Who Am I at Twenty-Six?
This coming Wednesday, September 9th, I will be twenty-seven years old. I’m sitting here struggling to figure out how I’ve gotten here and how so much time has passed.
Since becoming an adult, the week of my birthday has come to be a time of deep reflection for me. Looking back on my life, where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, what I’ve accomplished up to this point in my life. My main focus of reflection usually ends up being on the past year of my life. So, I’m looking at September 9th, 2019 to the present.
To put it briefly, this past year has been one of the most challenging years of my life. I’ve struggled in a lot of areas in my life, and to be quite honest I haven’t been doing well mentally and emotionally.
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been extremely difficult on everyone. We’ve all struggled in different areas of life to different degrees, but no doubt we have all felt some type of loss and sadness. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and all that comes with that, for starters. And so many of us are hurting in so many ways.
I just celebrated my son’s second birthday, which means that I have now been a mother for two years. Earlier this year my husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary, which means I have been a wife for four years. I wish I could say that after these past few years I feel like I’m a confident wife and mother, but the truth is I don’t feel that way at all.
This past year has broke me in so many ways, some good and some bad. There are many names I go by in life — Wife, Mother, Daughter, Doula, Christian — these are my roles in life and names that others call me. But here recently I’ve really been struggling with figuring out who I am to myself.
All my life I’ve dreamed of the person I would become as an adult. During my college years I thought that I was getting a clear picture of who I was and could see a bit of the bigger picture. I could see myself and my husband making the life that we had been dreaming about. But here recently I’ve been questioning what it is that I want anymore. Some days I feel like a complete stranger to myself. And if I don’t know who I really am, then how could anyone else really get to know me?
In Order to Know Others, I Must Know Myself
It’s no secret that I’ve never really had a lot of close friends. I was homeschooled growing up so I always considered my siblings my best friends (still do). In college Brendan was my best friend and I almost exclusively hung out with him. I had a few friends during the first couple years of marriage, but they turned out to be co-workers more than deep rooted friends. Now that I’m a mother, I have a couple of mama friends, but I don’t see them very often and I know the friendship doesn’t currently run as deep as I’d like it to.
So what am I trying to say here? Honestly, I don’t really know. I think I’m starting to peel back the layers, the roles and names I go by, and begin to take a long hard look at the center of myself and what’s at that very foundational layer, what’s at my core.
I think it’s fair to say that I don’t have many friends, or am afraid to let people in, because I don’t even know who I am myself. How could I let others in and allow others to like me, to care for me, to love me, if I don’t even love myself?
I know that my family loves me, my husband loves me, and my son loves me. But even more important than that I know that the God of the universe knows me down to my very core, sees the ugliest parts of me that I keep locked away and hidden in closets, and He still chooses to love me. And I’m embarrassed to admit how often I ignore Him and don’t take the time to get to know Him better and to love Him like I should.
I think until I take the time to get to know God better, and learn to love Him better, I will never know how to love and accept myself. Only then will I be able to let others love me and accept me for who I am.
And that’s kind of where I’m at now.
What’s My Role?
After I gave birth to Ellis, I feel as if a part of me died and this new person emerged. It was as if one day I was me, myself, the Ashley I had always known, and then the next I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the woman standing before me.
I’m sure many people know by now that I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety after having Ellis. It’s been an on-again off-again battle I’ve been fighting for two years now. So that coupled with the huge identity shift I experienced when I became a mother has left me wondering who I am and who I’m supposed to be.
I don’t feel like the person I used to be before having Ellis, and I’m struggling to put all of the pieces together to figure out who this new woman is. I think in an effort to give myself a name, to find a new identity for myself so to speak, I’ve tried to rush into things I’m not ready for, roles I’m not ready or equipped to fill.
During the winter of 2019 I started doing some freelance photography work here and there when the opportunity presented itself. When I went to my first shoot I felt like I found a little piece of the old me that had gotten lost along the way. I felt happy to be using my talents and my college degree again and I felt important because I was filling a role, doing a job, and getting paid for it.
During the spring of 2019 I decided to go to a doula training through DONA International because I felt that God had put this calling on my heart to get involved with birth work. After my own pregnancy and home birth experience, I felt passionate about learning how to help educate, advocate for, and support women who wanted to birth differently. My own doula was amazing and I felt she truly supported me. I wanted to be there for other women like she was there for me.
I attended my first birth as a doula a couple months after my training and felt that I was really on the path that God wanted me to follow. This felt like a new piece of me that I had never known about before, a piece of my new identity.
Then I attended my second birth as a doula on January 1st, 2020. And that was such an amazing experience that I am forever grateful to have been a part of. I saw raw emotions, unconditional love, fierce mama lioness power, and a new life birthed that night. In that moment and the days that followed, I couldn’t think of a more messy, humbling, magical, beautiful way to start a new year and brand new decade.
I was believing for a bright and beautiful future in the year 2020.
During the month of January, Brendan and I did a 21 day fast along with our church to start the year off right. Those 21 days were transformative for me. I chose to give up social media, which I’m embarrassed to admit has come to take up so much of my time. I felt like my eyes had been opened and I started to see what was really important in my life.
During that time I was reading my Bible more often and felt like I was connecting with God on a deeper level, Brendan and I found a house and put an offer on it that was accepted, and I started to feel God nudge me in a different direction than I had felt at the very beginning of January.
January was a beautiful month full of life, growth, hope, and excitement. February was a pretty great month too and I felt like I was starting to get a clearer picture of who I was and how I wanted to take care of my family. And then March came and the whole world, not just my little corner of the world, got turned upside down.
I Hear You, God.
During those first couple of months when a lot of people were staying home and were unsure of what the next few weeks and months were going to look like, I felt myself slipping to the end of my rope. I needed help and I wanted answers and the only place I knew I could turn to was God and His Word.
And you know what? These past few months have sucked in a lot of ways. But, I can say that I see how God has used this year to break me down and bring me closer to Him than I have been in years.
Looking back over this past year, I can see that God has really been trying to show me where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do. I knew it in January, but I ignored the still small voice I heard. And now, after months of thinking about it, I feel like I can’t ignore it any longer.
Deep down in my bones I feel that God wants me to focus my time and energy on my home and my family, to be a homemaker, and to accept that and to be content with and at peace with that for this stage of my life.
I’m currently twenty-six years-old. Last year I jumped into twenty-six not knowing what an exhausting year it would be. In a few days I will be twenty-seven, and right now that number feels refreshing and inviting to me.
I’ve tried to push myself, to adapt, and squeeze myself into everything I think others want or expect me to be. I’ve done this for years, and it just doesn’t seem like something a twenty-seven year-old should do to herself anymore.
Ever since I gave birth to Ellis, I have been in way over my head with this whole role of being a mother. Ellis has been a dream baby and for the most part is so easy going and easy to please.
My husband has been more amazing than I could have ever asked for when it comes to caring for me and Ellis, supporting me in whatever goals I have for myself, and helping around the house and with Ellis. But still, I find myself drowning trying to stay afloat and take care of my easy-going baby and husband.
I look at other mothers and wonder how they seem to manage taking care of more than one child, serving their husband, and also working either full-time or managing some side project, and I’m over here silently screaming for help because I feel like I can’t even watch my child and take care of the house while my husband is at work. I’m not trying to compare myself to others, I just haven’t been able to figure out whats wrong with me.
All the while I hear God telling me that it’s okay to do what He’s asking me to and to to stop fighting Him. I’ve been striving so hard to try on different hats, or different roles, that don’t fit me quite right. Or, at least they aren’t the right fit at this point in my life.
I’ve been feeling guilty about not having a job and not making any money to help us get out of debt a bit faster.
I feel like I’m falling behind on my doula certification because I’m nervous and I’ve taken things extremely slow.
I feel like I’m not a great mother because I spend my time wishing Ellis would entertain himself or take a nap so that I could work on my doula studies or have some time to myself.
And I feel like I’m not being the best wife because my husband and I don’t get to spend a lot of time together at the end of the day, and my time and energy have been used up by then.
I’m kind of rambling on at this point. But what I’m trying to convey and process is how this past year has broken me, reshaped me and my mindset, and given me perspective and clarity into what’s most important in my life and the direction I think I want to take from here.
The thing is, nobody has made me feel inadequate in any of those areas. It’s me that puts the pressure on myself to do more or be better. It’s me who worries what other’s will think of me if I decide to take a different path. I’m worried I’ll disappoint others and worried I won’t be enough if I’m simply a wife, mother, and homemaker.
Deep down though, I’ve known that this is always the role I wanted in life. This has always been my highest calling.
Who Will I Be at Twenty-Seven?
There are a lot of things I’m passionate about and a lot of areas I’d like to work on in my life.
I’m passionate about birth work and helping support mamas on their journeys through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
I’m interested in learning about gardening and herbalism and how I can grow my own foods and medicines to help nourish and keep my family in good health.
I love different styles of writing and would still like writing to be a part of my life whether I’m getting paid as a freelance writer or just using this little blogging space to connect with a few people.
Photography is still one of my favorite ways to express myself creatively. I take pictures every single day and love to document my family’s life that way.
But my big take away from this past year of my life is that in order for me to focus on helping others or using my talents to do a certain job, I must first take a step back and learn how to place my focus and energy on my family. Because if I don’t know how to take care of myself and my family, then how am I to be expected to know how to care for others properly?
I just really want to make Twenty-Seven a year dedicated to growing closer to God, following where He leads me, and letting go of other’s expectations of me, and letting go of my own expectations of myself.
I know that this has been an extremely long post, and if you’re still reading I’m humbled that you would take the time out of your day to read these words.
I rambled on quite a bit because this started out as a simple journal entry, but I felt lead to share my thoughts and feelings in the hopes that it may help someone else not feel so alone. Trying to figure out who you are as a person and what role you are meant to play in your life can be very overwhelming. But I know that above all, I am a child of God and I can take comfort in that on the days where I feel lost.
So here’s to Twenty-Seven and all that is to come and all I am to be!