My first identity crisis occured when I retired from the world of competitive gymnastics. From traveling all over and training with some of the best athletes in the world, it was a hard shift to become a “normal” person at 18. The partying lifestyle of college probably masked a lot of the internal loss I was trying to process, and by my senior year I managed to pull it together. I landed a job at a big firm in New York and moved in with my boyfriend, who later became my husband, and life kind of just moved on.
The next big identity crisis hit me when I became a mom at age 31. How was I going to manage the demands of being a downtown lawyer while playing a significant role in my child’s life? I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, but soon realized that wasn’t going to happen. So, I embraced my role as a mother and opened my own firm, taking on a tremendous risk that it may not all pan out. Fortunately, my career and son both thrived, but it was my marriage that fell threw the cracks.
At 32, I found myself as a self-employed, divorced, single mom– that was definitely not what I had in mind for my life, and so here I was now facing identity crisis #3. The singles scene was initially very weird and foreign to me after being away for over a decade. Luckily, I made 2 groups of friends that helped me re-acclimate to the dating scene: 1) those that were part of the 20% of our population that will never marry and 2) the 25–33% that had already been divorced and would not marry again. Eventually, on my nights “off” from mommy duty, I learned to rely on other single friends for grown-up fun.
The point is whenever there is a major change in your life, and you see your role changing significantly, there is a great potential to feel like a part of you is being lost, but this is only so you can discover a new part of you. The transformation in roles is an opportunity to discover other qualities about yourself. Don’t let doubt overwhelm you or drag you down, but rather find the courage and strength to rise to the new challenge.
In the end, as far as having an identity crisis goes, it is important to recognize that it is a normal part of life. So many of my colleagues and clients have also gone through these moments, and we have all worked through them. It just takes time to adjust to a new role, and it is okay to be sad or scared at times– just don’t let yourself get stuck. Reach out to others– the world is full of people that can and want to help others in a time of need. Remember, a crisis is just a passing episode, and if it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.