I thought I had finally decided "what to do with my life." This cliche has plagued me for years now -- the feeling that I am not quite there yet, that my life will begin once I find the magical clue... I've always envied the few people who just KNEW what occupation to pursue. I have never had a clue and still don't.
I never finished university -- I dropped out in the beginning of my second year. I was enrolled in the U of A Business program, and just became disillusioned with academics. I met one fellow who after 4 years pursuing the same degree as me, landed his first job as a Kentucky Fried Chicken manager. I remember thinking to myself, "Crap! If I just stayed in the Pass working, I could be a manager at K-Fry and have saved a bunch of money too."
There were a number of other reasons for me dropping out...Many of which had to do with identity and expectations. Expectations of my family, and correspondingly high expectations of myself. I went through some rough periods of judging myself --the whole "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting" pretty much sums up the inner turmoil I have experienced my whole life.
So what has sparked this identity crisis now? I have been taking correspondence courses via Athabasca University to earn a BA in history. Then, I thought, I could go to school for another year and qualify to become a teacher. To make a long story short -- this is not my path. I have turned inside myself and asked some hard questions and have come up with a number of truths that I have always been too fearful to acknowledge or articulate. Big breath --- here goes.
Our culture places so much emphasis on what it means to be a success and what it means to be a failure. I bought into this belief system, and consequently, if I do not finish something, I deem myself a failure. It doesn't matter if this "something" is a bad choice, a bad relationship, a bad mistake. I have always been the type to walk down the road until the very end, and I know for sure that I should change directions.
Lately, I have struggled with my goal of becoming a teacher -- Is this something I truly am excited about? Or is this a way for me to prove to the world that I have worth because I have a degree? Honestly, it is the latter. This is not a path I am going to continue on -- I have been doing it for all the wrong reasons.
Real worth and acceptance comes from within, and by shifting my focus to external matters instead of internal ones, I am doomed to repeat performances of feeling like I never measure up. It's not about studying, or working --- it's about what these things symbolize for me.
I still cringe with the thought of notifying my tutor that I will not be completing my courses. I am still struggling with the Donald-Trumpesque attitude of "If you quit you are a loser," and the knowledge that this perspective is a cultural construct that I am choosing to believe in, instead of choosing to believe in my own truth.
Added to this, is the fact that I am selling my business (dollar store) I have owned and operated for the past 8 years. It is a decision that is long overdue -- my original plan was to sell after 5 years. Living in a small community has its perks and its pits. (for lack of a better word LOL!)
I know pretty much every resident of the Crowsnest Pass, and if I don't know them, they know either who I am, or they know my parents. The biggest challenge for me has been responding to the nosy parkers and gossip-mongers -- just about every second person that comes into the store asks what I am selling it for, if anyone's interested in buying it yet, what I am going to do if it doesn't sell, am I going to let my inventory run out, etc.
For the record,people: IT'S NONE OF YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS!!!!!
Can you imagine asking a person on the street about their personal financial information? God, sometimes,I tell you, just because you have somewhat high visibility in a community, people think they can ask you all sorts of personal questions. I could never handle it if I was a celebrity.
This also ties in with my identity crisis. For all you want to say your identity is your own -- it is also how others perceive you. My identity is "Julie, from the Dollar Store." I'm always happy, perky, and say "Hello there!" to every customer. I am helpful, courteous, and friendly. It's actually so bad that when I go into other businesses, I usually beat the staff saying, "Good morning, How are you!" But that doesn't mean that I am the store -- the store is my job and only my job. It is not my passion, my be all and end all. It drives me nuts when I am out swimming and someone will ask me about the store -- the hours I work, etc -- it's like I OWE them an explanation. This happens to me ALL the time - at the grocery store, at the post office, at Tim Horton's, at the gas station,even at the frigging gym.
People expect me to be the "Jovial Dollar Store Clerk." When I am not at work, I don't want to talk about my business. ESPECIALLY when I am working out -- that is MY time and it pisses me off to no end that I have to constantly endure the same questions again and again and again. I really hate the comments about how "I never see you at work." Like these people wake up to watch the sun rise every morning - but LO! and Behold! Every morning the sun rises regardless of whether they were there to see it or not. Ahhhh-- I digress.
One final point about identity and gender I have learned through owning and operating a business in a small community. Most people (now cities may be different, I am only talking about the Pass here) cannot reconcile that I actually own the store. My parents must own it. After 8 years I still have people openly challenging me when I answer them that "Yes, I own the store." I have long since learned to ignore them, but after the millionth time of hearing it, sometimes I am ready to slap them.
It's funny, if I were a male and owned a business, it would be a whole other story. You see, my mother works for me, and people cannot wrap their heads around the concept that as a woman, I can employ family members. This is where the gender identity comes into play -- my parents must be employing me, instead of the other way around. Male business owners in the Pass do not experience this.
Identity is a strange animal...I am finally getting the courage to collar my inner dragon and work WITH myself instead of AGAINST myself.