*This is the second in my mini-series on stories of my past that define me. I’ll write these periodically, as the ideas flow. Enjoy.*
It’s no secret that I have always struggled with comparing myself to others, and that includes my sisters.
And honestly, I think the basis for that comparison is pretty closely tied to growing up as a triplet, where comparisons are almost automatic, or par for the course. As much as I would not trade being a triplet (or what it’s like being a triplet!), being compared and searching to find my own identity over and over growing up, and even now, is something I wish I didn’t struggle so much with.
Growing up, we were in the same class (small, private school) from K-4. Fifth grade was the year we split off into two separate classrooms (naturally, Jess and I stuck to one classroom and Jen was brave enough to venture out on her own into the other classroom, where – side note – she met her now-husband for the very first time! Fate?). Middle school through high school, Jess and I were ‘the twins’ by default, lumped together, neither having a true identity to much of anyone, to be honest. As we got older, it was – who is the first to have a boyfriend (for the record, I was last…at 17. Jen was first, and her now-husband WAS her first boyfriend too! Jess was second, at 15 [I think?!] and then me), who got the best grades, who has the cuter outfit, who is more talented. (note: it wasn’t so much as we comparing between each other, just my observations outwardly, looking back at that time). To college…Jen, again, went her own route, studying Biology at a nearby college. While Jess and I both opted for community college first (Liberal Arts) and then the very same college (shocker, I know) for communications. We both had the same internship, the same high school and college jobs and so on. The first shift in this was our first post-college jobs. Jess got hers right out of the gate, and went into graduation with a job. Me? Notsmuch. It took me four months to land my first job (which, incidentally, was the job I was at until I got the job I have now. 8.5 years at the same place).
That was probably the first time I felt like a failure. Both of my sisters had post-graduation plans. Jen, to grad school in Florida. Jess, to her first job in media planning. That summer was one of the hardest for me, as I stuck it out at the job I had all through college (and high school…and, again, where Jess met her now-husband, who, incidentally, was MY friend first. I take credit for making sure their first date happened…ask me about that story one day!). Wearing the same supermarket uniform I’d worn for the last 7 years, while Jess was off to her fancy job and Jen was thousands of miles away at grad school.
That was also probably the first time I truly compared myself. And certainly not the last. And I don’t write this as a woe-is-me in the slightest, I write this because I am exploring where this comparison mentality comes in, and how I have worked to surpass that and break out into my own identity. An identity I struggled with for years. And one I don’t truly think came bubbling to the top until one of – if not, the biggest – inflection points in my life.
Yup. There’s that word again.
When I started going through my divorce and being divorced…that is what made me different. At first, I wanted to run from that label. Hide it. Bury it deep. Resist those failure feelings all over again (since, again, both of my sisters were married, and both before me, yet I was the one getting divorced…). But then, I embraced it. I started my first blog to chronicle the ‘me’ then, what I learned, and who I became….who I’ve become.
When I went through my divorce was the first time I really focused heavily on workouts, challenges, and goals, when it came to fitness. It was a time where I began working out 5-6 days a week, not 2-3. When I first started running. And lifting weights. And caring what I looked like. Before, I cared, sure, but I never put myself first, or invested in me. And that change, that shift in priority was one of the best things I ever did. I never wrote about it, or talked about it, even, I just worked out, and worked out hard. Jess and I soon shared this similar interest, running together, training to become Group Kick instructors, and eventually…to the barre n9ne challenge (one of the best things I ever did was submit us for that contest!!).
Why am I writing about all of this? Because, for the first time, I want to see myself for all that I have accomplished, not for all that I am not. Yes, I am divorced, but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Yes, I struggle with body-image, but I think if I never did, I’d never appreciate what I have learned from this experience, from fighting past it, squelching bad habits, and namely, the comparison game. And yes, I still struggle with comparing. And I still struggle with my body (though it’s much less!), but the one thing I will never struggle with? Being proud of who I am, what I have accomplished, and what I have shaped myself to be, since my divorce. And nothing can rip that away from me. I won’t let it. I won’t let ME be the one doing the ripping, either. Divorce was the catalyst, not the definer…to me, finally creating my own identity. An identity that’s mine and only mine.
Quietly determined. Stoic. Focused. Too serious sometimes, perhaps. But happy, confident, and focused more than ever on ME. Who I am. Not who I am NOT.