Yesterday I found a pair of missing earrings in my desk at work. They were hidden beneath a pile of CDs - copies of Environmental Impact Statements and traffic count maps. I unearthed them as I packed for an overnight trip out of town for meetings. The earrings are a pair of turquoise and silver dangling earrings that belonged to my mother. Originally clip-on earrings, she had the little triangular bunches of leaves turned into dangling gems for me to wear in my pierced ears. I have always loved these earrings, and had been feeling terrible about losing them. Finding them again was like discovering some small piece of myself hidden inside my desk, buried under all the work that I need to do, obscured by some tangible and symbolic representation of who I am in the professional world.
Yesterday afternoon I drove 4 hours east to our state capital, navigating in the dark and fog through heavy traffic to my downtown, high-rise, fancy hotel that offers an incredibly low government rate. I was pretty pleased with myself for finding my way, all alone in a city I barely know. Like so many other business-people I walked into the hotel in my high heel boots with my rolling black suitcase, flashing my government badge to get my low rate, and requesting just a single key - traveling alone, my life and family at home, my work defining even my physical location.
I met a friend for dinner, both of us out for once without children, enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation without someone tugging on our sleeves. We walked back towards my hotel in the mist, surrounded on all sides by tall buildings whose rooftops were obscured by the gloomy night. I thought about the earrings - the essence of myself discovered hidden in my desk - and wondered who I really am. Am I really the person I appeared to be today, in my skirt and suit jacket, high heels pounding the urban pavement? Am I really the woman who sat at the board room table, in the black leather chairs sized for men? Am I really this person who sat at the table with the big boys and their maps, listening to and actually understanding (most of) their chatter about impacts and y-lines and culverts? I listened and I voted and I even asked some pointed, rhetorical questions.
At lunch after several meetings today, the person across the table from me said I don't look old enough to have a two-and-a-half-year-old child. Not sure if that was a genuine comment, or a just-being-nice comment, but it made me think even more about my identity - about who I am and who I've become, and how to figure that out. I keep hoping that someday I will find work that feels just right for me - that fits me and is meaningful to me and doesn't make me wonder if I'm pretending to be someone else. I keep hoping that someday I'll be a person who says "I can't believe I get paid for this" and actually mean it. I realized, driving the four hours back west this afternoon, that the job - no job - is ever going to feel that way. It's not going to come from outside of me - it's going to come from within, from some place of truth, some essence of myself that I'm still trying to discover - like the earrings hidden in my desk.
I am trying desperately to believe that I'll be able to find that part of myself at some point. It is so easy for that search to get clouded - by our jobs, our responsibilities, by what other people say and do to us. In the past few weeks I've let the comments of others cloud my thinking so much that I haven't been able to write the way I want to. I want this blog to be a place of truth and honesty. I want to only post things here that feel really right, really ready to be shared with the world, really good enough to be worth someone else's time to read. I don't want to hurt anyone with what I write. But, I don't want to hurt myself by not writing it, either.
I know that whether I'm pounding the pavement like all the other young urban professionals or wearing my PJs and watching the dogs watch Dora eat dinner, there is a truth inside of me that's not only worth finding, it's worth sharing and believing in, even when I get confused about my identity and my place in the world. One of the hardest things about life is not knowing the future. I was just wondering today what - if anything - I would have done differently if I'd known that I'd lose my mother at age 28. Would it have been easier to just know? I'm not sure - and I guess that's not the point. I don't know where I'm going right now - like all that fog and dark and mist I drove through last night. I have to believe I'm not the only one feeling this way - not the only one who wonders who they are, how they got there, and where they are going. I just have to trust my nose - trust my ability to navigate and get there - and trust that I won't make too many wrong turns, or at least not so many that they can't be retraced and repaired.