The Cure for an Identity Crisis

“So how are you, otherwise?” my friend asked as we caught up over the phone last night. “I know you were going through a weird time last time we talked.”

A weird time. The life before our new normal was such a distant concept, I’d almost forgot about the year-plus I spent in a full existential identity crisis. Not knowing who I was, who I wanted to be, if my life was enough, if I had more to offer the world and was simply refusing to show up out of fear.

“That’s been replaced by more pressing worries,” I told her. “Like how long I’ll still have a job and not contracting a super-contagious and potentially deadly virus. It’s funny how a crisis can focus the mind.”

I’ve done better with fewer* choices.

Knowing there’s nothing to do but work, come home, pay bills, and monitor my cash flow in case life takes a turn for the worse makes all my previous concerns feel so frivolous. The money I burned “doing” because not doing made me “boring.” The time I wasted wrestling with my ideas of myself and what my life should look like and all the ways I didn’t measure up.

“It all sounds like a bunch of shit I made up,” I said to my friend.

I stopped writing about my life because I was ashamed of it. All the screaming about freedom and independence in my 20s had amounted to a 36-year-old making laughable money and barely leaving her apartment.

Failing to live up to the magnificent self I crafted, I tore it all down. Removed any evidence of that brash, bold, authentic, cocksure young woman I was. Better to bury her than have her show up, take one look around, and demand an explanation. Had I really wasted her? Her talent? Her joie de vivre? Her willingness to step loudly into the world on her own terms?

I’m not afraid to face her anymore. She can yell all she wants. We still can’t go outside and whether she likes it or not, where we are right now is all there is.


[*] I originally typed “less” choices. Then I heard Stannis Baratheon’s voice remind me that it’s “fewer.” Shouts to Game of Thrones being good for something in the wake of that awful finish.

It Is What It Is

In the last few years of my internet life, I’ve witnessed a collective groan over the phrase “it is what it is.” For people who want to know you’re human, want to see an emotional reaction to uncomfortable situations, and want some proactive measures taken to make them comfortable again, the phrase feels dismissive.

I understand. Even if I don’t always agree.

The thing, though, is we’re in an “it is what it is” situation. There is no amount of emoting, reframing, or pleas to “do something” that will put our lives back in their neat, easy-to-recognize containers. Your social life? Gone. Your self-care routines? If they involve public spaces, throw them out of the window. Your plans and goals? You may as well light them on fire.

We are in unprecedented territory and it seems the people best equipped to deal with it are those of us who never abandoned “it is what it is” as a mantra.

You will be inconvenienced. You will be bored. You will have to figure out how to live with considerably less freedom of movement. And the trajectory of the moment can change on a dime.

The best thing we can do for ourselves, it seems, is accept reality on a day-to-day basis. Last week, it was “wash your fucking hands.” This week, it’s “schools are closed and keep your asses out of bars and restaurants.” We can guess what comes next, but getting attached to any hypothetical scenario is unwise.

Because we just don’t know.

And it is what it is.