Friday 25 January 2019

Identifiably Me

At some point every year, I look at who I am, who I’ve become, and realize that I was probably never going to be exactly what I set out to be (an artist/ballerina/astronaut who owns a tiger). For better or for worse, I’m not even close.
That’s right, I still don’t own a tiger.
I compare the current me to the me of last year, the me of five years ago, or even me as a (horribly awkward) teenager. This is always a painful and depressing process, because although I’m happy to not be an adolescent anymore, the last time I checked, I was also neither an artist, a ballerina, nor an astronaut. So, who am I?
Full disclosure: at the risk of alienating a huge number of mothers, I try not to let “being a mom” define me. Sure, I have three kids — and don’t get me wrong, I love them — but before I was “Vaughn’s mom”, I was… well, I was pretty awesome.*
Before kids, I paid for my own university education, and rent, and books. I bought a car right after graduation, and a motorcycle a little while after that. I was, in turns, a professional cheerleader (2001–2006), a personal trainer (1998–2003), and a national-level competitive fitness athlete (2001–2005). I was amazing, in retrospect.
Since kids, I have held several, more “grown up” jobs, some super cool, some not so cool. I have kept three kids — who all started out pretty scrawny and helpless — alive and (mostly) healthy for quite a while now, and (sometimes) I am proud of their manners and abilities, but I still struggle with “children” being an accomplishment, or something I can really brag about.
There’s always the nature/nurture argument, which means (to me) that I can choose to take total responsibility when they’re being good — by which I mean being asleep, of course — or wash my hands completely when they act like rabid werewolves, point to my husband behind his back and whisper, “poor breeding stock,” with a what-can-you-do shrug.
So, we’ve established that “Mom” isn’t my identity.
As a child, I was a proper redhead. Not strawberry-blonde, not orange, but red. Freckles? Temper? Check and check.
I was constantly asked where I got my pretty hair, and I would repeat that my father, whose hair I always saw as dark brown, had had red hair when he was a boy.
In university, I dyed it several times: black, dark brown, highlights, stripes, all to stop it from being so red. All I ever wanted was shiny, straight medium-brown hair (the sort my middle daughter has), and I never got that. I got “Annie” and “Anne of Green Gables” and “Pippi Longstocking”.
Now, though, I have darkening-while-somehow-fading hair. My youngest has shiny, smooth strawberry-blonde (orange) hair, and people turn to me and ask me where she got it from.
Being a ginger is a weird thing to have as an identity, but every redhead knows it is. We’re told over and over that we’re becoming extinct, that only 2 in every twenty-five people have red hair. That we are special. My hair was a free pass and a motivator to be more volatile and …fiery?… than I would have been otherwise. And now, it’s gone.
What does that leave?
I was a redhead ( — 2012).
I had defined six-pack abs (1999–2008).
I roller-bladed everywhere (1995–2005).
I drove a Honda Shadow 500 (1998–2006).
I was a manager and an analyst (2011–2017).
I drive stick (1993 — ).
I’m a good cook (2009 — ).
I’m a runner (2017 — ).
I’m a writer.
I’m funny and smart.
I’m kind.
I’m really fit.
I’m a mom.
I am me.
Illustration by Don Nedobeck.  I own this as a print, and it's true.
* my own assessment, definitely not my husband’s, who finds me-with-swagger (even more) unbearable (than usual)

Karen (Power) Hough is a writer and a blogger with an Honours BSc. in Human Kinetics, and would trade her office dog for a tiger in a heartbeat.  Her part-time "superhero job" has been as a fitness instructor for over 20 years.  She currently lives in London with her husband, three energetic kids and a codependent dog and bores/impresses them all with stories about how she used to be a nutritionist, personal trainer, and national-level fitness competitor. 

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