Masks and roles…I totally got it this week. Several years ago, I had a major identity crisis. Looking back it seems really silly, but it was such a struggle at the time.
When I was in high school, I went to a “missions conference” with my church youth group…one of those “conferences” where all they did was tell you everything you were doing wrong in your life and that the only way to do the right thing with your life was to “surrender your life” to missions. Well, I had a conundrum with that calling…I couldn’t become a missionary, according to them, because I am a female. So, I “had” to find a man to become my husband and that man needed to be “called into ministry” because I was not allowed to do that on my own. This was the beginning of what I now refer to as “the great brainwashing” of my life. I ended up going to a private Christian university and going deep in debt with student loans, in order to “obey God” and find a man to marry so I could be a “helpmate” to this man in ministry.
Thank goodness I met and married my husband! While we were dating, we had a conversation where he asked me how I would support myself if something ever happened to my husband (whoever that would be in the future, we weren’t very serious yet). I had chosen the major of “Christian Education” so that I could be a good Sunday School teacher and pastor or missionary’s wife…yes, I know, lame. After that conversation I was empowered to be myself again, I knew that I wanted to work with children and decided to major in nursing and become a NICU or pediatric nurse. Over the course of time and due to some personal struggles outside of school, I ended up changing my major to Elementary Education, but eventually ended up getting my B.S. in Psychology, with an Elementary Ed. Teaching Certificate.
For over 15 years of our marriage, my husband was a youth pastor. Because of the mindset from my high school days, I really embraced the role of “youth pastor’s wife.” My husband was really great about making sure that I only did things that I wanted to do to help, not to allow others to push their expectations on my or ever let me feel obligated to do anything that I didn’t want to do. But I still embraced that role, it was who I was…until it wasn’t. When I was pregnant with my youngest, my husband resigned from his last position in ministry. I had an existential crisis…yes, I was a teacher, but I had put too much pride in my role as a youth pastor’s wife and I was crushed. I had a literal meltdown, which I will partially blame on pregnancy hormones.
Now looking back, I’m so glad that life happened and we moved on into the unknown. Life has been good over the last 10 years and just keeps getting better. There are so many amazing things that await when we get out of our comfort zone, letting go of the comfort we find in the familiar, even if it is fraught with suffering or negativity.
I’m looking forward to the many things that await as I continue to move out of the comfort zone and into the unknown yet again. What I do know for sure? That my role is to be me, not to emulate anyone else. When I grow up, I want to be ME!