Forging Identity

“When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment, or the moment defines you.”

~ KEVIN COSTNER

Many people have a defining moment. Some have multiple. Whether for better or for worse, this moment separates who you were from who you are. In a single second, a fault line cracks, and a chasm appears. There is before, and there is after. 

“There is before, and there is after.”

The birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, a proposal, an injury, a diagnosis – these are all defining moments. While they all come with an evolving persona, defining moments of dis-ease can be the most hard to rebound from. You are left bare and wide open, vulnerable and so very lost. For me, a concussion that never healed, a second head injury that compounded the problem, and a trip to the ER. Once the initial shock of such a moment has worn off, there is just you. But who are you anymore?

When your life changes, your identity changes. Some things are lost, some shifted, some paused, and some are gained. But who you are now doesn’t just appear. The things lost or paused leave gaping holes in your heart. You don’t feel like yourself. You don’t really know who “yourself” is. This isn’t me. I find myself saying this in the lowest moments. But this won’t be you forever. You will grow and become and keep adding to who you want to be until you have spun a web that will hold you safe inside. 

“You will grow and become until you have spun a web that will hold you safe inside.”

We are a sum of everything that is meaningful to us. When we are forced to let go of some of those things, even temporarily, it can be crushing. Under most circumstances, you can’t just immediately be okay with the losses and no longer claim them as a part of you. Grieving the loss is part of healing. 

No, a new identity doesn’t just appear. It must be crafted. You must place yourself in the fire, feel all of your feelings, and forge new pieces of yourself. You must drive the hammer and fight through the messy parts until you are ready to quench the blade and reveal a masterpiece. 

A defining moment is an opportunity. An opportunity to dive into yourself and decide what parts of your identity serve you and what do not. It is an opportunity to choose who you want to be. 

Carve away the parts of yourself that do not elevate you. I am working to chisel down the perfectionism, the codependency, the overachieving in my life. Like a sculptor to clay, let it fall away. Center yourself like a potter on a wheel. And fill your heart with new things. 

“Like a sculptor to clay, let it fall away.”

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be this. Learn a new skill. Always watched from the sidelines but wanted to try? Go for it! That old hobby that you never had time for until now? Start it up again! As long as you are not putting your health in jeopardy and it is within your power, the sky’s the limit. Any time someone learns a new skill that they are passionate about, they add to their identity. So when you feel lost and don’t know who you are anymore, learning something new can be incredibly grounding. 

Since getting sick, I started drawing more. I’ve always loved drawing, but didn’t do it very often. I’ve started writing more too, hence this blog. I’m learning how to surf. It drains my body, but it feeds my soul. 

“It drains my body, but it feeds my soul.”

When I feel the most lost and my heart aches for that which is out of my reach right now, any one of these things is a powerful outlet for me. I finally have the time to learn what I really want in life. It is hard and it is painful, but it is worth it. 

It is healthy to grieve the loss of your old self. The losses you grieve the most – they will always be a part of you. Just because a soccer player retires, that doesn’t mean they are no longer a soccer player. Just because a hiker moves to the flatlands, that doesn’t mean they are no longer a hiker. What matters is what you hold in your heart. You are the blacksmith of your own life. Let the process happen. Honor your feelings. Know that while you can’t go back to who you were in the “before,” who you are now is incredible and worthy and beautifully whole.

“You are the blacksmith of your own life.”

The Art of Journaling to Change Perspective

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.”

~ Camille Pissarro

Every single day, millions of incredible things happen. Whether or not they happen to you, the world is filled with little miracles and beautiful moments that occur each second.

However, we often find ourselves so wrapped up in our lives and our worries that we neglect to see these things. It takes an awareness of the surrounding world to tune outside yourself and really see all that there is.

The sun sets perfectly between two rocks over the Pacific Ocean.
The sun sets perfectly between two rocks over the Pacific Ocean.

“The world is filled with little miracles and beautiful moments that happen each second.”

While at first it may be difficult, with time this practice will flow more and more easily. But even when we do notice these moments for a smile, it can be hard to remember them. The more we practice, the easier it comes. Writing down what we see not only tracks our progress, but helps us remember little beautiful memories over the days and years.

Inspired in part by the movie “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” I decided to track all of the tiny perfect things each day that I bear witness to. Each moment I see that brings me or someone else even the smallest spark of joy, I document it. Every pure, honest, beautiful, true moment that I witness, I flag it in my memory, and write it down before bed.

What began with a single journal, a fresh page, and three perfect things has become so much more. Slowly, I noticed that my little notebook page seemed to grow smaller and smaller as my list grew longer and longer. Not only was it becoming easier to recall perfect things throughout my day, but I was able to recall them so much more descriptively.

“What began with a single journal, a fresh page, and three perfect things has become so much more.”

Journaling about moments of beauty in daily life.
My first ever journal entry on Saturday, March 6th, 2021.

I try to recall not only the moment in its visual depiction, but also the feelings it evoked or the way it touched me. When I read what I wrote, I want it to make me feel the same way it did in the moment it occurred.

It is incredible the power that this exercise has had on my life. Even on the worst of days, I can often find at least three beautiful moments, even if none of them happened to me. It is the most reflective and invaluable way to end my night and completely change my perspective on a seemingly awful day.

It is no exaggeration to say that this practice has changed my outlook on life. When you begin to notice these beautiful moments, it seems as if they are drawn to you. I believe that they were always there, but merely veiled to most who do not pay attention.

Now that these instances are unveiled to me, I am able to draw on little moments of joy throughout my day. When I feel my worst, I can find moments of happiness wherever I look. I am able to live more in the present and notice my surrounding. I actively search out the beauty in life. I see beauty in others hearts and in nature and in the mundane tasks of day-to-day life. It is far easier said than done, but each day I grow better.

Someone writes "love" out of grass on a sand dune by the ocean.
Someone writes “love” out of grass on a sand dune by the ocean.

“I actively search out the beauty in life.”

If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be this: just begin. We are all guilty of wanting things for ourselves but never committing, telling ourselves that we will just begin tomorrow. The only reason I am able to see all of the beauty in life is because, one day, I decided to change. I chose to begin. I resolved to open up a new journal to a new page and put pen to paper. And I do not regret it.

“The only reason I am able to see all of the beauty in life is because, one day, I decided to change.”

Journaling about moments of beauty in daily life.
A recent entry from Tuesday, January 11th, 2022.

If you are unhappy with your life, it is within your power to change it. Your mindset it everything. And while it takes time and discipline to change your mind, it can be a relatively simple process. All you have to do is begin.