Monday, March 11, 2013

The X(anga)-Files: How I Lost Interest in my Interests

Yesterday, on a whim, I decided to see if my old Xanga account (remember those?) was still active, and sure enough, it was all there:  my favorite J.W. Waterhouse painting in the background, an Oscar Wilde quote in the header, "Mad World" playing, and my very own words (angstier than I remember, but full of love for Hamlet).

The very last post announced my upcoming wedding, and the rest, as they say, is silence.

The biggest difference between then and now.

I imagine a lot of people cringe going through things they said or did in college (or earlier), but the thing that struck me in the old posts that I read was my confidence.  Specifically, I understood who I was;  I could describe myself, I could identify my interests, and I knew what made me stand apart and what didn't.

I feel that I have lost so much of that definiteness in my current life.  The identity is still there, but I can't always recognize it, and I certainly don't have words for it.  I don't really have "favorites" anymore.  I honestly have a hard time listing my interests now.  I often get frustrated at how people identify me as a mother and ignore the rest of my personhood, but when it comes down to it, I'm not even sure what that other personhood consists of.

According to my Xanga, these were my interests as of 2006:
  • God.
  • Music.
  • Literature.
  • The color grey.
  • Not using capital letters.
  • Marching band.
  • C.S. Lewis.
  • Loving people.
  • Cool cemeteries.
  • Emery.
  • Remembering things.
  • Strong vocabularies.
  • Cleverness.

Some of these still apply, others have dropped out of my life, and others are still present in a different way.  (And can I note how ridiculously "me" it was to list things like "remembering things" and "cleverness" as interests?)

Anyway, this reflection makes me want to clearly define my interests as they are now, not to pigeon-hole myself, but so that I have the self-knowledge as a jumping off point to explore things that are definitively unlike me.

So, here is a starter list for my current self.  

These are my interests* as of 2013:
  • The color grey.
  • Fair trade coffee, tea, & dark chocolate.
  • Brainstorming & problem solving.
  • Systems.
  • The West Wing.
  • Communication.
  • Questioning the status quo.
  • Fugazi.
  • Learning. Especially from other people.

*(I hope it is assumed that as a wife and mother, my primary interest is my family, so I have not listed it here.  Also not listed is my relationship with Christ... I feel that needs separate attention.)

Well, that's a start.  I will refine and add to the list.   Hopefully, I will find ways to work these things into my life in ways that are more regular and meaningful.  We shall see.

How do you define your identity, if at all?  What are your key interests?


  1. I started my Xanga account back when I was 14 (9 years ago, holy cow). I actually tried to do this same thing last year, but I couldn't remember any of my information and wasn't able to find it. I vaguely remember posting a picture of my family's house after our neighbor's tree fell on the roof during a storm. And I recall that I stopped using it after some other girls from school started getting unnecessarily mean. I wish I was able to find it again to look at how I've changed!

    It's such an interesting thing to talk about identity, though. Even though I don't remember much about my Xanga days, I know 14 and 15 were big transition years for me. And I feel like I'm in the midst of (though maybe toward the end) of the transition time of leaving college and getting married. Maybe the times where we can't easily define ourselves are the times that are the most interesting to look back on because they're what shape us into who we are in the future. And you also brought up one of my biggest fears: that when I have kids, my personal identity will be stripped away and people will only view me as a mom. Thought-provoking post!

    1. Hey there!

      I have spent a lot of time thinking about identity before, during, and after pregnancy. It was something I feared losing as well, and I have so many things to say about it (and I am sure many of those things will end up in future posts).

      I think one thing that has been difficult for me in maintaining a non-mom identity is that we have moved a lot. When I go home to Illinois, people there remember the pre-baby me, and I feel those people are a lot quicker to think of me as Hope + Babies instead of Hope = Mother.

      When you move somewhere, people are starting from scratch in figuring out who you are, and when you're pregnant with a toddler and no discernible career (like I was), "Mom" is clearly the most obvious. The problem is I haven't really moved beyond that.

      Anyway, like I said, I have SO much to say about this, so there will be plenty to read in the future. In the meantime, though, I'd be happy to chat with you about my experience if you wanted sometime. I really appreciate your comment, and I hope that you track down that Xanga account information to check out your teenage ramblings. =)

  2. I stumbled upon your blog after browsing The Influence Network. This entry really struck a chord with me. I struggle with my "identity" since becoming a mom. My priorities have definitely changed and my daily schedule has changed. I am an only child and have always LOVED my alone time. I used to be so creative when I had time to just think and dream. Now, I barely get ten minutes to myself each day. I think back to 20-year old me and I see a very different person. I used to paint and TRY to teach myself to play the guitar and piano... I had weekly craft nights and I would go to record stores and buy random albums. Now , I am having a good day if I get a shower and put REAL clothes on. A grocery shopping trip to Wal-Mart is a big deal.
    Every now and again this loss of identity really gets to me and I get somewhat sad. Overall, I am extremely blessed and love being a mom more than I ever could have imagined. I think I just need to take some time each week for ME. Time to revisit old interests and pursue new interests. Time to actually think and reflect on what interests me.
    I really enjoyed your post and I can definitely relate. It definitely made me type more than I have in ages.
    Thanks for sharing your heart. I appreciate your honesty!

    1. Hi Serena!

      Isn't the Influence Network just fabulous? It's great to meet you!

      I definitely hear you on the "shower and real clothes" thing. It sounds like you had a lot more hobbies than I did before kids (I mainly just read books and went to punk shows), but it's still weird to think about what my days used to look like in terms of goals and productivity.

      I think for me, it's important to focus on interests that I can actually pursue in some small ways. For instance, if I listed white water rafting as an interest, it would be very difficult for me to participate in that right now. Something like "brainstorming," though, I can practice on a daily basis and in a meaningful way.

      It's hard finding the balance between pursuing your interests and also not being too hard on yourself for not doing more of the things you want to do (besides raising your kids, of course). I just keep telling myself this is a unique season (2 babies under 2), and that I will have the time and energy to pursue some of my interests later (and hopefully, my kids will be able to join me in them).

      Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hello! I'm looking forward to seeing you around the Network. =)

  3. Every so often I go and look at a website I made with one of my best friends in high school. It was mostly lists of "hot guys" like, oh, Lance from NSYNC.

    I love that you listed not using capital letters as an interest. Made me laugh out loud. Was it painful to read? I have tons of journals from when I was in middle and high school and they just make me want to be sick. I was SO insecure and sad.

    1. My preference for lowercase letters was both aesthetic and philosophical, if I remember correctly. I thought the capital letters looked intrusive, but I also wanted to preserve capitalization for words/ideas/people that deserved "being capitalized." I didn't think simply being the first word in a sentence should be all it took to get that distinction.

      But, this is all from the girl who gave a speech in high school speech class describing bending the page corners of books as "a permanent solution to a temporary problem" (which, of course, is used to describe suicide as well), so take it with a grain of salt. =)

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  5. I have several friends who are moms and have somehow been lost in that identity because it is all anyone points out about them. I now take extra care to invest in my mother-friends as PEOPLE and not just caretakers of little humans :). Good job listing our your interests and starting a path to finding yourself again!

    1. I'm sure your friends really appreciate your efforts! I try to do the same for my mom friends as well, but it's weird how sometimes even I have a hard time figuring out what else to talk to them about (since motherhood is the only obvious thing we have in common). It's so worth the extra effort, though. Thanks for saying hello!