Deciding what (not) defines who I am

I was planning to write a follow up on last week’s post. About the things people will say to you. Specifically the kind of comments that are probably well meant, but start to annoy and irritate, after hearing them again and again. I suspect that you’ll find a similar posting on almost all the blogs about the struggles people face. But life doesn’t always go as planned. This week has been one of those weeks where things just didn’t work out as planned. (Which culminated in my coffee machine breaking down today.) After a weekend of headaches I decided to do things differently and to take a chance. But let me tell this story in the right order.

The beginning

From a very early age I loved to read. To lose myself in a story, going on an adventure with the main character, while discovering far and away places. I would dream of travelling the world, going on adventures and meeting all kinds of interesting people. When I got older, I realized that dreaming would only take you so far. If I really wanted to do these things I would have to take action. I would have to save money, make a plan and eventually step out of my familiar surroundings. Which is exactly what I did. The year I turned twenty-one, I went on an eight-month backpacking trip. Which started rough but turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It helped in becoming the person I am today and further sparked my love for travel.

Normal life

After finishing my studies I got my first full-time job. I believed in the work I was doing and it aligned with my ideals and how I see the world. With a job I could still travel. But finding and maintaining a balance between work and life proved to be more challenging. I realized that you don’t live to work, but you work in order to live. Whenever we were stressed about something at work,  my colleagues and  I would try and remind ourselves, that even though work is important, it’s just work. Our health and well-being was more important.

New life

Nevertheless, after I realized that my brain injury meant that I no longer could do my job, I discovered how much of my self-identity I got from my job. The following weeks were very bleak. Ironically it took the same (former)colleagues to quote this advice back to me, for me to realize were I was wrong. My job did not define who I was as a person at all. It probably shaped how I look at the world, but I am not defined by whatever job I have.

This whole brain injury experience can be a similar pitfall. Especially on the days that prove to be difficult. Those are the days that I have to be careful and not make a similar fault in my own reasoning and thinking. But: I am not my brain injury. I happen to have blue eyes, be right handed and have a brain injury but all those things don’t define who I am as a person. It’s easy to forget this. Especially when you’re going through the motions and worry about whatever it is you have to do next. (Coincidentally I got a comment this week which also reminded me of this)

Moving forward

In order to try and keep from making the same mistakes, I now have a posit-it on my mirror saying “I’m not defined by the work that I do nor by the things that happen to me. I decide if and how they’ll shape the person that I want to be.” They say to fake it until you make it, so hopefully reading this every day will keep me on my toes. As I’m a person that likes to actively do something, I took a chance. I want to be the girl again that acts on her dreams. Who travels, goes on adventure and meets new people. So I took the metaphorical bull by the horns and booked an adventurous trip in the coming weeks.

  • The travel part: discovering the city of Copenhagen
  • The adventure part being the kind of transportation: a night bus.
  • And the meeting new people part: sleeping in a small dorm room.

Making the booking felt exhilarating, even though a small measure of anxiousness pops up now and again. But I won’t allow the brain injury to be a thing that defines me. We’ll see how this turns out! The adventure has started…

Do you have a note on your mirror (or somewhere else) to remind you to try and change the way you’re thinking? Which dream do you hope to make true?

3 Replies to “Deciding what (not) defines who I am”

  1. Sometimes I get really shocked that what I am thinking could possibly be wrong. We got this far in out PRE-BI life by at least being super confident with knowing what we were doing, right? The BI turns everything on it’s head (no pun intended lol). It is like were woke up one day in Superman’s “Bizarro World” where suddenly you are wrong about everything and genuinely shocked. You know all jokes contain an element of surprise. So it is like we had the ultimate joke played on us. This is where a sense of wonder and sense of humor might help. Because everything is quite surprising. Really, it is more fun that way. And it beats the alternative. My post it note says “It is OK to be wrong, and, maybe, maybe you are lucky for it”.

    1. So relatable! We should be the ones that know ourselves best, or at least that’s how it feels. And now thanks to BI we are on this involuntary quest to find out how we work and who we (now) are. Keeping that sense of wonder and humor than definitely helps. I like your note, thanks for sharing!

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