactly what I have been doing.

I made a monumental decision a few weeks ago. I decided that I am not going to grad school, at least not for quite awhile. Why, you ask? Simple—I don't want to. I also decided that I don't want to go into a career in counseling/social work/etc—if I did, I would no longer be able to give that rather significant part of myself to my friends in the way that I would like to do.

These decisions opened an entire slew of possibilities I hadn't really considered as options for my future before. It's exciting. (It's also terrifying, but for the moment I think it's a good kind of terror.) But this blog isn't really about all of those possibilities. I'll save that for another time. No...this is about what those decisions meant in terms of my identity.

I wrote last month that I was going through something of an identity crisis. While I have come to the aforementioned realizations and so made some progress in solving that crisis, I'm not all the way home yet. I've realized in the past couple of months that I'm really not sure who I am. I have been wrestling with myself a lot lately. For years I've kept up this front of self-confidence, this not-so-subtly aggressive "don't mess with me or I'll kick your ass" attitude. It's served me well—it's allowed me to be the independent woman that I'm striving to be. There's just one problem. A lot of days, a front is all it is. Behind that mask, I'm often terrified—terrified of life, of people, even of myself. Very few people will ever see behind my mask (and I think very few ever need to), but some days, I just have to let someone in. That happened last night. I let a friend see farther behind the mask than anyone else has seen in a very,
long time. It was awful and painful and beautifully liberating all at once, and it reminded me why it's so necessary to have just one person around whom I can be totally comfortable, and totally myself (even if I'm not always sure who I am). It helps that this particular friend and I have a lot in common. It makes me wonder if God sends us such friends because they help us to see ourselves more clearly.

So, what are some of the things that I have been discovering (or, in some cases, rediscovering) about myself?
  • I love music. I love listening to music, I love playing music, I love writing speaks to, through, and from my soul in ways that nothing else can.

  • Bouncing off of that, I love to sing. I have the potential to have a decent voice, but I haven't used it. I'm trying to change that...even if I never get farther than my car.

  • I love spending time with people. Large groups of people still make me want to hide in a corner, but hanging out with a friend or two is quite possibly the best way to spend an evening. Even if it just means sitting together and doing homework, I love being able to spend quality time with people.

  • I also love being close to people. I love to cuddle. I've tried to tone that part of me down a lot in the past, which is fine around most people, but I can't just cut that off completely. (Extra happy points if closeness and quality time go hand in hand.)

  • I have a very low tolerance for liars, cowards, and anyone who goes back on his or her word. (Yes, this sometimes means I have a very low tolerance for myself. I'm working on that.) I just have a very low tolerance for people who won't be real. Say what you mean, not what you think I want to hear. Don't beat around the bush. For example, if you're quoting something or talking about something and in the process you need to write out some sort of four-letter-word that may or may not be a normal part of your vocabulary, just write the damn thing out. Turning it into a string of asterisks is not going to keep you or anyone else from thinking whatever the word is (yes, this is my pet peeve of the week...). A more common example: if you have something you want to tell me, tell me. Don't worry about insulting me. Just say what you have to say and be done with it.

  • In spite of the fact that I am and always will be a tomboy, I like being a girl. I like going out feeling sexy. I like turning heads. I have long neglected that part of me, and I plan to thoroughly indulge it now.

  • I'm a flirt. I don't want to lead anyone on, but I love to tease people. I've said for a long time that sarcasm is my love language. (Please note that there is a difference between being a flirt and stringing people along. There is also a very, very big difference between being a flirt and being a whore. I try to be very careful about this.)

  • I'm a fighter. This isn't a new discovery, but I wondered with everything else I was figuring out if this might go away. It's not. I'm rough around the edges, and I like it that way. I'm not unnecessarily violent, but I'm interested in learning how to effectively defend myself and others. It's something I already do instinctively; I want to know how to do it well.

  • I love writing. I haven't been keeping that skill up very well, but I want to get back into it. I miss it.

  • Sometimes, I like to swear. For now, that's just the way it's gonna be. I will be respectful and won't swear around those of you who are offended by it, but that doesn't mean I'm always going to censor myself.

  • If I feel like I am being forced to do something, even if it's something I usually love, I will not enjoy it. This is why I will never look at photography or writing as career options.

I'm sure the list will continue to grow. (Mom and Dad, since I'm sure you'll read this at some point, I hope I didn't shock, offend, mortify, or otherwise confuse or frustrate you too much.)