My identities are making me sick.
I spend hours every day trying to fulfill them, rather than fulfilling myself.
I am a good friend, big sister, loving daughter, empowered woman, hard worker, team player, budding writer, intersectional feminist, spiritual practitioner—the list could go on forever.
And though I am only talking about the identities I have either chosen or embraced, they’re exhausting. Because every day I have to prove to myself—to all the nonexistent people watching and judging me—that I am all these things. I am neglecting the things that fulfill me, nourish me, and allow me to look back on my days with a goofy grin, knowing I’ve lived fully.
For example, if I were to drive to the swimming hole and briefly submerge my body in the snowmelt, that would have made my day. I would feel brave and alive and as if I pushed my limits in the best way. But can I really justify losing an hour of work and risk falling behind to spend 15 seconds in water with icebergs the size of dinner plates floating by?
Not without jeopardizing my identity as a team-oriented, responsible, hardworking coworker. Not until my willpower cracks and my carefully curated habits break down. Not until I’m so exhausted I just say f*ck it and do what I want.
That’s what happened this week; I unraveled at the seams, along with my identities. Along with the false prison I had created for myself while trying to be a certain thing, rather than feeling a certain way.
And you know what? Though I was worried my world would collapse while too exhausted to really care, it did not.
I still got work done. I still gave attention to my friends and family. I still took care of most of my responsibilities, but without the weight of expectation. I did them because it felt good to do them and because I wanted to—not because I “should.”
Yes, I fell a bit behind on my work. Yes, I watched “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” back to back. Yes, I was worried that by allowing myself to rest that I would never get back up again and spiral into a purposeless and bland existence. But soon after I dropped the burdens I had forced myself to carry, none of it felt nearly so burdensome anymore. Soon after, I grew bored of Pixar movies.
And finally, I wrote that damn work email I had been putting off for a week. Not because I needed to confirm my hardworking identity to myself or anyone else, but because I knew I would feel better if I did.
And I did. I felt brave and alive and like I’d pushed my limits in the best way.