I hate Alice in Wonderland—too trippy—but there’s a scene that’s been replaying in my head these last few weeks. It’s the one where an oversized hookah-smoking caterpillar blows smoke rings around Alice as he asks, “Who…are…you?”
I see myself staring up at the worm, as unsure as Alice as she responds, “I hardly know, sir!”
They go in circles and she insists, “I can’t explain myself, sir, because I’m not myself, you know.” The worm is a poor listener, or high, so Alice grows frustrated. She absolutely has no idea who she is, and she cannot possibly come up with an answer to satisfy him. The best she has to offer is vague: “I can’t put it any more clearly, for it isn’t clear to me.”
Similarly, I am at a loss for labels. So many of the ways I used to define myself have drifted away as quietly as smoke rings:
Believer in post-racial America.
Eye-roller at vegans.
Despiser of feminists.
Knower of life’s timelines.
Things have changed, and now I am in place where things are less solid, more fluid. More nuanced, complex, and messy.
Status: Divorcée. A one-word title, but there’s nothing in the name that carries the weight of a life’s vocation as nicely as married. It feels a little fuzzier.
Absolutely not a Republican, but maybe not a Democrat? Maybe more of a centrist, or a Libertarian? Don’t come at me, it’s TBD, I just know that I’m not in favor of he-who-shall-not-be-named.
Occasional vegan. Turns out I care about the planet, though I still love cheese.
Feminist, though a pro-life one, though also one that isn’t sure what the most effective way to support mothers/family/society is.
Human trying to become anti-racist after a lifetime of disbelief. V flawed.
Writer? Blogger, casually. Student, definitely. Does that make me “a creative” (I imagine this means I’ll take up wearing berets and snapping in smoky clubs, so maybe not).
Still a nurse, yes, but not a full-time one, and unsure of how well I love the work. Overall, displeased with the business of healthcare, and burned out from caring so hard in a world built more for money than people.
Real estate agent—this one is new. In my previous timeline I always imagined I’d quit nursing to raise children and let my fancy husband make ze monies. No children and no husband makes me my own breadwinner, and I realized I should probably be in a career that I wasn’t planning to quit someday. While, in a perfect world, I simply become the next J.K. Rowling and float about writing best sellers, I think this real estate business might be the place where I have the time and space and flexibility to write, the money to eat-pray-love my way around the globe, and the chance to still serve my community. I believe in home, so why not make myself a part of it?
Where does all that leave me now? Dabbling in several careers, with a mishmash of political leanings, no romantic involvements and some kind of half-assed vegan habit?
I’m a little bit of everything and entirely nothing.
My primary concern: I have no idea how I will explain myself at parties. I can see it in my head—
“What do you do?”
*brain short circuits*
Nothing neat enough to put cutely. But, then again, why the need to define myself by what I do at all? Sure, it might be the easiest to say, and, yes, you learn something from knowing a person’s job. Like when I say nurse, you might hear caring. You might find me trustworthy, reliable, kind. On the other hand, if I get into my current crossroads, you’re more likely to see a huge mess. You’ll nod your head, bemused, unsure of a girl who can’t commit to any one thing.
I know the gist of what I’m after, of course, but there’s nothing easily knowable from something as simple as a title. What I really want is beauty. Creativity. Rhythm. Abundance. I want peace, and grace. Wholeness, health, and a life where I am content, doing what I was made to do, not on a five-year-plan, but in finding one right thing after the next right thing.
Maybe the whole mess of myself, the possibility and the journey and the flaws, the beauty and the wonder and the hope, what I do or what I don’t do, will be caught up in one phrase after all: a name. My name. Rebecca Joy. Maybe that’s all you’ll ever need to know—maybe I grow so grounded into myself that you can reach the heart of me just from hearing it whispered. If only Alice knew how to say hers.