By Andrea Mai
What will become of me if I let go of my identity? What does it even mean to let go of how I’ve seen myself all these years? Am I disappearing? Not sure I’m ready for this.
Saying goodbye to say hello
Life gives us rich opportunities to say goodbye to deeply ingrained parts of our life or self. It can happen all the time, on every layer, as we show up for the fullness of Now.
As I was scribbling this morning, it dawned on me I have a lot I can share about saying goodbye with you. I like to use real examples. So, I’ll use THE big identity that has affected every nook and cranny of my life. Follow me for a peek into unwinding identity.
In 1984, I discovered the power of words. Ink and paper became my lifeline. I picked up a journal (maybe it was more like “Dear Diary…” at age 12). I wrote my first short story for English class, something about waking up as a monkey and having to go to school (don’t worry, in the end, it was only a dream. Phew!).
Lust and zest for writing took over my life. Reading was my favorite activity; the library, my special place. I don’t recall learning to read. I only remember reading, and one phonetics class in 2nd grade to learn how to pronounce words. Reading came naturally. From the very beginning, you’d find me scouring the dictionary in search of new words and rich exploration of meanings.
This lifelong love affair with consuming stories and expressing myself through words led to being known as the writer in my circles. The pen and page, Grandma Edie’s old Olympia typewriter, the keyboard…tools to deliver the words from inside me; these were for me. Other people enjoying what I wrote was just gravy on top.
I’ve written many books and stories, piles of poetry, a handful of good songs, and thousands of pages of incomplete novels and stories. Around 9th grade, I tried my hand at a longer story. Something about being in a band and wearing a denim jacket. Hey man, it was 1986ish, so of course there was a denim jacket.
By my early 20s, I was committed to becoming a writer. An author. An artist. The identity didn’t really have anything to do with being noticed or external direction. It was so deeply internal, like there was no other choice for real expression and exploring the inner workings and landscapes of me. Maybe you have something like this too?
Much of my experience of “suffering” came from the desire to do nothing but write and create. What do you mean I have to work a job? Sounds like bullshit to me. Artistic angst. Heard of it? To do it justice, pronounce it really dramatically, like this (back to phonetics). “Oh, the Ong-st, the ONGST.” Think German and you’ll get it. Not the American Engst or ANGst.
The story is the story
We get so hung up in the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. We grab onto an illusion that our truest self is what runs through our head; thoughts, images, and daydreams. We entangle ourselves in ones that give us the most kick. Before you know it, we’ve manufactured an identity. And when that isn’t working out, we lose our minds a little, or a lot.
The stickiness of my persona as “Writer” created a lot of joy and pain, with varying degrees of desperation to run away to the wilds of life as a full-time writer. I missed so much joy as I obsessed about it. And I broke my body too. But hey, that’s what being an artist is all about, right? The agony, the rare moments of bliss, suffering for my art and craft? Whew, what a lot of malarkey.