I’ve been feeling out of sorts for several months, and for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. It finally clicked for me the other night:
I’ve forgotten how to be me.
From 1984 to 2008, my life pretty much revolved around journalism. Then a pink slip sent me into a tailspin, and I landed at the front of a sophomore English classroom. Teaching wasn’t quite as worn-out-Birkenstock-comfortable as journalism, but it appealed to my sense of social justice and felt important enough to be worth doing, so I dove in and let it permeate my life in ways you can’t imagine if you’ve never been there. Done right, teaching is a 24/7/365 job, and if you are not very careful, you can lose yourself in it.
I wasn’t very careful, and by the time I surfaced four years later, I realized that in becoming Ms. Priddy, I’d misplaced Emily, in all sorts of little ways that didn’t occur to me at the time.
I wasn’t too worried. I landed a new job and figured I’d find myself at work.
My new job is fine, but I’ve been accustomed to having my identity inextricably tangled up in my profession, and PR just isn’t the sort of thing that absorbs your soul and penetrates your heart, so for the first time in my life, Who I Am and What I Do were not synonymous. It was a little disorienting.
The farther I’ve strayed from myself, the more my health — physical, mental, and especially spiritual — has suffered, and a few weeks ago, tired and adrift, I broke down and called a friend of mine who has the dual advantage of being both a Christian Science practitioner and an incorrigible hippie, which was precisely the combination I needed to talk some sense into me. I don’t remember her exact words, but they made me feel better, and I managed to wake up from a long evening of sobbing without the sinus headache that usually follows such indulgences. That may seem a small victory, but given the number of headaches I’ve endured over the past five years, it gave me reason for hope.
Since then, I’ve begun finding scraps of myself here and there, in little things that seem trivial in and of themselves but collectively are much more important than they appear: a trip to a plant nursery to lift my spirits on a cold, gray afternoon; a jar of alfalfa seeds sprouting on my kitchen counter; a conversation with a colleague about our mutual fondness for Neil Diamond; a stroll through the backyard to daydream about gardening projects I might try this spring.
I’m still missing some pieces. But I don’t think they’re lost; I’ve just mislaid them, and I’m kind of enjoying the process of rummaging through my thought to find them again.