On Figuring Out Who You Are After Outgrowing Who You’ve Always Been

Heidi Priebe
Heidi Priebe

This weekend I cut my hair (properly) for the first time in over six years.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal. And it isn’t. I no longer feel hair on my ass when I arch my back in my office chair. It takes much less time to detangle my strands after a shower. My neck is slightly colder on the nippy days. Not much else is different.

But that hair represented a time period for me. One where I was essentially living like a hippy: furnishing dilapidated houses with couches found by the roadside, scrounging pennies to hitchhike across countries, hooking up with ‘fascinating’ strangers on the road, which I declared to be my home.

The long, hippy hair was my resistance to conformity and materialism and all the other things you loathe when you’re young. It was what I was known for, who I was for the longest time.

I was the person who was going to get out there and see the world. Learn how things were done in other places. Refuse to settle down into the trap of 9-5 jobs and 401ks and shoulder-length bobs. No thank you. Not for me.

Until I woke up one morning and suddenly all of those things looked a lot more appealing than they used to.

It’s a tale as old as time. You’re young until you’re not. You’re wild until you’re tamed. You spend the first quarter of your life rebelling from everything you know and the rest of it making peace with mediocrity.

I’m not a free-spirited hippy anymore. I have no desire to be. But realizing that begs the question: who am I now, then?

Our culture is obsessed with identity.

We aren’t allowed to be another name, another face, another serial number. We have to find ways to differentiate. And so I keep identities compiled in my back pocket. I’m an ENFP. An 8w7. A New York transplant. An author. A poet. A woman.

We cannot just be who we are. We can’t just sit there and breathe in our bodies, without reminding them to make some sort of statement. We are what we do. What we look like. Where we put ourselves, day after day, and who we associate ourselves with at the end of them.

But what if we decided to take a break from all of that?

What if we were allowed to step outside of the constant quest for identity, for a moment, and simply allow ourselves to breath?

Because it’s tiring – the always needing to define ourselves.

It’s tiring to feel frantic about changes – trying to rush from one job, one relationship, one identity right onto the next, without giving ourselves the time and space we need to simply feel the gaps.

You know the ones I’m referring to – the gaps that naturally arise to bridge the spaces between who we have been and who we’re going to become. The ones we’re panicked to avoid because inside of those empty spaces, we don’t have the regular constructs of our egos to defend us.

We have to see things as they are, not as we’ve twisted them to be. We have to feel our emotions in a raw way, rather than through the numerous filters of the identities we’ve constructed for ourselves.

We have to exist with fewer defenses during those times. And our brains feel scared and naked without them.

But here’s the truth about the gaps that arise between the people we are and the people we’re going to become – they are, ironically, the times in which we are the most in touch with the people we authentically are.

They’re the times when we’re most in touch with our fears and therefore most in touch with our desires.

When we’re the most alone and therefore the most honest with ourselves.

When we’re most out of sync with our egos and therefore most in sync with our true natures.

The beauty of the ‘gaps’ that spring up between where we’ve been and where we’re going is that they provide us with the kind of clarity that gets so easily lost inside the noise of everyday living.

Because at the end of the day, each time we lose a crucial part of our ego, we gain back a crucial part of ourselves.

If only we’re only willing to stay still for long enough to realize it. TC mark

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