The semester I graduated from high school, I signed up for a full load of courses at a local community college across town from where I lived. I was looking forward to my classes and what college would have in store for me. I knew that some of my high school classmates would be attending the same college, but it was hardly a high school reunion. It was definitely a new start for me, and I had to meet new people.
I think 99.9999 percent of the conversations I had with my new classmates, and witnessed among other students, started with a brief exchange of names and was followed by the same question that I would hear countless times for several years afterward: “What’s your major?” I’d had serious career objectives in mind since high school (a coach/choreographer for figure skaters, or a choir teacher), and I had some majors in mind (dance, physical education, exercise science, athletic training, and vocal music education), but I wasn’t sure which one would most likely help me get a job in my desired field or how much the practicality of the major should matter in case my dream job(s) didn’t pan out. I always answered, “undecided” whenever people asked me that question and whenever I filled out my class schedule every semester.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but our majors became a strong part of our identities from the first day we set foot on that campus. We all knew each other by our declaration of concentrated study. I was just Sarah who sang Alto in Concert Choir and Chamber Choir at school, but I was happy and content with that.
After I left the community college and transferred to a four-year university across the state line at age 21, I finally declared a major: dance. I loved being known as a dance major by almost everyone I met on campus. I also loved being friends with the people I hit it off with right away who were not dance majors.
I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance two years ago last May, and I have been defined by other occupations since then: graduate student, graduate assistant, student teacher, part-time ballet teacher. Since leaving school, I learned very quickly that the defining question for adults in post-academic life is, “What do you do for a living?”
Answering that question nowadays is somewhat awkward for me. It’s true that I’m a part-time ballet teacher, but at age 28, despite the several applications I’ve sent to various job openings, I haven’t found a full-time job, or even another part-time job besides teaching ballet. At age 28, I still don’t know where I should work full-time or what I should be doing. (Teaching dance full-time is not an option right now.) At age 28, I’m still living at home, and although I enjoy seeing my mom, brother, and puppy dogs on a daily basis, I’m ready to get my own apartment in my “adopted” hometown, however tiny and cheap my abode may be. I feel like what I’m doing right now isn’t enough, that I’m inadequate, that I’ve screwed up royally somewhere between my first breath and now, which as result has put me in circumstances that most people try to avoid: 28 and still living at home, lonely because most of my friends live in another state/my adopted hometown, not employed full-time, clueless as to what I should do next, and single with no potential significant other. (I mention my relationship status only because by now, most of my friends are already married, and some have already had kids. For the record, I am absolutely in no hurry to date anyone, much less get married. It’s just that my current relationship status can be another example of how behind I am compared to the rest of my peers.) In a nutshell, according to those circumstances, I am not a young adult who has it all together by any means.
Do you know what I’ve learned, though? My circumstances do not define who I am. I am not a college major, an age, a job, a living situation, an employment status, or a relationship status. I am much more than these circumstances that can change at the drop of a hat.
So are you. Your circumstances do not define who you are.
Circumstances can shape our lives, test us, teach us, and help us grow, but they do not define us. Whether they’re trying us or treating us well, they are not us.
So, who am I? I am:
a woman, who sometimes still feels like a young girl.
creative; I dance, write, make art, etc.
patient (most of the time).
forgetful (if I forget your name after we first meet, I apologize for needing to ask you again…five more times).
goofy (at least I think so 🙂 ), once I’m comfortable around the person/people with whom I’m being goofy.
hawk-eyed, when I’m in editing mode.
an introvert (an INFJ, to be exact).
desperate to make a difference somehow.
I like getting to know my readers. Who are you? You can tell me your occupation or about other circumstances, if you like, but I want to know more about you. Feel free to leave a comment below.