Who Gets to Define Me?Jul 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By Cassie Gaub
I have lived in big cities most of my adult life, but I grew up on a farm in a small town. It was a town with no gas stations, drive-thrus or grocery stores, either. It just had three churches, one bar and one paved road, which was the old highway that ran through town. There were no streetlights, gas stations or stores. And it’s still a place where there is no anonymity, since everyone knows everyone and everything.
I don’t get back there to visit as much as I’d like, but I do try to make the trip at least every other year, especially since my parents are getting older. Going back to visit is always a mix of emotions: excitement, dread, guilt, anticipation, giddiness, nostalgia. I get to remember how beautiful the state of Montana is; I get to experience the vast openness that it offers—it isn’t called the Big Sky state for nothing. I get to take fun little trips down memory lane, and I have the unique experience of being both an insider and an outsider.
On my last trip back, my mom, dad and older sister went for a quick bite at our local hometown bar—the one and only restaurant in town. As expected, we knew everyone in the place—and everyone knew us, so that quick bite turned into a reunion of sorts. I caught up with everyone I saw there and answered questions about my recent move to Atlanta.
Then, somebody commented that I seemed “different” and “grown up” now.
I am now heading into my fourth decade on this Earth, so the comment made sense. I definitely wasn’t the 16-year-old who babysat his grandkids anymore. But I also felt I wasn’t all that different, either.
“How so?” I asked, and he described how “wild” I used to be and said he thought I’d calmed down so much. I listened and nodded my head.
But—as boring as it might sound—I have never been wild. I am and always have been a Type-A rule-follower. Even when I was breaking the rules, I did so in a somewhat calculated, socially expected and accepted way. I never got into trouble—yet somehow, I had been put into the role of rebellious wild-child. That was far from accurate. I don’t know what the story was based on or why it got created. Maybe, without even knowing it, I lived up to those expectations in other people’s minds.
I found myself annoyed, defensive and bewildered by the conversation. I wondered where else I was mindlessly or unknowingly put into a role by someone else. Where else in my life and in my relationships was I unconsciously fulfilling a role I didn’t want, didn’t choose or was unaware of? Who else was creating these stories and roles for me—or about me?
I also wondered if I was creating stories for myself. How do I want my role and my story to be defined? And, what am I doing to embody the definition, story and role that I do want?
In her book Untamed, Glennon Doyle writes: “Blessed are those brave enough to make things awkward, for they wake us up and move us forward.”
I don’t have all the answers yet, and I imagine the answers might grow and change as I grow and change. That’s the journey, I suppose. That’s the fun. Without that awkward, bewildering (and annoying) conversation over dinner in my hometown, I might have never consciously started defining myself, my life and my story on my terms.
Blessed are those brave enough to be awkward. ❧
Cassie Gaub is an empowerment and mindset coach, energy worker, podcast host and speaker. Connect on social media @coachwithcassie and @bestuinstitute.