At thirteen she filled in her first personality test. Who do you think you are? Tick a, b or c. She was sure the crumpled teen magazine would expose the truth. Her pen hovered over the options. What would the person I'd like to be say? If you were to scratch the surface of her skin, you could almost see her nerve endings twitching with anxiety. Too many freckles. Her knees were knobbly. She was never the best, she desperately wanted to be the best, just once. She was sure she was nearly good enough - nearly. She pretended not to care, it was only when you looked her in the eye and asked a direct question that her voice would shake, her eyes searching desperately for an exit strategy.
By twenty, she'd become an expert at pushing the self doubt from her head to the bottom of her stomach for just enough time to be deceiving. Jobs were gained at the first interview and offered on the spot. Six months later she'd move on and repeat the process in a messy concoction of self sabotage and apathy. She knew she wasn't meant to be there. She just wasn't sure exactly where she was meant to be.
At twenty three, she realized that time was her luxury, life appeared to stretch on for endless miles. Days went forever. Weekends were lived by the minute, which made them last for weeks. Conversations with new and old friends continued throughout the night. Confidence grew with debate and conversation. She was okay, which was better than nearly good enough. She began again and once, maybe twice, she was convinced that she was on the right path. The other times, the darker times, she concluded that she was underserving. Who did she think she was?
By twenty five it was becoming clearer, she was still making mistakes but she could see them coming. She watched them happen. Why do I always do that? I chose that. I don't want to be that.
By twenty eight she had the answer. The right job, good friends, there was peace. She loved breakfast with girlfriends dissecting first dates over coffee, dinner in groups and weekends at the markets. "If this is how it stays forever - I'm okay with this. This is good" she said to a friend. "I'm okay with this".
There is no forever. There is always change. And sometimes it will come with a force and speed that has you running towards a noise that you don't recognize or understand, you just know you have to be there. Change can be both exhilarating and wonderful, but it can also leave you lost and unsure until you find your way toward the comfort of familiarity.
She was briefly lost. She stumbled.
At thirty five, as a mother of small children she looked in the mirror and was almost surprised to see her reflection. She was sure she was invisible. Wasn't she meant to be doing more? How did you do more? She needed to sleep. She needed to laugh, a raucous thigh slapping, I have no oxygen left and there is no noise coming out of my mouth laugh. When was the last time she did that?
She asked herself is it possible I've spent half of my life trying to work out who I am, only to spend the next half trying to reclaim who I was?
And then finally, she realized, it was irrelevant. She was better than okay. More than she ever thought she could be. She would continue to change and evolve. There would be more mistakes.
There was no category. No a, b or c. She would remove the labels. Wife, Mother, Home, Office. She was the same woman no matter the role.
At forty she felt that maybe she could finally claim the title.
She had become a woman.