For as long as I can remember, I have realized that knowing and connecting with one’s identity is an important part of self-respect, self-expression, and self-confidence. Think about the questions asked by strangers when they first meet you. They want to know things like where you live, what you do for a living, and whether you have a spouse and children. Those answers and how we speak about ourselves are part of our self-definition. Those answers not only tell others something about us, but the way that we answer those questions tells our heart how we feel about our inner self. Those answers are part of our self-identity and they convey to others a part of the mark that we are making on this world. And like it or not, we are judged by others by what they know about us and how they choose to use our answers to label us. We think about someone who is divorced differently than we think about someone who has been married to their soulmate for 56 years. It is natural to think about someone who moves from job to job differently than we think about a CEO of a company who has been employed there for 30 years. Who we are also defines the circles that we travel in so we can associate with others who are like us and will accept us into the folds of their communities. I am drawn to think about these things as I think about our home status.
For the past 3 ½ years we have been “liveaboards” on our sailboat and have been docked in a few places along the Potomac and Chesapeake in Maryland. Before that, we lived in our home in Florida- me for the past 17 years in the same house. Now that we have officially pulled away from the dock at the Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, Steve proudly and excitedly exclaims that we are now “full time cruisers”. But in my mind, we haven’t cruised anywhere yet, so how can I accurately describe myself as a cruiser? While I am certainly excited about the adventure that lies ahead, I am unsure of the title that defines our living status, and I am therefor feeling tenuous about a part of my self-identity, and have even spent time questioning my self-worth. I find myself defining my current state as being a “drifter”, “nomad” or “wanderer”; and have even felt “homeless” a few times in the last few days as I search for my role and define my existence in this lifestyle of moving from place to place. I am beginning to recognize how important our home life is to our status and sense of self-worth. As someone who has always lived in a house with only a few short stints of apartment living when I was first getting on my feet, I am now keenly aware of how my living quarters and the type of place I live makes me feel about myself and my place in this world. As with any new situation, when I take time to dissect my feelings and my ideas, I come to a place of greater compassion for others. My greatest question in the last few days is: How do those who live in shelters, refugee camps, transition housing, or under a bridge somewhere maintain self-pride when describing this part of their identity to others? I find this idea thought-provoking and a little bit sad, but thankful for the new levels of understanding that I have of others who lay down their heads in very different places than I have known.
As we continue our sail down the Chesapeake and head for Virginia Beach to visit with family for a few days, I will continue to wrestle with these thoughts and seek to find my new identity as someone who now moves with the wind and finds new shores every evening as I am reminded that God is the only true constant that any of us ever have.