Since we finalized the theme for this issue — “Be Yourself” — a few weeks ago, a song from my late teen years has been running on repeat through my head. In her 2001 song “Who I Am,” country artist Jessica Andrews sings these lyrics in the chorus:
the spitting image of my father/
And when the day is done,
my mama’s still my biggest fan/
Sometimes I’m clueless and I’m clumsy, but I’ve got friends, they love me/
And they know just where I stand.
It’s all a part of me, and that’s
who I am.
As I prepared for college and to live independently for the first time, this song became something of an anthem for me. I was a small-town girl moving to the “big city” of Minneapolis, excited and ready, but also nervous and a little bit scared. I wanted to stay connected to my roots and reach for the sun.
Nearly 20 years later, I can confidently say I’ve done both. And while those words still remind me of where I come from, they also call to mind newer images — of my husband; of the two young girls who are our legacy; of the family, friends, and colleagues I’ve met along the way; of the formative experiences that have changed me.
Though I sometimes long for the simplicity of my youth, the accumulation of experiences from all of this adulting has created a more complex definition of who I am; it’s helped clarify what I value and what I’m passionate about:
- I am a committed wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague — and I am learning how to set boundaries in all of these relationships.
- I value honesty, authenticity, commitment, clear communication, good data, safety, and flexibility.
- I love reading, traveling, watching movies with my kids, having in-depth conversations, paddleboarding, and lifting heavy weights. Bonus: Each is its own form of stress relief. (For more on that, see “Reset Your Stress Response”.)
- I am passionate about health and wellness (for myself and others, including Experience Life readers!), good food, deep connections, fact-checking, and attention to detail.
- I am strong, resilient, and faithful. I believe there is more to this world than meets the eye.
- I hope for more peace and understanding, for finding common ground in spite of our differences.
As we continue navigating our way through this global health crisis, a civil-rights movement, and ongoing political division, I find myself returning to these elements of me when things feel uncertain. I find comfort and solid ground there, and it’s also a safe space to push myself to consciously question beliefs and ideas, both past and present.
Instead of letting my fears run amok, I focus on what I can do: For instance, I’ve been educating myself about inclusion, the foundation of our nation, and my white privilege — and challenging myself to do more to advocate for change. (For more on practicing anti-racism, see “9 Building Blocks to Being Anti-Racist”.)
As my kids have transitioned back to school, I’ve been reading and talking to other parents and teachers about how to best support them. (For tips on helping children cope with their COVID worries — and some custom artwork by kids from my neighborhood — see “How to Help Children Handle the Stress of Coronavirus”.)
Through it all, I’m recognizing that every experience changes me in some way. So while I know “who I am” right now, with roots that keep me grounded, I am no doubt growing in ways that will reveal themselves in due time.