On being known

For the past week since school took a break for summer, our 14-year-old daughter has been hanging out almost daily with a group of friends. A couple of guys in the group ride skateboards, and they will ride across town to spend time with friends at our house.

A few nights ago, we were all sitting around, and I mentioned that I used to ride a skateboard when I was growing up. They invited me to go outside and skateboard with them. It was about 10 p.m., but all of that teenage energy must have been contagious because I was ready to try out my goofy foot! We all headed out to the sidewalk in front of our house.

I’m slow and extremely careful on a skateboard these days, but I can still (kind of) ride one. The boys seemed to think it was cool that “Mama Neal” (as they call me) can ride a skateboard.

The next morning, Alayna and I were laughing about this whole experience, and I said to her: “If anyone asks you what your mom is doing these days, you can just tell them, ‘Oh, she’s a skateboarder.’ ”

I started laughing at my own joke. But it was one of those strange moments when you have so much emotion built up inside that the laugh comes out and instantly transforms into a hysterical cry. Tears were streaming down my face, and I was making this loud noise that even I couldn’t distinguish between a laugh and a cry. My poor daughter didn’t know how to react or respond.

It was awkward.

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It summed up the roller coaster of emotion that I’ve been on for a while now. I was only kidding. But I’ve realized lately how much of my identity is wrapped up in what I do. The idea that now that I have some freedom from daily work life, I’m basically a skateboarder, just had a little too much truth to it.

I think most people have envisioned what it would be like to walk away from something after a long season of working or serving or playing a sport. I often have pictured myself driving off with my sunroof open, blasting music and feeling completely free.

That’s not what happened as I closed a chapter in my life. Instead, I got in my car, pulled out of the parking lot and started sobbing.

What have I done? I don’t even have a title now.

Who am I now? I don’t even know my e-mail address.

And what do I even wear for this?! Getting up in the morning and getting dressed to go to work is one of the highlights of my day. I don’t have any cute outfits to wear to stay home.

For the next few days, I had a nonstop panic attack. It was so bad that even my Fitbit knew something was wrong and insisted that I sit down and breathe.

I haven’t doubted my decision. I know it’s what I was supposed to do. But I didn’t anticipate I would have such an identity crisis.

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I was listening to a podcast this past week that was an interview with two people who are 3s on the Enneagram, like me. The 3 is the achiever. We find our worth in what we do. We find value in our accomplishments. We like to be recognized for our work.

The interviewer asked each of her guests to name his or her biggest fear.

“Not being known.”

Yep.

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On Sunday, instead of getting up super early and rushing off to church to get there an hour before the service begins, all six of us piled in the minivan to drive to church together. I literally do not even remember the last time we did this. Typically, I’m out the door before the rest of the family wakes up. My husband drives the girls. And the boys often come in a third vehicle. It wouldn’t be as bad to take three different cars to church every week, except that it’s a 25-minute drive!

We walked in 10 minutes late, and searched for a row of chairs that still had six seats open.

I wasn’t responsible for anything. I didn’t have any tasks that I needed to complete. I didn’t need to stop by my desk first. I cleaned it out last week.

I felt lost in the lobby. Usually, I look for people I don’t know so I can welcome them. Today, I was searching for a familiar face. I just wanted to feel known.

**

I want to get to a place where I’m a healthier version of myself. I want to be secure just being myself, and not trying to prove my worth by what I do. I obviously have a lot of work to do. I honestly don’t even know where to begin.

Maybe I’ll just go for a ride on my skateboard.

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What about you? Have you ever had an identity crisis? Can you relate to the need to feel known? Leave me a comment below, share this post or sign up to receive future posts in your inbox.

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6 responses to “On being known”

  1.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    I was talking to your husband about some pretty heavy stuff when I noticed the moment you saw a familiar face in the lobby…you almost got me with the vapors “I’m not crying, you are”

    1. emilyneal Avatar

      You should have joined in! I could have used a group hug. Thank you for sharing some of my emotion.

  2. Joy Lieser Avatar
    Joy Lieser

    Oh my goodness, we were so meant to be friends! I retired at age 50 from a successful business that I had built from the ground up. I was well-known and highly respected in my field. I had no doubt I was making the right decision and was excited about the next season of life. It really caught me off-guard of how much of my identity was wrapped up in my profession and “being known”! It inspired a season of reflecting upon who was I as the daughter of a King? He who gifted and created me…..and yes, gave me the gifts I had been using. A lovely turn of events over the next years as He wooed me closer. Fast forward 10 years. There is presently an unpainted sign that did read “to know and to be known.” Its been there several years. I recently changed the verbiage “to know and to make known.” Ahhhh, I am still learning! Cheers to you, my friend! You are not in this alone

    1. emilyneal Avatar

      Joy, thank you so much for your words! I know God put you in my life during this season for a reason. We have so much in common, and it gives me hope to know you have walked through something similar. Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with me! I’m glad we can keep growing and learning together.

  3. Joy Lieser Avatar
    Joy Lieser
  4. Sues Avatar

    “I want to be secure just being myself, and not trying to prove my worth by what I do.” This. Is. Everything. It took me a decade to be secure with “just” being a SAHM. In the last 8 years that I’ve been an active fitness instructor, I constantly battle: “you’re only teaching # classes a week. That’s nothing. How can you say you have an actual job dong this? Shouldn’t you be doing MORE?” Ohhhhhh, and my heart’s desire to be known = it’s the core of my personality.

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I’m Emily

Storyteller. Photographer. Creative.

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