That last question, that one comes up a lot: just who do I think I am? I hear my mom (sorry Mom) asking me: “Just who do you think you are, young lady?” I hear (probably imaginary) voices whisper “Who does she think she is?” I spend a lot of time wondering that as well, and this too: “When am I going to grow the hell up?”
I imagine that my questions are not mine alone. I believe that most of us have these sorts of doubts about ourselves and our mission, our Quest (to use a Q word), here on earth. What would it be like, I often wonder, to be sure of myself, to be certain in my worth, my value, my purpose? How can people be so goddamned self-assured (or self-righteous)?
Myself, the older I get, the less sure I become. When I was in my twenties, I knew everything. I answered questions with great authority even if I didn’t know the answer. I could stand in front of a classroom of people most of whom were older than me and spend an hour or two discussing writing. Now I’m more than twice that old, and I’m having anxiety attacks about leading a 20-minute discussion with a classroom full of people half my age on a subject I actually do know a lot about.
What the hell happened to me? How has my life come to this place of uncertainty? Have I chosen the correct path? Will the decisions I make today come back to haunt me in a year or two?
Just today I told a friend about how, when I was 19, I went to Europe, traveled across the continent in the dead of winter, alone and with no concrete plans, no hotel or hostel reservations, no pre-purchased train tickets. Fearless, with only a copy of Let’s Go Europe and a few American Express Traveller’s Cheques. Now, I can’t imagine being that carefree, that trusting of myself.
Last weekend, I had lunch with my nearly 25-year-old daughter and told her about my summers during college working as a forest fire fighter. As I regaled her with tales of bad-assery, I kept thinking to myself “Were you crazy?” and, conversely, “What happened to that girl? Where’d she go?”
Maybe it’s just the menopause talking. The hormones (or lack thereof) could be out of control. My therapist said to me the other day (as I was complaining about hot flashes and throwing myself onto the fan in her office) that perhaps this is the time in my life that I will know myself the best.
Maybe menopause doesn’t make us crazy, she suggested, but helps to clarify things. Maybe only now will I begin to discover just who I think I am. Perhaps the only way to learn is by asking questions. Maybe the answers lie somewhere in the uncertainty, in the spaces between.