It takes me a long time to recognize things about myself. I usually fall down a rabbit hole and discover why halfway up. The first time I lost myself, I had just given birth to my daughter. I knew I was a wife and a mother. But aside from being my daughter’s everything, I had no idea who I was. The next time I lost myself was after losing my foster son back to DCF (Department of Children & Families) in 2015. This broke me so much that I am still finding shards of myself on the floor today. I could not even perceive who I had become; I couldn’t see the person that was me anymore. I was more of a puppet who was unaware of who the puppet master was. And now…
… I lost myself during quarantine.
I know, who hasn’t, right?! Looking back on the past year all I say to myself is “Fuck!”
My quarantine nightmare began on April 1st. A fitting day… April Fools Day. I found out I was laid off. The next day my uncle fell victim to Covid-19. I spent the following weeks alternating between a hazy daze and a determined being. The depression quickly veiled me, and, once again, I was wondering who I was anymore. I no longer had a purpose in life. I had lost my job. My teen daughter holed up in her room distance learning while watching movies and YouTube videos. My husband went to work. And then there was me, lonely, lowly me. I wasn’t needed, and I began to wonder why I was still here.
Losing my purpose, my career, and the dependence of my daughter suffocated me. What was worse is I didn’t even have the volunteer positions I had prior due to quarantine. Besides my career, I had become a huge advocate for the mental health of youth, teens, and adults. You can thank my own history for that. But that all was ripped apart like a sewing project you just gave up on. Therapy and psychiatrist appointments hurt me as I always had to voice that I had nothing anymore. Quarantine took everything from me, took me from me.
It was decided I would go back to school to get my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, so I did. It was always a dream of mine for the past decade but never went through with it because I was working. Here was the perfect opportunity to make it a reality. I started classes and let me tell all of you my readers, I was damn good at my classes. I got through five classes earning and A in each. Then, after nine months, I got a job.
I am not sure what I thought the new job would create. I believe it was going to aid in my definition, give me purpose once again. I decided that I would take a quarter off from school to focus on this new but similar career as before. Instead of being an architectural project manager, I am now a project manager for a construction company. I assumed I would be able to decide what to do with myself… excel at being a project manager alone or work and go to school.
And now I sit here more confused than ever at who Stephanie really is, who I really am. It is too early to say that this project manager position defines me alone. I don’t know if I will return to classes or if becoming a counselor is what I really want anymore. I miss my advocating. I miss my former coworkers. I miss having a solidified life. This loss is something we all learned the hard way. None of us knew that a plague would descend on us so rapidly and so many of us would lose family and friends to it. None of us knew that millions, including myself, would be clocking into unemployment. None of us knew that we would still be communicating through masks a year later.
I know I am not the only one who lost herself. I am just one in a sea of millions who has suffered. After a year in quarantine though, it is time I heed the voice of my therapist, and find my identity.