All of my life I have worried about fitting in. I have craved friends. They have always been immensely important to me. I have chosen friends that have been good for me. I have chosen friends that were not so good for me. I have strived to be different, yet at the same time “normal”. While trying to be true to myself. It has at times been ridiculous, immature and wasteful. Just to make sure someone liked me. It has caused me to treat my parents and family less than they deserved. It has caused me to miss out on things I shouldn’t have. It has caused me to treat myself less than I deserved.
Honestly, this has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember.
Now, I am morphing and changing. I am not sure who I am anymore. I am someone while I am at work. Then I am someone at home. And someone else completely different with my friends. I don’t recognize this girl that is becoming self conscious in a crowd. I sit alone in the evening and literally can’t figure out who I am anymore. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be “me” because I am just not sure who “me” is. I am being forced to create a new identity at the age of 43 and I must admit, I feel like I don’t have any control over the outcome. Not having any control over who you are becoming as a person isn’t just a weird feeling, it is a frightening one as well. One thing that is becoming clear to me: I am terrified I will lose my friends because this seems to be a very common problem for caregivers. Yet surprisingly, I am ok with this possibility, even as I admit being so afraid. What, you may wonder, would cause me to change and grow as a person and suddenly be ok with missing out on the fun and friendships? Funny you should ask….
It is a lonely, long road when you suddenly are “different” from everyone else around you. At first you can pretend that nothing has changed and you can hide the fact that you aren’t the same. But eventually, slowly, it is the elephant in the party room. It raises its ugly head and shouts out to be heard and seen. You can’t ignore the desire to talk about it. You can’t hide the fact that Jim isn’t the same Jim. It can be a hard line not to cross back over once you decide you want to be true to yourself and not follow the pack. Standing up for something you believe in usually means venturing down an unbeaten path that only those that are willing to accept your changes and endure a different “you” will last through. For the first time in my life I have found something that actually keeps me from worrying about being invited to a party, if someone doesn’t like me or if I have offended them.
Part of my personality is not only yearning for friendship, but searching for my place in this world. I have always wanted to make a difference. I have dabbled in saving the earth. I have raised money for organizations. I have volunteered with a variety of groups; never quite finding the passionate feeling that would make me give all my time and energy. The one thing that I was willing to lose friends for or choose friends over if I had to has eluded me.
I have found my calling. I have found the thing that gets me excited and drives me to keep focused and pushes me to read more and do more. I have found the one thing that will allow me to keep pushing forward and striving to be part of something much bigger and more important than me or my circle of life. I have found something I believe in with all of my heart, soul and mind.
Alzheimer’s Disease. Finding a cure and changing the course of this disease.
I do not pretend to be an expert. We are in mile one of this marathon. I have a long way to go and it isn’t really something I am looking forward to pushing myself through.
But, I have heard MANY stories. I have cried my own tears and shared tears with others over their same heartbreak and frustrations as mine.
It is a sorority I wasn’t looking or hoping to join. They could come and revoke my membership card and I would be just fine. I don’t want to be part of this . I want to be the girl that fits in and has friends over and has no worries in the world. I want to sit around an evening fire and relax and not think or feel so much. Can I even remember what it felt like not to have this secret, twisted knot inside of me the entire time I carry on a conversation? I want to fall asleep with hope that tomorrow will be an even better day and that my life will be something I have a semblance of control over.
I don’t fit in anymore. I am not the same as others. I have a different life and a different purpose. I need to stop kicking and screaming and I need to start DOING!
Yes, it is hard to be different. It is lonely and it is scary to fight this battle.
I am strong. I am a woman that has a mission. If I can complete my mission, I will have helped not only my own children and grandchildren, but I will have made an impact on this world that will make a difference for all the generations to come. My destiny has become clear and it is much bigger than I.
That is worth giving up being one of the crowd and it is worth the lonely nights and lack of parties and trips and dinners and picnics.
I do not travel this road alone, but I travel it side by side with many others that have the same destination. We are just traveling in adjacent cars on the same path.