I Am

I Am

I watched a heartbreaking documentary last night. A woman who has followed her passion her entire life, rose to the top doing so and then became so ill that she could no longer perform. The devastation you see in her eyes is telling. And at first I felt like an outsider observing and feeling empathy for her, how it must feel to be in her shoes, and then I realized I have felt that. 


I recognised it when she said people were expecting her “name” to show up and be her, but who is that? That person is gone. 


Now in no way shape or form am I relating to her devastating illness, that is not what I’m referring to so we won’t go there.


I am referring to the grief of losing the self you identified with. 


I had spent my entire life as an artist, as early as I can remember I was holding a pencil. The first cherished gift I received was a book on drawing from a family friend. 


I really grew in my art, taught myself to paint through books. I pushed my way into the art scene, hanging paintings in local galleries, shops, selling in markets, joining art clubs, starting my own international art club, winning a competition in England, even being the first original artist selling at our local zoo, which isn’t small by any means. I illustrated a book, painted murals in businesses. You name it I went for it, and in my own simple lane I was owning it. 


But I had also found myself in a very abusive situation for many years, which soon led to shutting down into depression.


I’m not looking for sympathy, it’s not necessary or the point, I’m not talking about my family either. 


What I am talking about in this article is the identity we define ourselves by and how quickly it can disappear. After our separation I tried to pick up a brush again but would only break down in tears. The trauma was too great and I was no longer “an artist” as I saw it.


Something I had spent my entire life up until then pursuing and loving, I felt had been ripped away from me. 


To pull myself out of this depression I sought healing so that I could show up better for my family, and in doing so found a completely different side to myself that I didn’t know existed. 


I jumped into that pool of intrigue without knowing how to swim but found myself in the process. 


Why am I talking about this?


Because, we become closely attached to the identity we see ourselves as, we define ourselves by this, it is no longer so much about this passion that is making us happy, but about who we see ourselves as when doing it and how we are used to being related to. 


Having a passion is beautiful, it is an expression, but it is not who you are. 


It is a slippery slope to define yourself by what you do. Because it can be taken away just like that. How many people pursuing sports injure themselves to then have to recreate themselves. 


You’re left standing there wondering, who am I? And the grief of losing that person can hit hard, the depression overwhelming. And unfortunately the people around you will not always understand the depths of your feelings.


I feel like we need to pay more attention to how we define ourselves, how we want to show up, and that would be by the content of our character. 


Careers change, passions evolve, life happens, tragedy happens, so knowing who you are and how you show up in life no matter the circumstance is important and unwavering. 


So what is my identity, my identity is how I show up to the table, the way I show up for me. My identity is not what I do but how I become, it is what I value, it is in my mistakes, it is in growth. It’s in the laughter we share, the deep talks we have, my curious nature and the empathy I feel. 


My identity shows up when I am cooking you a meal, walking with you under the sun, sitting on the back deck listening to the children play. 


My identity is how I treat you, my identity is how I treat myself, my identity is in how I can’t help but dance when no one’s looking and if someone’s looking.


So please be mindful of how you identify yourself, know in the core of your being what that looks like, and if life changes, as it will, you will be unshakable. 


You will allow the process of grief and then you will let go because there are so many sides of you to explore. 


I never ever thought I would find myself here or let alone be able to do what I do, if it weren’t for losing my identity. 

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