- Work and family are not the only things that define me. We are all far more complex and complicated than this.
I recently turned 50.
I suppose I’ve done what I set out to do. I went to law school and practiced in the public sector for five years. I later pivoted to writing, and have published two books and over a hundred articles. I’ve engaged in a lifetime of activism, most recently co-founding an organization for South Asian Democrats in Georgia. I’ve also raised three daughters, two to adulthood, the last one one three years shy of it. And I’ve been married for 26 years to the same wonderful human being.
Of late, I’ve realized I spend too much time defining who I am based on what I’ve accomplished and who I’ve cared for. Yes, I have a resume with a bunch of entries I’m proud of. Yes, I’m raising a family in this increasingly family-unfriendly country.
Work and family are not the only things that define me, nor should they be. We are all far more complex and complicated than this.
So, why not mark this milestone birthday by acknowledging all the other parts of me?
- I’m funny. Sometimes, I’m hilarious. My kids will roll their eyes if they read this, but even they would admit I have some pretty solid quips and quick comebacks.
- I love to hike in the mountains even though I’m slower than a tortoise. I get passed by both toddlers and seniors, stop frequently for snacks and water breaks, and complain about what hurts. But when I finally reach the summit, my enthusiasm bursts through, and it’s this unbridled joy that will have you inviting me on your next hike.
- I’ve had debilitating chronic pain for almost three decades. At times it makes me cranky and sad. Some days are far worse than others, but I’ve found ways to live through it.
- I’m a hugger. I love to hug, even people I’ve just met. (I make sure it’s okay with them first before going in with open arms.) I far prefer hugging to any other kind of greeting.
- I have a blankey. A comfort cloth. A snuggly. I bunch it up and press it against my cheek to fall asleep. Yes, I know this is weird. Yes, I know I should have outgrown this habit 40 years ago. Yes, there’s probably some deep psychological issue from my childhood that my blankey soothes, though I have no idea what.
- I’m neither as secure nor as confident as I thought I’d be at this age (see “blankey” above). Part of me is still the awkward girl with braces and permed hair I was at age 13. This is okay. I’ve learned how to embrace my myriad insecurities at 50, instead of pushing them away and pretending they don’t exist.
- I may be outspoken and opinionated, but I’m very good at admitting I’m wrong. I apologize. I commit myself to changing, and growing, and realizing all the ways I need to improve as a human being.
- I’m not aging gracefully, I’m just plain old aging. I’ve never colored my hair. I’ve never had Botox or other fillers. I don’t wear makeup and I’ve never done a chemical peel. Wrinkles, frown lines, loose skin, age spots, and dark circles cover my face. Some mornings I look so haggard, I startle when I see my own reflection in the mirror. And I have absolutely no intention of reversing the signs of aging so you’re just going to have to accept me as I am.
- I believe in inclusivity. I believe that if we don’t take care of everyone, we are taking care of no one. I don’t believe in hierarchies or gatekeeping, nor do I desire to be a part of a community where an outsider has to first prove their worth to become an insider. In my small corner of the universe, all are welcome, and no one gets special treatment over anyone else.
- I’m always in the midst of planning to exercise but never actually getting around to exercising.
- I love rivers and waterfalls. I see my soul in them. They’re where I make my secret dreams known, where I learn to forgive myself and appreciate everything I have in my life. They remind me to keep flowing, no matter how tough things are.
I’ve been lucky enough to live 50 years on this planet. I hope to spend the next years appreciating all of the lesser-known parts of me — the quirks and the inconsistencies, the strengths and the flaws. I hope to remember I’m more than my career and my caregiving. My identity also resides in the details, the margins, the footnotes, and the minutiae that no one knows about but me.
They are what make me human, after all. They are what make me, me.
Anjali Enjeti is an author, journalist, MFA instructor, and activist living outside of Atlanta.