I want a divorce…

I know it’s not the popular thing to do. Still, I’m tired of living with this marriage between my occupation/accomplishment (what I do) and how I see myself. (who I am).  What is the difference between these two? And what effect does separating them have on my choices and my feelings each day?

Origins.

In my past years, I can see where my legitimate and healthy desire to grow, challenge myself and improve started becoming something that only controlled me but also began defining me. During this failed marriage, each time my “less developed and unaccomplished self” ran into a harsh word from a girlfriend, disinterest, disapproval or rejection from a friend or parent the “performance” based value system became more established. I believed that in order to be worthy of love or acceptance, the things I did needed to be changed.

Lust for love
At a young age, I learned that
improved/exceptional actions=approved/acceptable person.
If my performance did not meet expectations in my relationships or work life my acceptance and value as a human being would diminish. Previously during childhood, I saw a good day as one where I ate a big bowl of cereal for breakfast, went out into the warm summer sun with my friends and enjoyed time together. Content in my existence. Healthy and fed with friends and a roof over my head.
changes
By the time I reached adulthood I realized so many of my days were seen and felt as “bad days” because of someone’s disappointment or dissatisfaction with my business. Other times it was a former girlfriends’ accusation of my failure to live up to her expectations of a boyfriend. Or sometimes my own self-judgment of not reaching my own goals fast enough, or not maintaining goals and ideals set by the society around me.  (who I am vs. what I do) For example the expectation that a “real job” is one that involved staying in one place and manufacturing something. A job where you play music for a living or write and travel. These are not considered legitimate occupations to many people in my hometown. Any of this sound familiar? Tell me I’m not the only one who has thought this way and made these judgments? The consequence of all these years of failing to meet expectation left me feeling small, unworthy as an outsider and incapable of fitting in. A slow yet steady progression towards being a slave of others expectations of myself which became my expectations of myself.
awkward separation
In an effort to “file for divorce” I started stepping away from my businesses in a more direct way 6-8 months ago. I became isolated from my prior success. The confidence in my skills as a businessman could no longer be relied upon to prop up my insecure and uncertain self. When all was stripped back, I was left vulnerable to each and every word and judgment around me. No longer safe inside the cocoon of my accomplishments.  I was still forced to confront questions of “what do you do for a job and what are your plans”. Previously I could confidently reply, “I’m running a few businesses, a real estate investment company, an I.T. business, a recording studio” I could also feel comfortable and justified in my own mind by thinking of future projects and goals I intended to take on and be a shining success in. Now I was left with a shadow of the past and an unclear path for the future. Was this enough to still be “ok”? Was this enough to have “good days”?
future life of freedom
I was left with only myself. And who I am. These questions of how I define and value myself hit hard. Almost all people have the ability to “survive” life. But are these people living it well? Living abundantly? Living lovingly with a forgiving and helpful heart? Walking fearless in spite of all the horrors that life may throw at us? Cancer, death, abuse, infidelity and injustice.
I realized that the ground I previously worshiped as my stability was ground that many other feet had walked on, spit on and disrespected. Why should I keep using this filthy ground as a mirror to reflect and judge my own value?
I would prefer to base my identity and value in who I am, not this shifty ground of actions and accomplishment. In the past months of travel, I have met many others on a similar path.These individuals are quitting jobs, leaving relationships and seeking an understanding of themselves not rooted in their accomplishment or meeting expectations.
moving forward

I cannot answer every question as to how to direct your identity and value to a healthy source. Although my realization of this marriage and the separation that has followed has been very difficult. Living with the (what I do defines me) mindset for the rest of my life would be far more difficult. I have a clearer mind about the importance of this separation and also a faith that gives added clarity in regards to my value and my identity. I hope that you will take time consider what you spend most of your time focused on? What you do, or who you are becoming.

Author

Charles Driscoll is a writer/blogger, musician, entrepreneur and a human explorer. Learning to take the time to enjoy life, love, share and encourage others. You can follow his blog at theunsettledsettler.com and some musical musings at charliedmusic.com.