A whole year has passed, and when I sit back and think back on my pregnancy, it has been even longer since I feel like I’ve lost my sense of self. In our teens, we look at adults and think they have it all figured out. We associate being an adult with this sense of surety. They know all the answers, they know where to find this happiness that seems to constantly elude us as teens who have to constantly ask permission for everything. So many of us spent those years wishing we had that freedom that goes along with being an adult.
All too soon, the years roll over and we are out of our teens and into adulthood.
Well, if anything was ever more falsely advertised than adulthood I’ve yet to find it. I turned twenty waiting for this transformation to take place. I thought the birthday would come with a clarity I had been so ignorant to before. My acne would disappear, this confidence would become my new personality, I would walk with my head held high, filled with all the answers to the questions I had been asking for years but wasn’t old enough to know yet.
Instead, I was just as lost and confused as ever and found myself wondering how the hell all the other adults in the world had functioned and kept up this façade for all these years. Nothing changed, you were still the same person you were, just a year older. The main thing that changed was the weight on your shoulders.
With the knowledge that this was adulthood, you weren’t given any cheat sheet to life and the added burden of being an adult, it’s hard to avoid feeling as though you are drowning. You suddenly become aware of how pointless the curriculum in high school is. Physical Education was mandatory, but there were no classes that taught you how to fully function as an adult. There was no class to teach you how to file your taxes, how to save you RESPs, how much of your paycheque should go towards living and what should go away if you wanted to have a safety net for when you suddenly found yourself unemployed. What to look for in a used car, what price was reasonable for mileage. How do you even go about purchasing your first piece of real estate?
Suddenly being an honour roll student means nothing. For those who don’t have the parents with this knowledge, you are up a creek with no paddle.
Now, add being a parent to it all. Suddenly you have a tiny human to take care of, no more answers but countless more questions, and society expects you to keep it all together.
The slack for new parents in our society is non-existent. You are supposed to breastfeed because breast is best, you should spend every waking moment raising your child, but you should also have a promising career and not be dependant on ‘government handouts’ and god forbid you admit to being helpless. Life has become endlessly more complicated and has no sign of getting easier.
Sometimes I wish we were centuries back. All you had to do was learn a trade and you were set. You were a blacksmith or a shoemaker and that was life. There was no credit scores, no retirement funds, no judgment about parenting whatsoever. If your child survived, you were the parent of the year.
In my teens, I told myself I was going to be a writer. There was nothing I wanted more than to walk into a bookstore and see my name on a hardcover book, sitting on an almost empty shelf. I told myself that was who I was, and I was so close to being exactly who I wanted to be.
Now, let’s add adulthood to the mix. Suddenly, that dream seems unattainable and unstable and people start telling you that you should have a backup. The thought that what you want isn’t enough means that all the writing you’ve been doing gets put on the back burner so you can work 40 hours a week and earn a living. Sooner than later, that back burner gets almost forgotten, although that creativity in you still burns brightly and there are notebooks full of these ideas that one day you promise will come to fruition.
Just becoming an adult can be enough to make you lose your sense of self, all while telling yourself it is because you are on a quest to find yourself and determine exactly who you are.
Now, just for fun, let’s add pregnancy.
If you had the dream of doing something creative being pregnant, suddenly tired with a mind that feels like it is surrounded by thick fog will definitely put a damper on that. I felt a change in my creativity when I was three months pregnant. Just waking up and pushing through my workday so I could get home and go back to sleep was literally all my brain could process. Looking at my half-finished pieces of work was depressing. I would open my laptop and put my fingers to the keys hoping for the best but wasn’t able to do much work. I found myself forgetting my own stories, having to read and re-read everything I had written just the day before and forgetting simple words.
Telling myself this would pass helped keep me from spiralling into depression, but it was difficult being unable to summon the energy to do little more than sit there, my mind completely blank and half asleep.
When I finally had my daughter, the weight of exhaustion was unreal. I kept telling myself next week would be the week when I felt more like myself again, next week, next week…
It’s been over a year. Almost two when you factor in my pregnancy since I have felt like myself and if I am being honest, I am nowhere close to finding her. I like to think she is sitting in the clearing in a lush forest of my mind. Books piles in a happy circle around her as she goes through notebook after notebook, trying to capture all her thoughts, telling all the stories that have been trapped in my mind while I wander around completely lost. I’d like to think she is happy, content waiting for me there, so sure that I will find my way back to her eventually.
That thought keeps me going on days when I feel so lost and overwhelmed (which is honestly most days). A furrow in her brow as she writes, a faint smirk across her lips as she hears me in the distance, desperate and afraid I’ll never find her. The smirk is knowing, because she knows it will be just a matter of time as she glances as the clock at her feet, counting down the moments until I find her again.
I guess in the meantime, I will just wait. Wait and try to survive until I can find myself again.