June 17, 2018

Identity Crisis or Identity Development? What I Learned from Leaving My Roots

A little over two years ago now my boyfriend and I left California and headed to Colorado. I had lived in California for 10 years. I went to law school there, built my roots there, had a strong community of friends and during my last year living there my brother had moved out to live there as well. I had friends, family, and a blooming career in a field I’m passionate about. I loved that everywhere I went, I would run into someone I knew. It felt as if I had finally created the community I wanted.

So, it was a big deal to pack up and move to Colorado, essentially committing to leaving my career, starting over from scratch to make new friends, build a new career, and create a new community, with the only secure thing being that there were a lot of unknowns. At first, the hardest adjustment for me was not having friends. I went from having a booked social calendar full of plans to spend time with friends regularly, to laugh and discuss life, to knowing no one in town aside from my boyfriend. It felt isolating, and at times I felt lonely, missing the community of friends- who were like family- that we had left behind.

However, over the past two years since moving, I have come to learn something new about myself (well, a few new things if I’m being honest!) In fact, you could even call the transition I went through a bit of an identity crisis. Anyone who knew me from my California life would describe me as an extrovert. I love social outings, social gatherings, and getting to know people in general. The more the merrier was always my motto, and I thrive on quality time with people I care about. Being around people and at social gatherings has always filled me up.

As I mentioned, at first when we came out here, I felt lonely. I really missed my social network. But over the past few years of being somewhere new, I have started to notice subtle shifts in my needs and what fills me up. For example, I no longer enjoy having a calendar that is filled up with social obligations, in fact, I find it a bit exhausting. Often the Friday night I look forward to the most is one at home with my boyfriend, reading, relaxing, doing anything that does not involve being out in the hustle and bustle of society. This feeling has developed into a slight sense of dread when I make commitments to a social outing. Thoughts such as “will I still have enough “me” time”, are immediately in the forefront of my mind. It is almost as if my extrovert nature is starting to acquire more and more introvert tendencies.

At first I wondered if this was just a result of having less friends here. I found the shift so unbelievable that I could not accept it. The former me would have welcomed any and all interactions, whether with friends or strangers. The new me, well, not so much. I had a hair appointment scheduled with someone who I have only been to one other time. All day long I vacillated between cancelling my appointment so I would not have to engage in mindless and non-important small talk, and keeping the appointment because my mane (aka my hair!) was getting out of control. Th​at's when it hit me. I was actively avoiding engaging in small talk. Who had I become!?

While startling to recognize that I have moved from enjoying even the most mundane and unimportant human interactions to being extremely selective in social outings I choose to partake in, I have to admit that I love this transition within me that our move spurred. I like that I am no longer committed to all social engagements and do not feel pressured to commit to them. It makes me happy that I have learned to prioritize my engagements, focusing on spending my time with the people who I know well and who can fill my heart, while engaging in social time. I am okay accepting that working in a field where I am constantly bombarded with questions and people and being “on” that I now need more quiet time outside of the office.

Maybe my identity crisis was not in fact an identity crisis, but rather an identity development that will lead me to be a better me. Sometimes it is monumental life changes, such as taking a risk, or moving your life to a different state, which inspire new changes within ourselves. While scary, I think grabbing hold of the unknown and committing to trying new things can make us all a little better, while enabling us to learn more about ourselves. While I may not be the old me, I think I have become a better version of me thanks to my “identity crisis”.

​About the Author

​Heather is a licensed California attorney who works as an Executive Director running a nonprofit to help those experiencing homelessness. She is also a certified yoga instructor, avid reader, beer snob, and coffee connoisseur. 

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