Embracing an Evolving Identity

By Susan David

Sometimes we go through periods of life that require us to adjust the way we define ourselves. Earlier in my career, I was constantly flying off to speak at events or do consultation work. Boston to Australia six times in a single year was an easy “yes.” It was part of who I believed I was, a core aspect of my identity. I was a nomad, a traveler, a citizen of the world, ceaselessly chasing down opportunities to teach and learn. 

But over the past few years (and during the pandemic period, in particular, when global travel ground to a halt), the lifestyle that had previously defined my professional identity began to feel less appealing. While I still loved to travel, I also valued spending time with my family, and not just in the forced intimacy of a video call at bedtime, but in person. As much as I enjoyed being in constant motion, it ultimately wasn’t the way I wanted to exist in the world. I owed myself something different. While my work continued its global scope, I shifted my schedule to be more focused on remote work and other exciting projects. And even though this was by choice, I was still confronted with a mild identity crisis: Who am I now?

Two orange triangles are shown, one of them inside a black rectangular outline, symbolizing the triangle looking at its reflection in a mirror.

Whenever we go through a big life change, it’s worth considering how we want our new normal to look so we can write our next chapter with intention. 

  • What have you learned from the past? 
  • Who were you before? (Before your break-up, before your children left for college, before your doctor told you that you had to stop running marathons…) 
  • Who do you want to be now? 

Our identities are not static. They are ever-changing, always subject to revision and renegotiation.

As the world around us changes, we also change the way we live in it. And even though it can feel like an upheaval at the time—retiring from your nursing career of 4o years is a big shift—these moments also provide us with the opportunity to expand in ways we may never have imagined. 

Do yourself the favor of recognizing that the “you” you are now is not the “you” of years past. You are not bound by your old stories about who you are or what you want. Habits that once served you well may no longer work for you. Identities that once seemed integral to your sense of self may no longer feel so important. You are still you even if you cease to be a single-minded career striver, social butterfly, or, in my case, global jet-setter. 

Seasons change. People evolve. It’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating and necessary. It’s a lesson we should remember in our most bewildering moments of uncertainty and carry with us as we move forward. Rather than attempting to reach the final draft of ourselves, we should find the courage to keep revising. 

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