For the last month or so — maybe longer — I’ve felt internal rumblings that left me uneasy. I turned inward and started reading a lot of psychology to help me understand what was going on.
At first, I felt confused and disoriented. I found myself questioning some key assumptions I’ve had about myself for many years. I felt very uncomfortable with the feeling that my internal narrative about who I am might be wrong.
But in the last couple of days, something has suddenly cleared up. It’s as though my mind suddenly zoomed out to a far longer view of my life.
I wasn’t just having an identity crisis for the last few weeks. I was experiencing the closure — integration might even be a better word — for something that started many years ago. This isn’t a crisis. This appears to be a point at which I’m merging parts of myself — stages of my life? — that I had never quite been able to put together.
I was 29 when I first realized I was having an identity crisis, but I still remember everything about that year.
I had just suffered the most humiliating loss of my life. After my father’s embezzling came to light, which cut off the investment he had promised for my newspaper company, I was far more broken than I let anybody know at the time.
I was hurting because I had started a big project and it was moving in the right direction, but I was suddenly forced to tell a dozen or so people that they no longer had jobs. I had to shut down my company.
I failed the people who had trusted me.
I failed the people who had believed in me and loved what I was doing.
And the worst part is that I couldn’t tell anybody the truth about what had happened. My ego was badly bruised.
I spent almost a year moping and asking myself who I was. I had always felt as though I moved from one success to another. I had expected that to continue. But I was crushed this time, so I found myself asking, “Who I am … really?”
I finally came to the uncomfortable and surprising conclusion that I was an artist. Of some sort. But I couldn’t really reconcile that with everything I’d been up until that point. It was a completely alien direction for me. And I’ve been struggling with that ever since then.
I don’t know how much of this I’m ready to talk about publicly yet, because it’s still in gestation. But all of a sudden, it feels as though I’m finally experiencing the closure of that long year of introspection.
If you knew me in high school or in the early part of my adult years, you would have probably seen me as a very rational and very ambitious person. Over and over for the last decade, I’ve asked myself where that person went. I was still rational and ambitious in my own way, but something had changed.
The best way I know to describe it is to say that I had — metaphorically speaking — given up a business suit and turned into a pot-smoking hippie. (Don’t take the literally, of course. I don’t even drink alcohol, much less use weed.)
Where did the driven and ambitious guy go? What about the guy who would launch crazy projects on sheer arrogance and chutzpah? Over and over, I’ve asked this question, but the answer has never come.
Until now. All of a sudden, I feel as though I’ve found him.
He was never gone. He was just waiting for me to integrate this portion of me that I discovered during that year when I turned 30. That wasn’t the complete me I found. There was no reason to repudiate all that I’d been before.
I had simply discovered another major part of myself — one which had been hidden from me — which needed to be integrated into the person I already was.
Identity change and psychological integration can be very uncomfortable, because it requires us to question the roots of who we are. What I went through at 30 made me uncomfortable. What I started feeling a month or so ago also felt uncomfortable.
But what I’m feeling now is relief.
I need to talk about this. I want to talk about this. But I’m not ready to say too much about it to the world at large. I’m not sure when I ever will. It might be too personal — maybe even too vulnerable — to share beyond those I trust most.
I’ve found myself tonight having a verse run through my head from a very old album by a Christian group called the 2nd Chapter of Acts which was inspired by “The Narnia Chronicles”:
I feel like I’ve been here before
This feeling, I can’t shake it
A tree of iron from the world before
With a lantern on it
Suddenly, it all makes sense. I was here many years ago. That’s why something feels so familiar. That’s why things are clicking into place. I’m discovering something from a lost part of my life — and there’s a lantern illuminating something important which I’ve desperately needed to see.
Something is happening in me — and that might finally change everything.