Just like no character in a book can be described and explained in full by reading the blimp at the back of the book, and no chapter makes a whole story, you cannot use the current season of your life to define you.
How would you describe yourself? What words would you use? For so long my description read “wife, mother, and business owner”. In that order. It is what I felt made sense in my life, gave me value and made me relatable. By using those words I knew where in society I fit in, and society knew how to handle me.
I allowed these words to define me. But just like a book extract can only give you a glimpse into the story, the characters and the outcome, these words only painted a one-dimensional picture of me. Of course, I was a wife, and yes I had kids, and oh my business was my other baby, but I was so much more than just 4 words strung together.
For too long I allowed these 4 words to be ME. To float through life doing what was expected, what was normal and what was allowed. Yes, I actually sought permission and resigned myself if I didn’t get it. For too long I accepted the status quo because I was afraid.
Scared of what might happen if I fought back. What would happen if I said no? If I refused? If I asked myself what I wanted, and then chased it. I had so much more to give, more to feel and to experience.
Then one day, I decided to take charge. Actually, it was less of a choice and more of a forced move. Something out of my control happened, a choice had to be made, and out of sheer panic, I made it. Let me give you the whole story:
After 6 years of marriage, I woke up one morning and realised I had no idea who I was. My dreams and goals disappeared somewhere over time. They got lost amidst the struggle of raising a young family, trying to keep a love relationship aflame, and building a successful business. This troubled me. I had always been very ambitious and driven, but now I was simply floating along. When I raised the concern with my significant other, he dismissed it as a childish desire. He said something along the lines of who has time to follow their dreams. Just do what is expected.
Flash forward a few months. He got a tentative job overseas. I refused to go with him, not wanting to leave my country, my family, my friends, behind. He ended up leaving South Africa, leaving me and the two girls behind. We were officially separated, and for the first time in my adult life, I had to make my own decisions.
What was weird at first soon bloomed into something beautiful. The freedom! And with each passing day, I realised more and more how small the cage was that I had escaped from. I realised so much of our relationship was built on making him feel safe and secure. I was not supposed to be challenging, to grow. I was supposed to accept my role as wife and mother and allow that to define me.
Sisters, let me first defend myself before I get the barrage of comments – I have never regretted having my kids. They are my entire, whole life, and there is nothing I won’t give up for them. BUT, never in my entire life have I ever wanted to be a mom – you know, like some people want to be a firefighter, some girls want to be a mom? Like in that is their job description. I wanted kids, a lot of them, but I wanted to be known as something else to the outside world. My head and heart have always longed for business, for career advancement, for learning and knowledge. And I hope to pass that longing on to my girls. Being a mom was not supposed to be how people defined me. Yet, that was what I was steering towards.
During this time, I had so many opportunities to allow those chapters to become my story. Was I the budding academic who gave it all up to become an entrepreneur? Was I the young mother who chose her kids above all? Was I the wife (please let it at least then be a trophy wife) of the young executive? Or now, was I the single mom trying to provide for her kids? I was all of these things and more.
I am standing on the other side now. I will not call myself a victor, although I am victorious. Overcoming any battle that you fight internally is worthy of a trophy, if not a name plaque and some scholarship fund named after you. Our mental wars so often break us, and these situations that life throws at us have a way of sparking just such wars. I am on the other side, and what I can look back on is not a pretty sight. A woman that was a mere shell. But I took that character, and I gave her a new narrative. A new plotline. One that will be an interesting read.
This is just a chapter. Your story is still unfolding. Be brave enough to allow it.