During Big Life Changes, How Do Keep Your Personal Identity?

The other day, my one-year-old daughter Ella and I cozied up on my bed for our morning routine: watching Disney YouTube videos and singing along to the inspirational ballads. But then something happened.

I Am Moana‘ came on. The melody starts slowly, as Moana almost gives up on her quest to save her island. But then her grandmother’s spirit appears. To draw Moana back to herself, the grandmother describes her: a daughter who makes her family proud, a girl who loves the sea, a woman who fights for her people. She then asks Moana who she thinks she is — and that’s when the anthem swells.

Moana sings the roles that make her her: the daughter of the village chief, a descendant from the voyagers, a voyager herself who has journeyed the farthest of anyone in their tribe. A girl guided by her grandmother and her own inner voice. The song ends with her proclaiming, “I am Moana!”

Witnessing that three-minute clip always gives me full-body chills.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to the idea of staying true to yourself because I’m in a place where I’ve been questioning everything. The clothes I wear (can I be a mom and still wear crop tops?). The way I apply makeup (should I keep my glam look or simplify my routine?). The hobbies I invest time in (should I pick up guitar again? will I ever finish my reading list? I’m going to create an English garden!!!).

Maybe my doubt comes from being a new parent who is trying to hold onto my pre-baby self and explore who I am as a mother. Or maybe it’s because I’m turning 30 in December and am evaluating my life decisions. Am I the person I thought I would be?

Trying to clarify my identity into an elevator pitch isn’t new to me. Sometimes I feel embarrassed that I’m not 100% confident in who I am. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that growing older will always lead to new places and more digging to find out who you really are.

Over the years, we move through identities: child, student, mentor, friend, ex-friend, sibling, employee, lover, life partner, parent, grandparent, and on and on. Each role comes with learning curves and personal interpretations. So, how can we not fall in and out of touch with ourselves?

During foggy moments, I’ve found that identifying my simple pleasures helps ground me:

Slow folk love songs
Immigrant stories
– Resting my head on my mother’s lap
– Wearing gold hoops
– Re-reading books about family and friendship
– Roasting chicken and potatoes, with a side of crusty bread and glass of white wine
– Running in the early mornings, when I can smell the dewy grass
– Hour-long phone dates with my friend Angela
– Helping loved ones find the positive when they’re in complicated situations
– Singing old church hymns about joy and hope

These personal joys are ropes that tether me to my true self. They reassure and inspire me. Once again, I am able to see what I love about myself and what I know to be true, like how growing up with a single parent can be hard and beautiful, and that Greek yogurt with strawberries and honey is the perfect breakfast.

Maybe one day I’ll reach a point in my life where I know 100% who I am, although I’m not sure if that’s even possible. But I do know that over the years, as life changes, I’ll always have the things I love to pull me back in.

How about you? What are the moments or people that remind you who you are? I’d love to hear.

P.S. Why life is a party and how has your life surprised you?

(Photo by Stocksy/Akela)

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