Written by Nicole – a current graduate wife
Who am I?
I can tell you who I used to be.
A blonde, tan cheerleading captain, one half of the large California public high school power couple (the other half being the quarterback of the football team, naturally).
An over-involved, over-achieving student, active in student government, athletics, and community service from elementary school to graduate school.
A loving daughter of well-respected parents, whose connections coupled with the aforementioned drive for success earned her several job offers in education.
A capable, passionate teacher who was gifted the Award for Teaching Excellence, voted on by her colleagues.
I’m not any of those things anymore.
Who am I?
Now I’m just another graduate student’s wife.
The pier of what I have known to be my identity has been slowly crumbling because each of the pillars holding it up in the middle of the ocean is being knocked out. At this point, I’m not sure what else can be removed from under me, but I’m afraid there’s more to come. Through tears as we lay in bed one night, I told my husband that I feel like I don’t have much else for God to take away from my life. Which of these pillars could I be relying on?
Money? The year of my salary we saved to move here and pay international student fees is disappearing faster than you can say “lickety split.”
Family/Friends? We’re far, far away from them. Very far.
Marriage? We’ve been through enough seriously tough, painful crap to know better than to worship each other.
Children? Don’t have those, and can’t have those. No medical explanation on either side of the pond as to why. Can’t adopt here, and can’t adopt there. We’re just plain stuck on that front.
Health? My daily struggle with the ol’ chronic illness without a cure (a.k.a. the ‘betes) reminds me that this is not a given.
Appearance? My skin is verging on translucently pale, I’ve probably gained a solid 10 pounds (conservative estimate) this winter, and my hair is the color of dirty dishwater.
House? I live in a barn. I’m not exaggerating.
Possessions? Two suitcases worth, with half of the space in them taken up by medical supplies.
Convenience? What’s that? Most everything here is a p r o c e s s.
Luxury? Okay, I do miss driving wherever I want, whenever I want; going to the movies; getting my nails done (twice a year, but whatever); wandering through Target; and Mexican food.
Career? I don’t have one at present, and there is nothing promising on the horizon despite the dozens and dozens (and dozens!) of applications I’ve filled out. I know that these years here require sacrifice on my part, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep us afloat, but bearing the sole weight of the financial responsibility for our family feels very unnatural to me. It freaks me out, to be perfectly honest.
Education? It’s hard to brag about my grade point average when that’s not a term that people here understand or accept as a legitimate form of assessment.
Myself? I started out my unemployment tenure with a strict hourly schedule to keep productive and happy. That lasted two days. Now I just stay in my pajamas too long and bake too many cookies and realize what a wretched, sinful woman I am who can’t do anything apart from God’s grace.
I know that these losses I’m grieving are completely relative. Life is hard in general, but my life is not that hard. I could lose much more. I could be suffering without food, clothing, shelter, or loving relationships. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m really a completely spoiled American brat who doesn’t have the first understanding of God’s faithfulness or the brevity of life.
I know this is where we’re supposed to be right now. My husband is thriving in his work, being affirmed by his supervisor and peers, and really loving his studies. For that I am supremely grateful.
I, on the other hand, feel like my world has been completely rocked. All the things I thought I was either aren’t true of me anymore or don’t really matter at all.
Who am I?
After sending a prayer SOS to some close friends, one wrote this response back to me. As a Christian, these words spoke deeply to me and I hope that even if you are not of a faith, that you can find truth and comfort in them too.
You are loved and have value by simply existing. To suddenly have no career and “little productivity” is an extreme shock to the system, but at the end of the day whether or not you have accomplished anything speaks nothing to your value. You are loved. Period. PJs, sleep in days, no work, pale skin, LOVED. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He loved us before we had ourselves together.
I totally appreciate the joy it brings to check things off a list and feel like you have “done something.” But maybe there are other plans in store for you right now. Use this time to listen, to be patient, to slow down, to discover.
In your graduate wife journey, what has been the most difficult part of your ‘identity shift’?
8 thoughts on “Identity Theft”
Nicole, thanks so much for sharing and for being so honest and open. I can totally relate to where you find yourself now. Everything that I once thought ‘defined’ me is of seemingly little significance now, or at least it seems like it at times.
It is getting easier but I must say that when we first moved for my husband’s school, I was constantly being asked, “What are you studying? What college do you attend?” When I answered that I wasn’t in school the next question was, “Oh, well then what do you do?” We have a one year old so I am now working a bit doing part time projects from home but mostly taking care of our daughter. So to reply with,”Well, I am actually a mom,” has been incredibly hard for me. Our daughter’s birth being a surprise to begin with and working through the ‘giving up one’s independence’ that comes with a baby was hard enough…but then to move to a new place that defines you by your degree, it has been a challenge for sure.
It has been a humbling process for me, but everyday I am seeing the ‘bigger picture’ and realizing I don’t have to let myself be defined by these narrow categories that I see around me. We had our neighbors over for the first time recently and when they realized I wasn’t a student like my husband they said, “Oh, wow, you are from the real world.” I couldn’t help but smile.
This is indeed a time of discerning how and where to spend my energies, a time of rediscovering my strengths and gifts and where to use them in a new setting, and of letting go of my past ‘identities’ and being open to let them take new shape and form in this new place. It is so hard…but I am so thankful to know that others are walking beside me….even if we are all across the globe! ☺
MC, thanks for your thoughts, especially that last paragraph. We’re in this together! :)
oh girl, I can only imagine. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability!! That really is a gift to the rest of us.
Nicole – thank you again for sharing something so close to your heart. Dealing with an identity shift is never easy – I struggled for the first 3 years we were in school trying to figure out who I was and how it fit into the bigger picture of life we lived in. I wanted a magic answer, and all I received was a process.
I love what MC said – “This is indeed a time of discerning how and where to spend my energies, a time of rediscovering my strengths and gifts and where to use them in a new setting, and of letting go of my past ‘identities’ and being open to let them take new shape and form in this new place.”
And, agreed. We’re totally in this together!
You moved me to tears. Tears! You have a way with words and expression. That is a gift. a GIFT. You are someone I wish I lived near so that we could be friends. I think you are truly remarkable and I don’t really “know” you, except that I do “know” you because I follow your life on your blog. Everything you said about who you were before and who are you are now, I GET. You just expressed yourself (me) better than I ever could. You will figure it out. God will help you. He’s already worked through you because you have touched other lives. You have touched mine, from across the pond as you say. I pray for your job (even some of those crummy kids sometimes), your husband, your medical supplies and just about any other thing that crops up on your blog. That means something. You are definitely on the right track, even if it’s a bit murky…. I am reminded of Psalms 23: 1-6.
Nicole and M.C., I completely relate to what you both have said. I’m going through the exact same thing right now and am looking for something/someone to help me through it so I feel less alone (emotionally and because weekly assignments leave the house rather empty). Thank you for starting this unique community!
Welcome Daina! So glad you found the blog!! -M.C.