Journey to 30: Who Am I?

“Turning 30 changes your life,” they said. “A major shift happens when you turn 30,” I was told. “You really start to figure out who you are when you turn 30,” I heard. And it has all been true.
Last week, with my blog “Journey to 30: Don’t Get Stuck,” I began sharing with you some of the discoveries I have made on this Journey to my third decade. Today I will continue, sharing one of my greatest discoveries yet…me.

| Journey to 30: Who Am I? |

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The last 18 to 20 months of my life have been filled with hard lessons, harsh realities, enlightening discoveries, “second” chances, and many revelations. One of the greatest revelations of this last season of my life was learning that I wasn’t who I thought I was. I’ve always been pretty alert or “woke” as it related to who I was; I thought I had a pretty good handle on that. I am very aware of my body even with all of the new aches and pains. I tend to be in touch with my emotions and moods, and I can typically explain any changes or imbalances. If I don’t know anyone else, I know Christen Diane Rouson…or so I thought. Over this last year, after asking God to “show me myself, even if it hurts,” I have seen been forced to not only see my reflection in the mirror, but I have seen myself through a set of eyes other than just my own. I’ve seen myself from the perspective of someone who has been hurt by me and is aching from that pain. I’ve viewed myself from the point of view of someone who has messed up royally and just wants a second chance to at least make it right. Most importantly, I’ve tried to see myself as God sees me: with purpose, forgiven, still chosen.
Today I want to share with you some of the lessons on my Journey to 30:

  • Looking good isn’t enough. – Both of my parents were pastors at some point during my childhood. I quickly learned that we lived our life in a fish bowl, subject to outside criticism, judgment, and unwarranted opinions. Just as quickly, I learned the art of looking good, wearing a mask, and not allowing what is happening on the inside to affect how you look on the outside. I have lived by this standard up until today. This morning while driving to work, a BMW coupe flew past me in traffic. What made me look at the car, as I typically tend to be in my own world as I drive, was the noise that the car generated. To be honest, I expected to look over to my left and see an older model, beat down car…not a BMW. From what I could see, the car was shining as if it were freshly detailed, and, because I know the worth of a BMW, I couldn’t dispute the level of class that proceeded it. Still with all that made the car look showroom ready, I couldn’t ignore that it made an awful, loud noise. Once the car passed by, I could see that a plastic apparatus beneath the car, which probably is intended to protect the engine, was loose and dragging. At almost 80 miles an hour, it made what looked good look bad in an instant. I personally thought to myself, “Dang, that nice car is falling apart!”
    • The Moral of the Story: It doesn’t matter how well put together you are, what is broken within you will ultimately affect you and possibly how people see you. Look how fast my opinion of that BMW changed! I am way too guilty of just “keeping it moving” even when I am falling apart on the inside. I’ll still put forth the effort to look good, sound good, and convince people who I am good even when what I need may be just a quick adjustment. My advice to both me and you is it is worth it to stop going so fast trying to continue doing what you were made to do, and get fixed. What good is something so beautiful if it is all broken inside?
  • Leave it alone. Let it heal. – About a month ago I braided a client’s hair. She has thick hair (and a big head), so there were quite a few braids on her head. When my job was finally done, my hands ached, my back hurt, and I noticed I had a blister on my finger caused by the friction of the braiding hair against my rapidly moving fingers. To know me for real for real, is to know that I love popping bumps, pulling hairs, and squeezing blisters, and that’s what I did. For the next few days, I squeezed my blister anytime it would fill up again. I’d pick with this blister any chance I got. Here’s what is interesting, it hurt! Common sense would say to leave it alone because it was a source of pain, but the pain and irritation only drew me to it even more. The more I picked with it, the more it hurt. It wouldn’t heal, and I needed it to because I still had clients who needed braids, and I needed to use that affected finger again. Eventually I reached the point where I had no choice but to put on a Band Aid and leave the blister alone, and guess what it did? The blister healed.
    • The Moral of the Story: I will never experience healing in some areas of my life if I keep picking the scab and poking at the wound. That was the case as it related to my love life and some broken friendships. I was constantly reminding myself of the painful relationships, the harmful cycles, and how badly they broke me down. Even worse, I didn’t always protect myself from situations that could hurt me again. Metaphorically speaking, I would irritate what was already hurting (my heart) and I refused to cover it with a protective layer (God’s love). Recently, I cried to God telling him all about my boo boo, and he told me to let him cover it: the memories, the wound, even my heart itself. And once I stopped retelling the stories, even in jest, and once I stopped putting myself in the middle of circumstances where my would could be hurt again, I discovered that I was healing…and my heart is available to be used again.
  • Everybody doesn’t feel that way. – I can be guilty of making generalizations. No, I don’t believe that all men are dogs or once a liar and a cheater always a liar and a cheater; those are a bit extreme. What I have sometimes deceived myself to believe is everyone feels about me the way I feel about me. Let me preface by saying I really love myself. God has helped me/is helping me to accept who and what I am so that I can maximize who he made me to be. However, there are times that I don’t see myself the way others see me. Just last week, I went in the studio to record the lead vocals for my single that will be released later this month. Personally, though I know I can sing, I hate the sound of my voice. I nitpicked my every note while in the studio and was even more critical when I received the rough, unmixed version of the song earlier this week. Immediately, I began beating myself up to my producer who was simultaneously praising me for how well I did in the studio and how good the vocals sound. Even though my mind should have been put at ease, all I could think of were my personal insecurities. The same rings true when I am over critical for the way I talk (whether being introverted or too outspoken), the work I produce, how good of a friend I am or am not, and even how effectively I completed my assignments when leading worship. There have been times where I have beaten myself to a pulp while others are declaring how I helped them. Here I am declaring I’m not good enough (in MANY areas of my life) while others are saying I am exactly what is needed/wanted. How is that possible?
    • The Moral of the Story: My point of view isn’t the only perspective. Have you ever played a video game of a car race, and the game will allow you to change your point of view of the track? There’s the angle that you see just driving straight ahead and then some other angles that show a picture of you on the track. God has allowed me to see other points of view. While only looking at me and my life from my perspective, I have a limited view. In these last season God has let me see my track…progress. He’s let me see on me what others see in me. Not everyone is skeptical about me. Not every sees the flaw or heard the crack in my voice. The mistake isn’t obvious to everyone. I discovered that I had been projecting my insecurities on everyone else as a defense mechanism because I couldn’t imagine that maybe I was “good” despite my insecurities. Selah.
  • Maybe you aren’t the only victim. – This one was a hard pill to swallow. This is the complete opposite of the last point where I project my insecurities on others. In this case, I imagined that I was the only one who could be hurting. Over the last three weeks of my life, I have watched some tables turn. I have been placed in a situation where I was forced to renege on some absolutes that I had declared and feel what I never thought I’d feel in some areas…regret. My feet have been placed in the shoes of those who I despised for hurting me, and I have walked a mile (or five) on their journey to gain forgiveness. Though I had forgiven them and given them a clean slate, I didn’t acknowledge the fact that I too had dished out daggers. I didn’t honor the wounds that they had to nurse and the strength it took to come back to me with the hope of reconciliation. Now that the tables have turned and I am walking that same path, I understand.
    • The Moral of the Story: Have you ever heard the saying, “There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth?” I’ve found that to be accurate. For far too long I was caught up in my own version of the truth: I was hurt or affected, I will accept your apology and forgive but I’m closed-minded to letting you back in, and it will take me a while to process that you’re sorry, not necessarily that you really are better. All of this while minimizing your version of the truth: maybe you didn’t mean to do to me what you did to me, and maybe it took a lot of guts and courage to make this right. And then the truth, I wasn’t as guiltless as I assumed. I was just as guilty of somethings as the ex boyfriend, the ex friend, or the family member that distanced myself from. This lesson taught me how, like the video game, zoom out of my perspective, see things from another point of view, and accept what I see. …and apologize.
  • Every battle isn’t your battle. – One time in a group therapy session, a psychologist told me, in so many words, that I have a super hero complex. In other words, though I may complain about the burden that comes with helping everyone out, I enjoy being needed. As a matter of fact, I will sometimes take on issues so that I can be the one to solve them. I dismissed the thought two years ago when she said it, but I was faced with that reality a few weeks ago. A friend was having a rough go of it, down in the dumps, and needing some real help. Because I don’t like anyone being down and out, especially the ones I love, I jumped in to save the day. Here’s the problem, I didn’t have the kind of help that my friend needed. It wasn’t until my cape was torn and I was worn out from the fight that I accepted that I couldn’t fix that one. But why did it take me being drained and depleted of my energy and joy to finally take my mask and cape off? The answer was simple: because I didn’t want to embrace the fact that I have a super hero complex.
    • The Moral of the Story: You aren’t supposed to jump in the middle of every fight and be the victor. I have learned the hard way that sometimes jumping in to rescue your loved ones actually interrupts a lesson that God himself may be trying to teach them. I’ve done it before when I bailed a friend out of a financial hardship to only set myself back and still watch him/her succumb to that hardship just a bit later. That’s the point…jumping into a fight that you aren’t assigned to only leaves you with more bruises than necessary. Furthermore, it stunts their growth and understanding of the lesson leaving them susceptible to have to learn that lesson all over again. I am learning that I will sometimes have to just stand on the outside of the ropes and let some people fight it out even though it hurts me. I’m not a superhero. I can’t always save the day.
  • Everything isn’t for everybody. – I feel like this was a toughy too. I am in very inclusive. As far back as my childhood, I have always wanted everyone to be happy at the same time, and that could be made possible if everyone had the exact same thing at the exact same time. Example: When I was about 11 years old, my mother ordered me a ring from a catalog. It was a beautiful ring and I was so grateful to have it, but I was sad because my best friend didn’t have one, and her mom probably couldn’t spend money to buy her one. So what did I do? I asked my mother to buy my best friend the exact same ring, and I didn’t wear mine until hers came in. Another story: While away at college, my mother would occasionally send me money to compensate for what I made working part-time at LensCrafters. My boyfriend had moved up to Arlington with me to attend the same school, and he too worked a part-time job. I can vividly remember receiving word from my mother that she had put money in my account then withdrawing half to give to him because he didn’t get money from his parents like I did. I just wanted him to be good. In both examples the common denominators are that I wanted to level the playing field, so to speak, and I sacrificed what was specifically for me so that someone else could have what I had. What I didn’t take into account at 11, 18, and even at 29 was that as I was sharing half of what was intended for me, my friend wasn’t without when I gave up my portion.
    • The Moral of the Story: Sometimes what is for you is just for you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a willing heart and a giving spirit. I am learning that God will sometimes bless you with something or elevate you to a level that he has prepared for you to enjoy alone…initially. Once he has elevated you or blessed you, he will require you to bless others. What I didn’t understand then that I get now is that it is not mandatory for my friends to stand on the same platform, level, or dimension as me to be blessed by me. I was so caught up on everyone having an equal share that I didn’t’ seek God about what their portion was or if they were to even have one. I didn’t account for the harvests and elevations that he we was already manifesting in their life. Long story short, I am embracing that it is okay for God to knock my socks off, blow my mind, and bless me silly without me feeling the pressure of fixing everybody’s situation (super hero complex) or creating a huge entourage so they can be around my blessing. I hope that makes sense.

Seeing yourself for who you really are will cause you to do one of two things: change or pretend.

The decision ultimately boils down to your maturity, integrity, and honesty. I saw me and am still seeing me for who I really am. Some things make me proud, some things make me think, some thinks make me cringe, and other things have disgusted me. What I am most grateful for is the mere fact that all of those things have been a catalyst for my growth, and God hasn’t stopped loving me anywhere in the process. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. This journey has taught me that I can’t be who God wants me to be in the next chapter of my life if I don’t know who I am in this chapter.
…more next week.
I hope this helps.
-Chris

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