I am not a fashion blogger.
I am not a shopaholic.
I am not a Pure Barre fanatic.
I am not an entrepreneur.
I am not a writer.
I am not a wife.
I am not a minimalist.
I am all of these things, yet none of them. I am what I am at this moment, nothing more, nothing less. Just Grechen.
I am what I am at this moment, nothing more, nothing less.
Things change. I was a wife, and then all of the sudden I wasn’t. Now I am again. I was a dog-mother, then I wasn’t, and now I am again. I used to be a runner, now I’m can’t live without Pure Barre.
All my life, I’ve tried to define myself as something, anything, to give myself an identity; something besides just “me.” I thought these things were really who I was, but they weren’t. I thought I was defined by my love of coffee and books, so what happened when I gave up coffee? Nothing, it turns out.
I was always waiting. We’re always waiting. Waiting to get married so we could be wives, having kids so we can be mothers, going to school so we can be ____________. All of those things are fine to aspire to, but what if you never reach them? What if you’re 42 and you’re not a mother, or a _________ like you thought you’d be? You’re just you. Hmm.
The problem with calling yourself something is that that becomes who others perceive you to be, and how you, in turn, perceive yourself. When in reality, you are just you. And no matter what happens in your life, as long as you are here, in it, you will always just be you.
no matter what happens in your life, as long as you are here, in it, you will always just be you
And I suppose I’ve been trying to run away from “me” for many years, which is why I was always trying to classify myself somehow. I was a graduate student, I was a teacher, I was a consultant, I was everything I could be besides just me.
I was never ready to accept “just me” because the me that I was in any given moment was usually not the me I thought I should be. Still now, even though I’ve accepted & grown to love my life now, which is different from the “life” I always thought I would have, the “who am I” and “what have I done with my life” questions creep back in and sometimes take hold for a few days.
Which is what happened recently, when I noticed I was trying to fit myself into a box again; to classify myself. This time, into the Minimalist box.
I’ve never honestly called myself a “minimalist” because I don’t think I am one. Yet. But I did realize after trying to work out a capsule wardrobe last weekend, that I was trying too hard to do something I didn’t want to; and I was comparing myself to other “minimalist” bloggers who do capsule wardrobes well.
In the midst of it all, I had a small break-down (which I am wont to do) and it took my husband and a sports analogy to bring everything back home for me, making me see what I was doing.
On a more fundamental level though, I guess I am still trying to define myself as something other than what I am – to come up with a way to classify myself that sounds better than just human being. Which I realize, of course, is all that any of us are. Yes, right now, I am a wife, and an entrepreneur, I’m a writer and a Pure Barre fanatic, but underneath it all, when all of that is gone, I’m Grechen.
And at the heart of it, as “just” Grechen, I am thoughtful, kind, passionate, and working very hard on living a more full life with less stuff. But as I’ve said before, and you have said too, it’s all about the journey, the path, and the process. There is no end game here, well, until the end. So I might as well enjoy the journey as myself, whoever I am at that moment, while it lasts.
See The Minimal Closet in the WSJ! Then read more in The Minimal Closet series (new posts on Thursdays):
Great post. The best thing about being 57 years old is that I am totally fine being just me. My fifties have been the happiest years of my life so far, with adventures and pleasures that I didn’t dream of when I was younger.
If you can know this now, before you turn 50, you’re ahead of the game as I know it. And if you have to keep repeating this to yourself, as a mantra, you’re in good company. xoxoxox. You’re the real deal, Grechen, and I thank you.
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Grechen Reiter says
thanks charlotte! i’m getting there…i am mostly very happy just being “me” – but i still have my moments!! can’t wait until those are gone 😉
Kathryn Fenner says
As one less and less, but still, prone to mini-breakdowns, I can totally relate! I agree with the other commenters that age surely helps (I am 54) as, in my case, the right meds (Zoloft, instead of several others).
May I again suggest you check out Marie Kondo’s book on “tidying”? It is a different angle–you keep what you love, how ever much that is, which is a positive way to look at things, and release what no longer serves you, thanking it for its service. No shame, no guilt, no rules except that what you keep “sparks joy.” Then you place it carefully, with care.
You’re not “doing it wrong”!
Very well said- and I think you speak for a lot of women….
Grechen Reiter says
i added it to my wishlist on amazon – i need to wait until next month’s budget to purchase though, and my library doesn’t have it 🙁 – definitely sounds intriguing, and i appreciate your reminding me about it!!
Wonderful insights! I didn’t have these things figured out at 42 and now, at 58, i’m still getting the hang of them!
Hi Grechen! Wonderful post. Very thought-provoking, although it forces me to think about where I’m at in my life, with one daughter married with a child, another in “quarter-life crisis,” as she calls it, and my baby about to go off to college. I’ve always defined myself as “Mom,” first and foremost, but it hit me yesterday, that I won’t be needed in the same capacity as I have been for the past 28 years. It’s time for a new stage, and time to quit defining myself by what I do. Many thanks for making me think about self-acceptance! (Could’ve saved a LOT on therapy! 😉 )
I don’t think I’ve commented before, but I have been reading since Debbie Roes linked to your site months ago.
I am right alongside you. A couple years older, but at that ‘what’s it about?’ point in life. I’m not a minimalist, either, but I am aiming to only own what I like, need, and will wear.
It’s funny – the constructs that help define who we supposedly ‘are’ – jobs, relationships, hobbies. They are not us, they are what we do and who with. But in modern life, that is precisely how people are introduced or considered. Realizing who we are when that’s all stripped away isn’t as easy. Food for thought.
Smith Corka says
Wonderful article indeed 🙂
I really love to read this kind of stuff. Each day is a new stage of our life. Right now I’m 50+ and still I’m learning like a child. Thanks a lot for sharing. Waiting for more..!!!
This post spoke to me on a deep level. For 21 years, I defined myself as a dialysis patient. Then, on one single day in one monumental surgery, I was no longer who I had defined myself for my whole life. That was almost 8 years ago and I still struggle to figure out who I am. Since then, I became a wife. But I still feel like there should be more to define me. But I want to thank you for your post and just have to start to accept me for being me. Even if I’m not 100% sure who that is yet, I do know that I am a loving and loyal wife, Caring Older Sister, and try to be the best daughter I can be. I can only be one person and that is me. Thanks for showing/reminding me that all I need to be is me.