Thirty-three. I have always been an analyzer, an observer; I’ve tended toward contemplation with a sprinkling of impulsion. I am interested in all of it, it being living. My thirty-third year of life came to a close this week. In typical fashion of reflection, this year has been a period of intense study in which semi-unconscious context are driving my choices. I’ll call it the sociocultural unconscious (Jung might call this the collective unconscious, Beck might call this the driving force behind core belief systems, etc.). Indeed this is always the thing to reflect upon so that we are awake to our behavior, but this year has been ripe with sticky crossroads that will determine how my future will look.
I’d be lying if said my much-needed year away from being a therapist wasn’t decorated with internally unhinged moments of sheer panic. As if this identity and role I had created over the last nine years was easily put to the side and I just relaxed into a life that did not provide a sense of “expert” professionalism for my work week as well as the professional salary that I had always counted on that contributed to my financial freedom and slightly stubborn independence. I would be lying if this experience didn’t make me question my worth as a wife or daughter or friend or stranger. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that thought it would be great if I had just truly wanted to have a child so that I could point to this as the socially acceptable reason I needed a break from my career. The world of work is a very important part of our lives and I wanted to understand the reasons I was having such difficulty at times in the wake of being free from a responsibility-laden role that I genuinely need to heal from. I wanted to understand the deeper systems that were going on inside of me so that I could challenge them and be truer within myself.
In my current interpretation of things, people are more fluid in identity and derive a sense of self through layers of internal and external context as well as through the body they were “thrown” into. Even though we are continuously shifting, I do not believe there is a hierarchy of successions that we obtain in life. We do not conquer stages through adulthood development as we did in childhood and for this reason I feel it is wise to truly tease apart what it is that is driving decisions in life. My sociocultural unconscious tells me that there just may be a ladder of development in adulthood that is displayed in images of material possessions and/or people possessions (i.e. partner, child), and career milestones that somehow equate to characteristics of internal growth related of being responsible, mature, and wise. We have these in droves and most of us do not stop to question these images that we have been handed generation after generation. I have a horrible habit of questioning everything and often love the moments of wonder this grants me. However, this characteristic of mine also throws me down rabbit holes that causes growth, pain, and mostly a bit of confusion until I re-organize schema and find my way back to that tree I fell asleep under.
I am incredibly thankful that I live in a time period where there are many people questioning this storyline and the one-size-fits-all approach to happiness and fulfillment. It is because of this social and political context that my husband and I can be open about being child-free by choice (a decision we finally settled on a year ago after uncountable hours of discussion, research, reading, and sitting in full, vulnerable truth with one another) and that I can grant myself space for a moratorium-like year to examine and re-examine what it is I want to do in this life. What a beautiful thing it is to be a woman today.
So, how is this ego-self of mine at the start of age thirty-four? I have identified several new systems of thought that the sociocultural unconscious had me beholden to that, now that I am awake to them, I am no longer beholden to. I am still this same ego-self that will forever be fascinated by consciousness and stuff that creates consciousness. I am genuinely looking forward to re-entering the world of psychology in a totally different capacity than before, I am acutely aware of the necessity of waking up to inspiration and thus am excited beyond words to be moving back to Colorado in less than one month, I have a system of family and friends that challenge me to be honest, support me in my times of upheaval, and continue to see my potential in this life. I don’t really know what I am “doing” (and I don’t think anyone really does- we create it as we go) but this ego-self is strong, resilient, and capable of (at bare minimum) thirty-four more years and thousands more trail miles.