Recently, I celebrated another birthday, and that celebration brought forth greetings and wishes from friends, family members, and acquaintances. Some of the greetings touched my heart. Some made me laugh uproariously. Some sent me off on a trip down memory lane. One tripped me up completely.
In the midst of the well wishes came one from someone from my childhood. The greeting began like all of the others, but then, it veered off the normal birthday path. He brought up my breast cancer diagnosis and referred to me as a hero. It was a well-intentioned comment from a well-meaning person, but it went over like a lead birthday balloon for a number of reasons.
I bristled at the use of the word hero, because I am NOT a hero. Breast cancer does not a hero make! I say that not to be humble, but to be completely honest. I am honored to know some heroes, but I am not one of them. And I am more than okay with that, as I am lots of other things. His misguided description reminded me that some people only know me through their memories and perceptions of me or what they read and see on social media, but they don’t truly know me.
As I kept thinking of all of the things I am not, I remembered something that I recently wrote in response to a writing prompt that called for me to choose six, count ’em, six words to create a description or motto for myself. Not only was I limited in words, but I also was limited in time, as I had thirty minutes to write. As the words flew from my mind to my fingers onto the screen, I saw a description of myself emerge that I could embrace. I decided to share it here to commemorate my birthday and who I see myself as:
I’m just a girl from Kentucky. Those six simple words sum up nearly forty-eight years of who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming. It only has been in the past few years that I formulated this description of yours truly, because it only has been in the past few years that I have known who I truly am. I’m just a girl from Kentucky.
For most of my life, I have been defined by labels or roles. Daughter. Little Sister. Friend. Foe. Employee. Mom. Wife. Ex-wife. Girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. Volunteer. And on and on. Who I was seemed to be dictated by the company I was in, which is neither a positive or negative thing, per se, but at times, it was confusing and soul crushing.
Some days, I didn’t feel like I was well suited for a particular role, and there was a definite disconnect between the role and the person playing it. During times of dissonance, all too often, I learned to acquiesce to whatever the role demanded and silenced my inner voice. Sometimes, the silence proved to be deafening, and the dissonance grew too great. One of those times was five years ago.
Although that fateful day in May could be construed as the day I broke down, I know that the break down began years ago. So by the time I succumbed to the depression and anxiety that I had kept at bay for a while, I did not break down, I already was broken down. What I did not know at that time was that this break down was actually a break through. Born from that pain, I realized who I am. I’m just a girl from Kentucky.
I am still a composite of many roles and still possess chameleon like skills to adapt to situations, but at my core, I’m just a girl from Kentucky. That’s how I view myself, and that’s whom I see when I look in the mirror. So, what or who is a girl from Kentucky exactly?
I am not representative of all girls from Kentucky, but I do represent myself. I am perfectly flawed, and I allow myself to be vulnerable in both my flaws and my moments of being enough and getting it right. I am big-hearted, which means that I love big and endure great pain when I am not shown love in return. I take great joy in simple pleasures, such as trail running, spending time with family and friends, writing, and being by myself to regroup. To quote the lyric of one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, I am mine.
These are some of the things about me that are specific to Kentucky. I bleed University of Kentucky blue. Oaks Day and Derby Day are like equine versions of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I drink bourbon and like it! The strains of My Old Kentucky Home bring tears to my eyes. No matter where I go and where life takes me, I know that this is my home, regardless of my geographic location. You can take this girl out of Kentucky, but you can’t take Kentucky out of this girl.
I’m just a girl from Kentucky, and I love that girl. Five years ago, I couldn’t or wouldn’t have said that, so, to be able to do so day makes it a good day indeed.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story