Thursday, March 1, 2012

Identity Crisis

Have you had a significant life change lately? Were you a student and reached graduation? Are you a parent with your kid(s) moving off to college soon? Have you lost a loved one recently? Perhaps, like me, you are now in the throws of a career change? Welcome to the challenge of an identity crisis!

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions, you are entering a new chapter in your life, either of your own making or as a natural progression of life and loss. The person you had become comfortable being and knowing is about to change. The people you’re used to having in your life are either no longer with us, moving off and the amount of exposure to them will change, or you yourself are moving on. Regardless of the circumstances, we are all in the same situation…we are losing who we are in order to become someone new! Are you scared yet? I sure as hell am!!

In my situation, I’m separating from the Air Force after 16 years, 5 months, and 25 days…talk about a culture shock! I’m going from a career that has dominated my entire adult life and provided me with a sense of being and security and entering…what? I’m totally not sure yet except that it is called the civilian world. Professionally, who I’ve come to be known as will cease to exist very soon. I mourn the loss of who I have been. I denied it for a while, I then accepted it, and…sometimes…I even embrace it. However, I am still just not totally to the point of celebrating it yet. Those of you around me more have seen me calm and collected about the changes in my life. In some ways, I am. I’ve known this day was coming. I’ve planned for all the external things (finances, location, possible career paths, etc) as much as any person possibly can. I feel comfortable with all of the worldly plans and what may be there for me professionally in the near future. What I fear the most is learning the new me…the civilian me.

This last paragraph is my story, you can write your own there and finish it with almost the exact same last sentence. Who are we now? What do we do with ourselves now? This is a time of retrospect to a limited scope. Knowing who we have been, what we are capable of doing, and what we’ve done that we don’t want to do again helps us. After reviewing these facts, stop looking back! Be proud of yourself for what you’ve done and where you are, now let’s look forward to where we are going. There is a saying that states the only thing certain in life is death and taxes…so, we might as well find what we want out of life, after all, we only get to do this once! Find your love and your passion in life and pursue it. Find time somehow to be the new you, learn to look forward to the new you, mourn the old you for a while, then create a new you that YOU love and can live with. Be strong, be brave, be adventurous, but most of all…be you!

For me, I know I love my new family and the community of friends around me. Without all of you, I honestly don’t know where I would be right now. I’m terrified of my new life, but excited at the prospects at the same time. I can find a job that allows me to be there for my family, support the community, challenges me with new opportunities, and gives me a new identity. I know I want a career that allows me to help others…it’s in my blood now and is part of who I am now that I want to keep. I know I want a career that doesn’t take away significantly from my time with my family…money cannot buy that time back. I want to provide a comfortable life for my family and myself, but not at the expense of my family and myself. I am ready to learn the new me…to have to decide what to wear each day…to have the freedom to spread my wings and fly or scale back and huddle with those I love the most.

Having an identity crisis is that we know who we are and who we have been, but not knowing who we are about to become. The challenge is taking advantage of that and becoming what we’ve always wanted to be and, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to until now.

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