With recent conversations the topic of “Who am I?” has come up and stuck with me. Some days it’s more of an anxiety than a passing idea. I’ve worried a lot recently about not knowing who I am or why I’m even here. We as humans are always changing and I’m not excluded from that. Everything from religion to education to habits and personality have changed for me; a lot of those changed have happened in the last 5 years. More than anything I’ve changed a lot in the last few months. At first, I changed for the worst, but now I can see myself making a lot of really good changes. As I got to a better place mentally, I’ve found myself even more lost than I felt during my depression. Now it’s clear-headed lost feelings because I don’t recognize myself since emerging from that darkness I was in for so long.
But who was I before? I don’t remember that girl at all. I remember being popular in my friend group, easily being the center of attention–but not in a bad way. I was always holding court amongst my peers. I was full of light and attracted people to me. I was loud and social and full of energy and hyperactivity that the girl I am now isn’t reminiscent of at all. I’m a lot quieter now, which is something I never thought I’d be.
Thinking back, I don’t know who I was for most of my adolescence. I defined myself in high school and college by who my parents were, who my friends were, where I went to school, where I went (or didn’t go) to church. I don’t think I realized what I was feeling back then; I felt out of place, that was all I knew. Since moving to Florida, I defined myself by the job I had. Everything revolved around that, and not who I was deep inside, so I forgot.
Being unhappy in the workplace that was the only defining factor I felt I had made me feel like a failure. During my college program, I knew I’d found my place. That was who I was. Then I went to merchandise and lost myself. With a transfer back to the place I was happy, I felt alive again. Look at any of my social media bios and you’ll see “Pirate” on there. Hardly ever does it say “Cast Member” because I never defined myself as that. I was a pirate and only a pirate. I went back to Adventureland part-time as a “real” Cast Member and in the best way possible thought I owned the place. I was going to apply for trainer and coordinator and facilitator and I was going to be there forever. Moving from my definition to Frontierland has been hard. Again, I felt like I had failed myself and didn’t know who I was outside of my Pirate Life. That’s what I’m struggling with right now. I’ve made myself feel like I have nothing special to prove that I’m unique or interesting.
I thought maybe school would make me interesting. Maybe I needed to label myself as “Student” if I couldn’t have “Pirate.” But why? In high school when everyone was talking about college plans, I joined in, but in my three semesters of college, I changed my major three times and took only one class outside of the core requirements. Everyone knew who they were and the plan to get a degree to match. But I don’t want to be “Career Woman Hannah,” so why do I need to spend the money on school to get a degree that I’m only getting because I’m lost? What I realized I was actually doing was following others on their paths to happiness. I’ve spent so much time comparing my success to others’ when they’re on their path and I’m swerving into their lane. This is the exact opposite of finding my individualism! I can’t find myself when I’m not forging my own way and only following what others seem successful in doing.
I have no answers. Just trying to get out these thoughts bouncing around inside. While doing this, I’ve been making a list of things I know to be true about myself: interests, habits, personality traits all good and bad. I’m not writing down things I wish I was or can be sometimes. But I’m writing down constants in the moment. Deep down, I know I’m special and unique. So I made a list to remind me why.
I don’t believe in coincidence. This post has been a thought for about three weeks, and a draft for one. Yesterday I was catching up on blogs I follow and came across this post by guest writer Maxie McCoy on The College Prepster blog. Incredibly inspiring, this post made a lot of sense for writing this one. In it, Maxie talks about her three buckets of experience: Contribution, Personality, and Values. She goes on to ask three questions, “What does it mean to be radiantly you? What work aligns your talents and interests? What gives you the most energy?” That was exactly what I was trying to do by making my personal list. But Maxie put it into inspiring words and gave me a process and a goal.
I’ve chosen to not define myself by the people I spend time with or the location I work at. I want to look at my “buckets” or list of things I know for sure about who Hannah Noel Jackson is. I’m a writer, a reader, a dog mom. I’m a wife to someone I’m not married to yet; I know that deep down just like some women know they’re meant to be mothers I’m meant to be a wife. I’ve got messy handwriting and I’m stylish as hell. I’m supportive and independent and say whatever is on my mind. I say things without thinking and sometimes I hurt people’s feelings. I’m a hard worker and I’m not lazy. I can perform one-woman Broadway shows in my car. When I care about something, I care a lot. There’s so much to me and I’m just trying to figure it all out.
People change. That’s life. I’m not who I was in high school, I’m not who I was 6 months ago. I’m not who I will be a year from now. I’m trying to find who I am in this very moment outside of work and relationships. More than thinking about how those things define me, I need to worry about how I define them. They bring nothing to me, but I can bring everything to them. This whole “find yourself during your twenties” thing is a lot more difficult than tv and books prepared me for.