The image of a person in search of self-identity, purpose, and a place in this world is common. It’s that young adult fresh out of school and facing the question of “what now?” Except I am finding that isn’t the full picture. I’m that person wondering where I fit in, what I am meant to be doing, and how I figure out who I am now. And I’m about 40 years beyond the young adult facing a full life and career, marriage and parenthood, and all that life has to offer. Been there and done that, but (as Lin-Manuel Miranda said) “there’s a million things I haven’t done But just you wait, just you wait…”
When my son graduated and faced those questions himself, I often said that I too had been presented with figuring out who I am. For my whole life up to that point I had been my father’s daughter, then my husband’s mate, then my son’s mother. Suddenly it was time to find out who I was.
At least I thought I was doing that. I wasn’t. I was moving along day after day doing the same things I had been doing for years without the required seats in the bleachers that come with having an athletic kid. I was a teacher. That became my identity, my goal, my purpose. I knew over the years that teaching is a career but that it is also more than that. It is a calling, a vocation. I loved the students and felt that I was doing something important. But time passes, things change, and retirement came.
In the few years since I retired I have discovered that this is another phase of life where people search for meaning, purpose, goals, and a place to belong. I was feeling isolated in this, but as is often the case, when I pursue answers the right way (praying over wallowing, actively seeking instead of just wishing) responses come. I find revelations dropped in my lap.
This past couple of weeks have been another one of those times where I got out of my own way and the Lord stepped in and showed me things. One or two things might be coincidence, but when you have sought for direction and are suddenly surrounded with things that are leading and pointing the way, it isn’t coincidence.
In the middle of feeling lonely and needing to connect, an old friend called. We haven’t been as involved in each other’s lives as we once were when our boys were in school together. She invited me to attend a Bible study with her. As we talked today I find that she too has been praying for friends to be brought into her life – not because she doesn’t have friends but because her life now allows her to expand her friendships and she has more time for them. She said what I feel – you’re suddenly left with purposeless, unfilled time on your hands. She was the second friend I’ve had a similar conversation with this week and it’s only Tuesday!
The book that we are reading for the Bible study, Amazed and Confused by Heather Zempel, is helping me address some of the questions I struggle with. I have also been reading Brené Brown’s newest book Braving the Wilderness. She reads my mind and always seems to be able to predict just what I am looking for answers to! I found another video by her that also spoke to me (I can spend hours watching her on youtube.com)
I’m still looking, searching, seeking, questioning… But I’m finding that it is becoming more exciting and less dismaying as I take an active role in finding the path for me. If you are in the same position, I have (as I always do) some suggested reading for you. Be sure to share your titles and insights with me as well because while I feel like I’m making progress but have a long way to go.
Just a few titles for your reading:
- Brené Brown – Braving the Wilderness (and if you haven’t read her other work, start with The Gifts of Imperfection and just keep reading.
- Maya Angelou – Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (some great advice from a wonderful writer – her poetry will lift you up and give you direction as well)
- John Ortberg – If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat
- Anna Quindlen – A Short Guide to a Happy Life
- Amy Krouse Rosenthal – I Wish You More (A picture book – but it will give you a sense of the blessings you should be seeking for yourself and those you love)
- Monica Sheehan – Be Happy! A Little Book for a Happy You (One of those deceptive books that looks like a children’s picture book but is really a profound little volume for adults)
- Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tuto – The Book of Forgiving
- Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu – The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World