Just this morning, the LAUSD (Los Angeles public school system) and other school systems received “credible threats” leading some to shut down the doors to the schools. We hear this news and we are scared, insecure and feeling powerless.
But sometimes it seems that changes in the outer world have the odd benefit of causing self-reflection.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed over the years. Most importantly, my identity about who I am versus who I was is more defined for me these days than it ever was.
At the core, I’m still the same person. Yet, my hobbies, how I occupy my time, my life goals, and my overall perception of myself have gone through small and large gradations.
On the exterior, I’m a hybrid of middle aged dieter and sometimes-exerciser, part time music therapist, English teacher, home owner (new kitchen remodeler!), broken ankle survivor, grandmother, writer, blogger, friend, daughter, mother-in-law. (not in that order, please).
My relationships keep expanding: Friends, acquaintances, more grandchildren, new daughters-in-law, colleagues, social media friends and so forth.
But on the inside I’m a mixture of the former and insecure together with the new and evolved and more confident. My struggle throughout life seems to be to peel away the layers of insecurity one by one, and hopefully emerge as a whole person.
When I was newly married, I’d fill out forms and where they’d ask about occupation, I’d write “housewife.” There was no hesitance as I checked off that box.
There was no place for “stay at home mom” (and the term wasn’t yet in vogue) so “housewife” was the closest thing to my truth. I spent my days at the park or library, shopping for groceries, carpools and cooking uncomplicated meals.
You know, Mommy-ing.
I also taught piano lessons up to ten hours per week, and taught Music Appreciation at local elementary schools.
I was a Mom who stayed home and who also went out to teach part time. When posed with the question about what I “did,” my answer was “Mom, mother.” Not very glamorous on today’s standards, but that was my answer.
Whatever work I did, it wasn’t “real” work, to me. The other non-Mom stuff were more hobbies to me than form of profession.
Looking back, I don’t think I was completely truthful. Maybe I felt guilty admitting that I wasn’t really a full time mom, so I fudged the whole truth on those forms. (You know, like the weight on driver’s license? Okay, that’s different, but you know what I mean).
So, it wasn’t until I started to work as a music therapist, specifically when I did my full time grueling music therapy internship, that I thought of myself as something other than a Mommy. After years of music therapy school, studying, auditioning and practicing more hours of piano than I can believe, I changed my self-perception.
After getting my first (music therapy) job, I declared myself a professional.
Finally, I embraced the real me – the one who did enjoy Mommying and nurturing, but had a drive to help in the outside world. The one who could feel whole and complete doing the things that I always wanted to do with my music, with people and for the world.
Being a professional to me was more than just a term that defines the protocol for gaining respect in the corporate world. Professional didn’t only mean practicing ethics and values deemed appropriate for my job.
Professional standing – and my admitting that I am a person with a profession or career – helped me carve my identity in my other roles.
I suddenly became in touch with my raison d’etre and my dreams.
I had always dreamed (a far-off seemingly unattainable dream) of becoming a music therapist, ever since my first piano teacher – whom I adored – had worked during the day as a music therapist for children with autism. She would discuss what it was like to be a music therapist (in between teaching me songs I would ask questions!) and I was fascinated.
So, in my early 30’s, when most of my then four kids were in school, I went back for another degree, earned my music therapy credential and a few years later, my Masters in Special Education and started to work. As I built up my music therapy practice, I realized more and more how fulfilling my new career can be.
Fast forward to about 8 years ago when I became a grandmother, I suddenly was overcome by a newly emerging identify. I was a grandmother. Hey, I wasn’t young anymore. I wasn’t a Mom of little kids.
I gave birth to a new identity – that of grandmother.
I began to write. My first article – which I called “Naming the Grandparents” was published in a local magazine for Jewish women. The editor gave me a column every other month and I jumped at the opportunity.
I realized that I had been touching upon a relevant topic to women of my age. Every month or so, I would sit down to write my thoughts about this new stage of being a grandmother, mother-in-law and mom of adult kids.
As my younger sons were growing into young men, I was starting to see large themes and topics burst into articles of interest and humor. I took stories of my life and wrote about them.
Then came the birth of my book, titled “Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!” – a collection of my stories about the joys and oys of being a grandmother and mother of adult kids.
Then came blogging and publishing on social media.
As we watch our children all “growed” up and our grandchildren doing so well thank G-d, my husband and I feel we’ve done a pretty okay job at the Parenting Profession. (Yep, he gets a lot of credit for that part..)
Now, I am knee deep into many other professions – that of adult parenting, grandmother of toddler, pre-school and early elementary school grandsons and other roles.
I’ve broken my ankle and gone through surgeries, gained lots of weight (7 months of non-weight bearing will do that) and gone through other challenges.
Looking back at the changes I’ve made, I can be proud. I can now look forward to more changes to come within myself.
And if those terrorists continue to make threats at Western Civilization, maybe others can work at changing the world. I’m just going to try to change myself with one song, post, article, school lesson, or kind word or hug at a time.