Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Who Am I? Part 870.

Out of Ashes by *Colleenchiquita (

I was thinking yesterday of the advice I gave about discovering/uncovering your personality.  So I decided to take my own advice.  A lot has happened to me in the previous year, some things have shaken my identity.  Part of my identity is my personality.

Our personality is not what we do, but why we do what we do.  For example:

I am a PhD student.  That’s what I do.  But why am I a PhD student?  I don’t have to be.  I have what’s considered a terminal degree in my field.  And while there are some reasons I went on for my PhD that are less than idealistic (better jobs, better benefits, tenure track positions . . .) there are more important reasons:  I love learning.  I thrive on learning new things.  I actually like immersing myself in research.  I love to sit with a cup of coffee, surrounded by books and articles and sift through all of that to come up with a thesis and argument.  I discovered that I absolutely ADORE Latin.  It’s the most perfect language ever.  If you have OCD, study Latin.  Everything has its place; every word has a distinct purpose.  I’m reviewing my Wheelhock text right now in preparation to jump back into Latin Readings in the fall and I love translating.  It’s fascinating to me, the translation process.

I am a professor.  Technically called a Graduate Instructor at this point.  I was scared I wasn’t going to like teaching, but some days that’s the best part of being here and I’ve really missed it this past year.  There are things I don’t like (I actually had a student ask me to raise his grade because his parents would be upset if he didn’t get a higher grade.  Um, really?  Then do the fucking work and show up for class was my thought, which I did not say out loud.).  But I love interacting with students and watching them progress and grow as the semester goes on.  I actually really love working with freshmen and enjoy office hours when they have to come in for one-on-one conferences to discuss their papers because a lot of them have questions about college and survival in general.

I am a knitter and crocheter.  It’s relaxing.  And I love taking a ball of yarn and making something beautiful and useful out of it.  It’s a magical transformation.  And I did it.

I am a writer.  I always have been, ever since my mom gave me my first journal when I was 8.  And yes, I still have that journal and every single journal since.  I think I’m on my 27th journal right now.  Words have the ability to let me escape the world, deal with the world, transform the world.  I feel I communicate best with the written word rather than the spoken word.  The pen in my hand feels like home to me.

Similarly, I am a reader.  Books have always been my escape.  I knew how to read before I went to school and during my childhood, it was a way to forget the trauma that was currently happening, and later it was a way to escape from the memories of that trauma.  Reading is still an escape for me.  I sink into books and feel as if I am right there in the plot line.  I love the worlds that authors create.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape.  That is not how I define myself, but I cannot deny that it’s affected who I am.  I can say that I am one hell of a strong person for living through that, and an even stronger person for finally talking about it with a professional when I was an adult.

I am a recovered anorexic.  That means I am stubborn (I know you’re thinking “all anorexics are stubborn”)–but I mean stubborn in the fact that I set my mind on recovery and wasn’t going to let anything get in my way.  It’s been a rocky road at times, but damn have I learned a lot about myself in the process.  Namely that I have the strength to tackle huge-ass demons and kick them to the curb and then stomp on them.

I am a cardiac patient.  I live with the knowledge that the muscles in my heart are dying and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent that or stop it or slow it or treat it.  Because of structural conditions in my heart and the fact that these prevent them from certain procedures, my doctor was forthright in telling me that a heart transplant is more than a mere possibility for me.  I will admit that I’m scared and angry and confused and I really do want to whine this is so fucking unfair! I’m in the process of learning I can do this.  I can live.  And I can live a full life.  And Lily will be there to help me and protect me and my doctors are there and my friends are there.  I’m learning that it’s okay to admit weakness and ask for help and support.  It’s still difficult for me to do that, but I am learning.

I am a spiritual person.  My bulk of my faith stems from Christianity, but as I’ve gotten older, my faith has expanded greatly and I don’t think there is a word for what I believe.  But I believe in the spirit and the soul and God and I believe God takes many different forms and no one God is better than the other.  I think religion, all religion, is a way to make sense of good and evil and how we fit into the world.  I no longer think one religion is the religion.  Faith is more important than religion.

I am not a person who enjoys bars or clubs.  In fact, they make me downright uncomfortable.  I’d rather go to a coffee house and sit in a corner and read and study and write and talk with a friend.  I’m someone who doesn’t make friends easily.  I make acquaintances easily, but it takes time for me to trust someone and really let them in and know who I am behind the role of PhD Student and Graduate Instructor.  I like coffee.  I also like tea, although I don’t have nearly as many Facebook status updates about tea as I do coffee.  I like blending my own teas and seeing what happens.  I like writing letters and getting letters.  They feel so much more personal than emails and FB messages and I really have been known to jump up and down when I see a letter or package in my mailbox.  My mom sends these awesome care packages from the dollar store and the box is filled with fun stuff.  I like making things for other people because it makes me happy to see them happy.  I am a cat person.  Not a dog person.  In fact, the only dog I’m not inherently afraid of is a beagle because I grew up with beagles.  It takes time for me to get to know and trust a friend’s dog.  I draw and paint and create and love getting messy in the process.

I’m sure there is more.  A lot of this stuff I didn’t know while I was anorexic because I was so focused on being the “perfect anorexic.”  Those obsessions take up so much space in your head there’s not room for much else.  So a lot of this stuff I’ve learned over the past five years.  It’s been a scary process, a confusing process, a maddeningly slow process at times, but it is a process.

And I promise you, that if you open yourself up to this process of exploration, you will have a blog entry like this one some day.


May 23, 2010 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, faith, feelings, identity, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. [I know you’re thinking “all anorexics are stubborn”]

    Yes, we are – all people with eating disorders. We are probably the most stubborn people on earth. I remember one of my therapists in IOP saying that we are amazingly stubborn with lots of willpower; we just use it to our disadvantage instead of something positive.

    Are you an INFJ? I don’t know how accurate tests can be, but there are certain qualities that seem to be common in people with EDs.

    And less seriously, have you ever seen blooming tea? It’s so cool! It’s like a mini show before you enjoy the tea. 🙂

    Comment by Jen | May 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Blooming tea is amazing!
      And I’m an INFP. The rare folk.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. I love all the ways you have defined yourself. I will have to do that–so much more than a label or two.

    PS I laughed about the part about your students–I’ve wanted to shake a few and be like “you cannot pass if you do not turn in your work!” 🙂

    Comment by imaginenamaste | May 23, 2010 | Reply

    • It’s amazing to me that they A) think they can not turn in work and B) think they have the right to complain about the consequences.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hello there 🙂
    “Look not at what you do, but why you do it”. I found that to be incredibly helpful. It’s so easy to define ourselves by our roles, achievements, and measurable outcomes. But I’ve found that those don’t answer the questions about who I really FEEL that I am. Rather, why we do them can be more of an indicator.
    The fact that it’s such a long process (this whole life thing, the identity crisis, whatever), frustrates the hell out of me. I wish I’d “get it” and understand myself. but I don’t. over time though….hopefully more things will become apparent.
    Thanks for writing on this.

    Comment by Mindy | May 24, 2010 | Reply

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