I saw a video going around not too long that talked about describing who you are without any labels…without saying I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, friend, etc. Who are you without naming your occupation? Who are you without your degree or hiding behind your social circles? It hit me differently because I don’t think I know who I am without those things.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the process of giving everything you have to your family. It’s easy to define yourself by your occupation and bury yourself within your career. We grow up thinking that it’s normal to not be happy at work if the money is good. For years I worked night shift as a scientist and homeschooled my kids during the day. I had the best of both worlds…or at least that’s what I told myself.
I was proud of myself for finishing school despite having a second baby and I never wanted my girls to give up on their dreams because of a difficult situation. But was being a scientist really my dream? Was it? Maybe. Can our dreams change? Absolutely. You’re allowed to redefine yourself a hundred times over and it’s normal for your path in life to change. You are under no obligation to be who you WERE…one minute ago.
The problem with using those labels to define yourself is that sometimes life happens and those titles can be compromised in a heartbeat. I lost two jobs this year. Both times were unfair and handled poorly but when enough people say you do something it doesn’t really matter, does it? Before 2019, I’d never lost a job. I don’t even think I’d ever interviewed for a position that I didn’t receive an offer for. I went to school, got a degree, and even received a promotion at the job I thought I’d retire at. A couple weeks before I was brought into the office about my “negative influence on the workplace” and “intimidating behavior” I’d received a near perfect evaluation.
My performance review was nearly perfect and I wasn’t given much that I needed to work on. I got along with my coworkers, and I loved going to work. Despite the work environment being extremely toxic, I tried my best to make it work. I was diagnosed with PTSD and extreme anxiety after experiencing a very public trauma and I felt like my job was all I had left to hold on to. I couldn’t imagine starting over again or going through another change. After all, I’d spent years in school and given up so many hours with my children to accomplish goals that I thought would provide them (and me) a better life.
I went from being the lead of two departments as a Medical Laboratory Scientist to being unemployed. The years I’d given to that organization ended with less than a page notice that returning to work would not be best for my mental health. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make but looking back it wasn’t really much of a decision. I didn’t have a good choice. They’d proven they’d stop at nothing to make my life miserable there and it didn’t matter how much experience I had, how well I performed my job, or how much time I’d invested outside of work just to keep things peaceful when I was present.
Leaving taught me that life goes on whether you really want it to in the moment or not. It taught me that I’m more than a scientist, but also that someone else’s disapproval of me can’t take my degree or who I am away from me. Maybe I didn’t do the smartest thing, but I did the right thing. Doing the right thing doesn’t always pay off immediately, but I know that in time I will heal. That being said, I strongly believe that time heals nothing unless you move along with it. I needed to feel it. I needed to hit rock bottom so that I could learn to pick up the pieces and stop hiding behind the image of what I thought life was supposed to be like. Something tells me that I’m not alone in that feeling.
It took me a long time to begin to recognize the difference between my intuition guiding me, and my trauma misleading me. Losing a job is a loss. I needed to take the time to grieve but I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t have a support system. Not truly. Everyone expected me to make lemonade out of lemons like I always do but I was too exhausted. Telling pieces of my story and realizing that I’m not alone has helped. I was too ashamed to admit, *even to myself* the full story because this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.
I’ve learned that hurt people, hurt people and I don’t want to be that person. I want to heal not only for myself but for my girls and the relationships that I will make in the future. There are so many things I want to get better at. As much as I didn’t want to leave certain people behind I’ve realized that it’s hard to turn the page when you know your favorite character won’t make it into the next chapter of your life…but the story must go on. It’s not finished yet. You’re not finished yet. You repeat what you don’t repair so please make peace with your broken pieces.
Follow along for more. Tiktok: @ashleelemay IG: @ashleeleighann
-The Zombie Mom