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’?