I look back at a photo of me that sits wedged between a tehillim and the wall on my bookshelf. The picture is a couple of years old. In the picture, I am single. I am smiling, carefree, and seem confident in myself. My hair is loose, my smile reaches my eyes and the picture seems to exude laughter and positivity.
Where is that me now? Why do I feel so far away from her? My entire being yearns to be back in that picture, to feel the joy, to understand the vibrancy and, most of all, to touch the certainty.
I don’t understand what happened to the certainty. I used to be fearless. I was my own biggest fan and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I believed in myself. I would set my mind to something and once I did, I was sure that I could and would do it. I was a fighter, a worker and yes, I was powerful, powerful in that I could achieve, I could accomplish, I was someone.
I don’t know if the sense of achievement was that which fueled the confidence or if the confidence fueled the strive for eventual success in my achievements. It’s almost like the mystery of the chicken and the egg; which one came first? The chicken or the egg? Regardless, chickens have been reproducing since time immemorial by hatching their eggs.
Somewhere along the way, my own mantra got lost and fell to the wayside. Now, that certainty has been replaced by doubt. By comparing. By looking over my shoulder at others and seeing that they do more, they have more, they know more, they have more than me.
There are times I look in the mirror and wonder about the person I see. Who is this? Who are you? What makes you, you?
(Then, I wonder why I’m having a mid-life crisis in my twenties.)
My family tells me they never see the “old” Rosie anymore. I was the one who would tell corny jokes and laugh so hard at them that the laughter itself made everyone else laugh. I was the one who would take silly, wacky pictures of myself and put them on my family group chat. I was the one who would suddenly burst into uncontrollable giggles at the tale end of the Shabbos meal and not remember why I did two minutes later. I was prone to periods of random hyper moods and would have a ball while I was in them.
Then I got married. And had a baby. And had challenges. And frustrations.
And real life kicked in.
And the more real life became, the more negatively I reacted. The more things unwounded and unraveled, the more knots I detected. And the more knots I detected, the more the “old Rosie” deteriorated, until I was a stranger to myself.
I know I have had perhaps more challenges than others my age or at my stage, challenges that I won’t enumerate in this article. But I don’t like the person I’ve become.
I was speaking to my best friend the other day and I wondered aloud, “Gila, why do I feel so negative? Why do I feel like I used to be a whole different person, like life was perfect and it suddenly became marred with heavy clouds, the kind that prelude a thunderstorm!? What happened to me? Where did I go?”
And she couldn’t answer me except to confide that she feels the same way. A bitterness accompanies her life as the circle of life moves on and more stress and complications arise.
“I think it’s normal,” she told me. “It’s just life. We’re not kids anymore. We have commitments and responsibilities and that makes us stressed and yes, bitter.”
I don’t want to be bitter.
I love my best friend, but I didn’t like her answer. I don’t believe that’s the answer. Because if that’s the case, there are hundreds of adults walking around the world right now and they are all sad and depressed and have negative and dark thoughts.
I am the old me. I know that’s who I really am – it is! The old me is still there, somewhere beneath the piles of shattered confidences and broken dreams. The old me is still smiling, still carefree and free spirited. The old me is waiting patiently for the mounds of confusion and disappointments to shift, so that it can raise even a pinky finger and say, “Hi! I’m still here!”
And it does sometimes. There are days where the old me manages to peek out and remind me who I really am for a few minutes, a few hours. Recently it’s been happening more often.
I think that the old me is the real me. I think I’m having a hard time with who I am now because it isn’t me.
And I can’t wait to be myself again.
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