Third-of-a-life crisis

I was going to start this blog with a joke about how long it’s been since I last wrote, but that seems like a monotonous road to go down – pretty much every post could start out that way. So I’ll just say that I’m pleased to be back.

It’s that time of year when the world feels crisp and new, and fresh starts are almost inevitable. Well, that’s how I felt during the first 10 days of January. At this point, things are starting to slip a little. The conviction that I would never crave sugar again has turned into a commitment that I won’t eat more than a box of chocolates in one sitting. It’s not pretty. And now, my birthday is just around the corner. The timing seems cruel – just as I’ve begun to acknowledge that I have no willpower, I’m smacked with the reminder that I am frankly looking a little haggard, and also that I am older than the Chancellor of Austria. What have I done with my life?? So it’s a good time for an identity crisis exploration.

At least I’ve worn some amazing clothes.

Identity is a funny beast. I see slogans everywhere that are some iteration of “be who you are because you are super awesome.” I guess there’s a point to that, but I often fall into the trap of defining myself by what I do (or don’t do), and specifically, what I’m doing (or not doing) as a career/job. And because my brain is a little idealistic (aka: flaky), I have the idea that when I someday magically have my dream career, my life will be complete. What that dream career will be has shifted substantially over the years…

As an 8-year-old, I wanted to be a missionary in some faraway country. I knew a few families of missionaries, and every time they came home to visit, they got a lot of attention and presents, which made my 8-year-old self pretty jealous. Plus, sleeping in a hammock in the jungle with some isolated tribe just seemed more interesting than eating my mother’s weirdly healthy cooking and fighting with my younger siblings. I tried to rig up a hammock on my brother’s bunk bed to practice, but I kept smashing my head on the springs of the upper bunk. And besides, I had to grow up first because my parents didn’t seem to be interested in moving to the jungles of South America any time soon. So I was sidetracked by other dreams.

This book was/is one of my favourite missionary stories. If you like tapeworms, this one is for you!

For awhile, I thought I wanted to be a pianist, of the “tortured artist” variety. You know, the kind that is so tormented by their artistry and brilliance that they live in garrets, practicing and weeping, until they pull themselves together and play Carnegie Hall. The problem is that I enjoyed dreaming about being a musician more than actually practicing, so Carnegie Hall didn’t quite happen.

I mean, everyone knows the great pianists totally love their lives, right?

What did happen was that I started teaching piano to young kids. It was in a little studio in Southwest Calgary, whose teaching rooms were so small that the scent of each student would sort of compound with that of the previous student until by the end of the night it was a heady mix of gassy six-year-old, teenage McDonald’s deep-fryer worker, and overperfumed, middle-aged mother. All the air freshener in the world couldn’t quite mitigate it.

And then came my twenties. I began them by wanting to save the world, like most new university students do (at least those taking degrees that don’t lead to jobs). So I spent a lot of time working for a non-profit downtown, driving around and handing out noodle cups and flavoured condoms to the homeless, and scooping up used syringes on pre-makeover Saint Patrick’s island when the shift got slow.

Watch your toes, kiddies! (photo: Tourism Calgary )

A decade later, I’m in a place that I wouldn’t have anticipated as an eight-year-old missionary wannabe. I’m a stay-at-home mother. I sometimes do a little freelance writing on the side, but I’m basically a stay-at-home mom. As someone who struggles with career fixation, it sometimes feels like a hard place to be. But on another, deeper level, I’m grateful for it. Grateful, of course, because I get to spend my days with my two beautiful, feisty little broads. And grateful, because it is forcing me to rethink how I define identity. If a career is the be all end all, frankly, I’m screwed. And deep down, I suspect that a career identity wouldn’t actually be a panacea.

So as I approach my birthday, my hopes for my 34th year are less to do with avoiding sugar, and more to do with knowing my identity as a beloved child of God. Because that’s an identity I won’t outgrow 🙂


2 thoughts on “Third-of-a-life crisis”

  1. I agree that career doesn’t define your identity, but let’s also acknowledge that you’re an amazing pianist, a successful writer, and a legit missionary in the wilds of East Calgary.


  2. Ha ha! It’s so refreshing to hear your retrospective take on the various stages of your life, all of which sound familiar…Lovely! (And I think you’ve found the heart of it.)


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