Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know who I am.
If that sounds ridiculous, please hold my hand and go on this ride with me. Writing is deliverance. Writing is the cure. I write for you. I write for me. This is how we (try) to figure out life.
I know a lot about myself. I do. I’ve been living inside this curvy body for thirty-two years. I know I appreciate being alone. I know I’m painfully empathetic. I love deeply. I have every Leo trait. I’m all-encompassing and passionate and can’t watch too many cat videos because I will start to cry. I love to write and talk to horses and call my mother. I was born in the late ‘80s so I am obsessed with synthetic music nostalgia and long conversations without cellphones. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a girlfriend. I am an auntie. I am a pushover. I have awful road rage for no apparent reason aside from the fact that I am far too kind and need some sort of outlet to release.
And then there are the other parts. The parts I don’t know.
The parts behind social media. My physical body. My soul filled with grief. Me as a mother. Me if I can never be a mother. Me if I had nothing to my name. So many more versions of me floating around in the future or hidden by digital coping mechanisms. I don’t know these parts of me well. They are parts I will eventually have to know. They are parts that are inevitable. They are the parts that scare me.
Social media is a weird place. I present myself how I want to be presented, behind a million filters and 160-character rants. On top of all that, I worry relentlessly about what everyone else is up to, pushing my own self away and feeding my FOMO to the hottest parts of my bloodstream. And that’s not fair to me. Defining my own identity with perfect photography and constant content from others is a taboo. We need to find ourselves without the pull and pressure of the outside world. And social media nearly makes it impossible to do that.
For example, I’ve been ruling out who I am physically entirely. Until recently, I didn’t know what my body was capable of. I started working out and realized I couldn’t even do a push-up. It was embarrassing. And I wanted to understand more. Could I do a pull-up? Could I jump high? Could I run a mile? Could I do ten jumping jacks? If I couldn’t do those things, could my body learn how? HOW HAVE I LET MY BODY BE SO STILL AND UNMOVING THIS LONG?! I need to know more. If my body is capable, what else can she do?
I also don’t know how I deal with grief. That scares me the most. I think about this one a lot. I have never known the deep, ravenous, hungry cavern that is experiencing the true pain of loss. I don’t even know if grief is a cavern. Perhaps it’s a valley I would get lost in. My mother once told me that grief is like you are sitting on the beach alone and out of nowhere a giant wave comes crashing in and you cannot breathe because you are underwater. That is what grief is for her. But, I don’t know what grief feels like for me and I don’t know who I am with it. I am so lucky that I am able to write this here. Right now, the person I am without grief feels selfish. As if I beat the tide. I’m scared to know the person who gets swallowed by the wave.
I have yet to discover who I will be as a mother. Or as a woman trying to be a mother. Or as a woman who is told, “I’m sorry, you can’t be a mother.” This is a part of my body I don’t know either.
We evolve. And we never really truly know who we are. But we can take the time to dig deep into ourselves and push away from the things that make us feel further away from why we choose to keep breathing.
I think the lesson here is this: We evolve. And we never really truly know who we are. But we can take the time to dig deep into ourselves and push away from the things that make us feel further away from why we choose to keep breathing.
When I was a kid I spent hours with my nose buried in books. Books let me create my own worlds. I loved those imaginary worlds. Books taught me who I am. They taught me what others were capable of; let me into the trueness of their lives. Robert Greene, in his book Mastery, explains that each individual has primal inclinations they display during childhood. But as they grow up, it becomes easier to turn to adults for “help and advice.” We lose touch with our inner voice and conform to the culture around us. That’s what social media does. So, I vow to read more. I want to gain my inner voice again. I vow to journal more, too.
I’m also going to work on understanding my body more and more. I can do a push-up now! And I’m working on a pull-up. My body loves to be pushed and encouraged. And it’s incredible how much real estate my body has in my brain. If I feel well-worked physically, my mind feels well-rested. I’m learning more every day about how it feels to be in touch with my physical form. This absolutely means sex, too! Moms and grandmas—I’m going to stop right now for your sake!
My goal in 2020 is to understand myself. I will define myself in other ways aside from social media. I will listen to my inner voice. I will challenge my body to equally challenge my mind. And if I can’t understand who I am in certain circumstances, (i.e. FUTURE ME COULD BE SO SCARY), I need to learn to make peace with who I am without grief. Without motherhood. Without my future self, whoever she may be.
Brittany Chaffee is an avid storyteller, professional empath, and author. On the daily, she gets paid to strategize and create content for brands. Off work hours, it’s all about a well-lit place, warm bread, and good company. She lives in St.Paul with her baby brother cats, Rami and Monkey. Follow her on Instagram, read more about her latest book, Borderline, and (most importantly) go hug your mother.
BY Brittany Chaffee - January 7, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
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