(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

(Photo source: Unsplash.com)

In high school, my guidance counselor/health teacher/Bible teacher (it was a small school, OK?) told me that in middle school, you discover who you are.

That’s when I had a major/minor freakout because, as a ninth grader, I had less than no clue who I was. You see, I spent all of middle school acting like a sponge, or a mirror, or some other form of non-personality-having inanimate object. I picked up on what I thought others wanted to see and gave that to them. And when I reached high school I realized I was nothing…empty.

My teacher’s words truck fear into my heart. I felt like I had missed my window, my last shot. I knew already what I wanted to do with my life (be a writer), but as for what my identity was, the core of my being… Nope, not a clue.

Things changed over the course of high school. I figured out a bit of who I was — I figured out I was an extrovert, a writer, and a depressed girl. I figured out I was loyal and willing to fight someone who betrayed me or my friends. I realized I did have a personality, after all. I figured out that as much as I loved my life in Europe, I missed America always, and I couldn’t wait to live in the suburbs and drive a car and have a white picket fence and children and marry a doctor.


And just as I was figuring myself out, I went to college, and over the course of four years, everything changed.


And just as I was figuring myself out, I went to college, and over the course of four years, everything changed. Some things just developed — like my understanding of myself as a funny person, the fact that I am more of an extrovert every day, the fact that I am severely and chronically depressed, the fact that I’m loyal to an actual fault.

Other things changed completely. Living in a Kentucky town of about 6,000 people showed me that I’m not meant for the suburbs; a school trip to New York City showed me that I am meant for an intensely urban lifestyle. I realized that I have little desire to give birth to children, that I’d rather live in an apartment than have a lawn, that I’m more independent than tied to my mother’s apron strings and, at 19 (the age at which I’d always though I wanted to marry), I was by no means ready for a relationship, much less a marriage.

I graduated a much different person than I began; not just physically (though I did gain about 70 pounds over the four years), but emotionally and mentally. In some ways I was much stronger, better able to withstand hardship. In others I’d been broken and reformed in a different way.

And all of this showed me that, contrary to my guidance counselor’s belief, identity isn’t a fixed thing we discover in childhood. Rather, it’s flexible, mutable, something that grows and changes as much as we do.


And all of this showed me that, contrary to my guidance counselor’s belief, identity isn’t a fixed thing we discover in childhood.


I’m just over a year out from graduation, five days away from my one-year anniversary with New York City, and I have nowhere near the identity I thought I would have when I began this grad school, urban adventure.

Then, I thought I would embark upon August 2016 a mere semester from receiving my master’s degree, with two journalism internships under my belt and another one before me, ready to start a third. I thought I would face the future as a reporter, that I would already have written a book worthy of publication, that I would be past the need for a “day job” and would, instead, be a full-time writer doing only what I was passionate about.

That’s not really how things turned out. I’m going to take a semester off and then spread my final three classes over two semesters, thus finishing my degree a full year later than I was supposed to. In addition, I have completed zero journalism internship and at this point I’m not sure if I want to be a reporter or simply a writer. My books are in various states of dishevelment and not ready for publication, although I’m actively working on getting them there, and I have the epitome of a day job: a stint as a pizza girl.

That’s right. I spend my days on my feet behind a counter, selling slices of pizza to sometimes rude, sometimes generous, always hungry customers. I have a collection of burns on my hands and forearms from the oven I heat up the slices with, my feet are constantly throbbing, and I’ve come to crave tips like a zombie craves brains.

I’m not where I thought I would be.


I’m realizing that who I am is not always who I thought I would be; that as we grow, our perception of ourselves and the reality of us grows as well; and most importantly, that that is OK.


But my job as a pizza slinger allows me to stay in this city and is fodder for so many stories that will make you roll on the floor laughing, and the time off from school will allow me to focus on my mental health and my novel pursuits.

I’m realizing that who I am is not always who I thought I would be; that as we grow, our perception of ourselves and the reality of us grows as well; and most importantly, that that is OK.

Because here’s the thing: who I am is not determined by my circumstances; it’s not even determined by my personality, which has a tendency of changing as I grow and mature (and sometimes immature). I’ve found that who I am is determined by who God says I am.

My primary identity is found in Him. Everything else is just extra, just icing on the cake, just a way to make a living and leave a legacy. As long as I remember that I am, first and foremost, God’s, it makes everything that changes around me more bearable.

It’s OK if I’m not where I thought I’d be. If I’m not with who I thought I’d be with. I’ve found comfort — true, lasting comfort — in trusting that I’m exactly where He wants me to be. And if you haven’t found Him yet, I don’t expect you to completely understand that. But I hope some day you will.

For more on discovering yourself, check out Kirsten’s short film: