Locating Identity in the Midst of Transition

I like to play this game with myself—I try to think about where I was, and exactly what I was doing in various increments of time radiating out behind and before me..

A year ago, I went down the the Riverwalk, climbing down the boulders near the Missouri River while I talked on the phone to a dear friend.

A month ago, I was in swimming in the Atlantic ocean, on the beaches of Puerto Rico.

Twenty four hours ago, I was making a fort on my sister’s porch out of couch cushions and car blankets.

Twenty four hours from now, I will be wrapping up another school day, opening the door as backpacked kids rush out to their parents.

Two months from now, I will be wrapping up my last school day, saying goodbye to these kids and my career as an elementary teacher.

Six months from now, I will be somewhere on the west coast, doing the very same thing I’m doing right now—writing another blog post about where I’ve been and where I’m headed.

A year from now…oh gosh. That’s where it gets blurry.

DSC_0050Am I the only one who does this game? I find myself playing it a lot, especially in this season of transition. It makes me feel more centered, less lost and more found. Sometimes I zoom out even farther.

5 years ago, I accepted a job to be a third grade teacher in Liberty Missouri.

5 months ago, I came to the conclusion that my time as a teacher was (and needed to be) coming to a close.

2 months ago, I set the intention to take the second half of 2016 to travel down the west coast, traveling slowly and stopping in a couple of cities that interest me, while trying to grow as a writer.

Right this minute, I’m feeling caught between deep excitement and peace about this plan, mixed with bursts of panic over a lack of concrete capital “P” Plans. (i.e., I will be staying at this place for these dates, making a source of income a reality by fill-in-the-blank.)

Here’s the reality that I keep coming up against, and I know it will come as a shocker—I can’t actually see into the future. I have plans, and I am actively and daily trying to flesh out what those plans will look like, but the sheer amount of mystery and unknown lying ahead of me is dauntingly unprecedented for this girl. Even my snapshot of six months from now, the furthest my imagination dares to venture is much more of a hope than a certainty. The fact that the details are so blurry is freaking this Certainty Addict out.

Well, to give myself some credit, I’m not freaking out as much as Year-Ago-Allie would have. I know that Fear is always along for the ride when I take a risk and step into the unknown. Acknowledging the shaky feelings and being gentle with myself in the moments of doubt has been something I’m learning how to do. That’s another reason I like playing this game. Looking back reminds me of how far I’ve come. It reminds me of the story that I’m in the midst of, the heroine of my own narrative that I’m in the process of becoming.

DSC_0054Back when I was around nine or ten, my family visited my aunt and uncle in Michigan. There were some baby dedications being held at the church in which my uncle was a pastor. I remember there was this big, pastel colored baby name book sitting on their kitchen table that Sunday morning. This book was thicker than the average baby name book, as it had both the original meaning of the names as well as a biblical name. I’ve always been fascinated by the meaning of names, so I fanned the book open to the “A’s.” My given name is Allie, so it’s rare to find my name in books such as these. I often have to settle for saddling up next to Allison or Alice, a derivative that I have always resented. But lo and behold! My name was there! I can’t recall what the “original meaning” was but I do remember the biblical meaning of the name: “Illuminated One.” I didn’t even know what that word meant, but I liked the way the word dripped, then danced off the tongue- il-luuum-in-a-ted. I tucked that word into a corner of my heart, saving it for later.

Obviously, that word has come to mean a lot to me, a touchstone of sorts. It has come up for me in several different seasons and important, life-shaping conversations. (Hence, the blog name…)

Here is what dictionary.com has to say about the verb, illuminate:

1. to supply or brighten with light; light up.

2. to make lucid or clear; throw light on (a subject).

3. to decorate with lights, as in celebration.

4. to enlighten, as with knowledge.

5. to make resplendent or illustrious.

6. to decorate (a manuscript, book, etc.) with colors and gold or silver, as was often done in the Middle Ages.

In the midst of so much unknown and everything changing, it is so good to be reminded of my identity. I read each of these subsets of definitions today and added my own exclamation point to the various shades of meaning. This is my name. My identity. As the “Illuminated One,” I am lit from within. I am called, and it is my deep honor to accept the invitation to be one who brings light, who fosters lucidity through the pursuit of truth. This little light of mine is one of celebration and illustrious decoration, calling hearts to see Beauty! Yes, mysteries shroud around me in darkness, and uncertainty abounds, but I am the Illuminated One.

I don’t want to get caught up in my time travel game, reliving the past or trying to guess the future and miss the Here and Now Reality that I am in. Sure, I can gain wisdom from knowing and naming my where I’ve come from and there is also a wisdom in planning for the future, but no- that’s not where I find my identity. I’m not named by my past, nor does my worth depend on my ability to try to live up to my name in some expected future. My centeredness doesn’t come from certainty. I have my name. The Illuminated One. My twenties have seemed like one long string of transitions, and I’m finding myself embarking on another one. But the journey now isn’t really about finding where I am, or even who I am, but becoming who I already am. DSC_0092

2 thoughts on “Locating Identity in the Midst of Transition

  1. Your style, your voice, and your, in your own words, illumination are truly remarkable. I absolutely love this post, and I relate very deeply to the process of transitions, especially as related to a young 20s-year old. I play a similar game as yours, and I try to imagine myself with the freedoms and intuitions that I strive to develop; that wise, learned, and interesting man that gets to experience the souls of the world. As you put it, “the process of becoming,” is just that internal journey that our bodies are embodying through travel, and the rest of life.

    “But the journey now isn’t really about finding where I am, or even who I am, but becoming who I already am.” – This legitimately gave me shivers. This is an important message to keep around.

    I’m very excited to continue following your work. Keep writing!


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