Years ago, during a troubling time in my life, I went to a therapist. She was an amazing woman who allowed me to explore who I was. At that time, I was young and recently married with no kids and difficulty adjusting to married life. I was very comfortable working with her and allowed myself an honesty I don’t think I had experienced up until that time. She gave me an assignment to list three things that define who I am in the past, present, and future tense. The three things that are consistent and will remain consistent throughout my life. Some years have passed, and I am interested to see if my three things have withstood the test of time. My kids are grown and I have five granddaughters, one of whom recently graduated from high school. So substantial time has passed.
The first thing I told her that defined me was painting. I began painting in 3rd grade at about eight years old. I won awards for my artwork throughout junior high and high school. In the early part of my life, I carried a sketchpad around to be ready for an idea for a new painting. My first major in college was art. However, it became apparent that while I love creating and painting, I would never be able to make a living on it. I was good, just not that good. Painting became less and less an activity over the years, but it was never really lost completely. Today after the kids are grown, careers stabilized and free time is more available, I paint consistently. I’m currently working on three different paintings and a fourth yet begun.
The second was listening to music and at that time, it was singularly rock and roll. I listened to music while doing everything such as house cleaning, painting, driving, in the shower, and cooking. I sang songs to my kids before they knew I couldn’t sing. I have certain songs that define certain periods in my life and I can return to them and reminisce about that time. Over the years I began replacing my albums with CD’s. I have yet to find a music streaming station that reflects my eclectic taste in music because I expanded my music selection to include other than rock and roll. I have an old iPhone 4 that holds my song list and I still add songs to it now and then.
The third and most consistent identifier was dogs. I have always had dogs in my life. Most were pets and later they were working dogs. I began training dogs for competition in obedience at a time when my kids were very little. I found great satisfaction in working with my dogs to the point that we were winning first place blue ribbons. I began competing in tracking and other dog sports such as protection and search and rescue dogs. I helped people train their dogs, specializing in potentially dangerous dogs. I found great satisfaction when a dog was able to be a part of a family. I currently have two dogs and both are trained but I don’t compete with them anymore. It’s nice to have them as pets, again.
My therapist assignment has been consistent since it was assigned. All three things that I considered defining of myself when I was young still define me today. I often “borrow” the assignment for my clients today.