I used to be strong and brave, dauntless even. Very few things in life scared me and if someone corrected me, I thanked them for the knowledge (after corroborating that in fact they were correct). I used to write long poems, ballads and odes, testaments to my teenage angst and bewilderment. I don’t know when I stopped writing or worse caring about what people thought about my prose. I had never censored myself or my feelings for the sake of others’ comfort. I used to be, well, me.
After the layoff in 2015 I used to be very confident about my technical skills. I was never questioned or had to prove myself until the day came that I had to leave. I cannot even fathom how my prowess as an engineering historian and miracle worker couldn’t save me, data that could have been easily validated by talking to my peers. Now I’m the person who used to lead certain projects or that used to be the heart and soul of the team. That’s hard to process for a kid that was used to knowing the answers to all the questions; the most indispensable part of the team. I still do know most answers but I keep quiet and don’t venture to speak up unless no one else in the room takes the opportunity to guess. Confidence in my skills dwindled. Ironically, there isn’t a trivia game in town that I cannot win, with the right crew of course, or a subject I can’t work my way through. Truth be told I used to be a lot less sensitive about not saying the correct answer. I definitely lost my edge there. I have to follow statements or answers to questions now with “I am telling you, not asking”.
I used to be very impatient, to the point no one could hear or see me waiting because I was already doing something else if I couldn’t get my way. Now, I agonize over months of planning, ditching events at the last minute because it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. I can sit and wait for hours and even years until something happens, too still and complacent to be noticed. I stopped actively going after what I wanted. Too many rejection letters forced me to stop caring and trying. You can say that I took a leave of absence from competition as well. I used to win all the awards, discussions and games. I was always out there doing something, achieving. Somewhere along the line I ran out of steam, of drive. What once was pure ambition and fire has died down exponentially.
Maybe the many disillusionments have jaded my inner child to the point it had to save itself by leaving me behind. All those dreams I used to have and all the energy I used to expend have left me hollow and exhausted. It is as if my soul decided to leave my body behind, a shell of its former glorious self, and took the light inside me with it. I used to give 100% in everything I did and now I barely show up. I do the minimum required and sometimes a bit more than expected but not too much to get noticed. Trust me when I say that my minimum is still better than most people’s best but I can tell I’m half assing it even if no one else can. That bothers me.
I used to be extremely resilient and perseverant, relentless even, and wouldn’t take no for an answer unless it was obvious I was doing the other people damage. I used to know exactly what I wanted from people and from life. I always got more than I bargained for without having to settle for less. People used to admire my courageous and brazen disposition. I got stuff done. I still manage to do this actually but not with the same pizzazz and ease. My magic wand used to work wonders but now it falls short of my own expectations. Others are surprised with the high quality of my work even though I can’t see it. I feel mediocre at best most days. Weird.
I used to be so many things before I got married: carefree, assertive and independent. Now everytime I say or do something people expect it to represent the views of an entire household, and my assertiveness is met with resistance. Strangers and friends alike judge my every move and question my loyalty to “my man” when I decide to do pursue non traditional roles, usually whatever my heart desires falls into this category. Wanting to be more than just a wife became an issue. For some reason people think I have to ask for permission to do what I want as if I had an owner. I don’t. It’s sad because I used to not be concerned with public opinion or beliefs until others started imposing their values and expectations on me. I used to be myself and that was enough. Not anymore. All these accusations of not taking care of my house are driving me crazy. The place can be spotless and it would still be an issue. Can’t people embrace I’m not normal?
What I miss the most though is that I used to be happy. Genuinely content and effervescent, with no owners and no limitations. I hadn’t been defined by the decisions I had made or at least not as rigidly as the decisions I make now as an adult. I used to be so many things and I am so many more now that it is hard to reconcile what I wanted vs what I got. I’m missing many people, those who died and those who left me, but that loss doesn’t compare to the amount of myself I lost with each departure. I let life define me instead of defining myself. I think it’s time to bring back that which served me and shed the weight of that which doesn’t. I suggest we all do the same. Life is too long to be miserable, to be defined incorrectly by the perceptions of others. Rage, rage, against labels. I sure will now.