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A $1,000 Lesson on Identity

happy people are those who do the mostThe past week was pretty crummy. It started last Friday when I got a check and a letter in the mail. I was happy to receive the check. But not so happy to receive the letter. The letter said something along these lines “Dear Simone: We really like your writing, but we can no longer afford to pay you.”

Dang.

Just when I was getting comfortable telling people that I’m a writer. A real one. It feels like the rug is getting pulled up from under me.

The second boot dropped when I realized that the magazine I’m writing for is probably not going to pay me for my work. (I know this because I reached out to two of the other writers and we are all in the same boat. And combined the magazine owes us thousands of dollars.)

But more than the loss of money, what I’m really struggling with is the loss of identity. Am I still a writer if no one pays me to write?

A Brief Identity Crisis

I’ve shared before how leaving my job last year was tough, because I could no longer tell people that “I’m an energy analyst,” get the nod of their approval, and feel important.

Now, I’m in that place again. I wanted to toss my thoughts on this blog, because in talking with several of you it feels like many of us are struggling with the question of “Who Am I?” and “What Am I Doing With My Life?”

The answer has nothing to do with our jobs, marital status, or other arbitrary titles people pin on us. And going through this situation taught me a few things. First, lots of people share my struggle. Second, if we don’t learn our lesson the first time. We have to go through it again. Third, I let the bad overshadow the good.

Lots of People Struggle with Identity

In struggling to identify myself this week, I started googling stuff. Initially, I was looking for sermons on my identity in Christ. But, what I found was an article in The Atlantic about the uptick in tattooing in recent years.

The story explains one of the reasons that tattooing has risen to new heights is that people are looking for something permanent and real to self-identify themselves. So it’s not just you and me….lots of people struggle with identity.

How Could I Be SO Stupid?

The second lesson, I’ve learned…is how the feeling of being cheated makes me feel about myself. Perhaps, you’ve been there before. All you can think about is: how could this happen to me? I should have been smarter! I should have KNOWN.

This lesson is a re-run for me, because I was in a similar situation about nine years ago. I lent a guy I was dating $500 dollars (a small fortune for a graduate student) and in an instant everything changed.

• He stopped returning my phone calls.
• He stopped coming to church.
• And, I realized he had no intention of paying me back.

I was crushed by the loss of my smartness. (I know that’s not a real word, but that’s how I felt.) I called my dad, told him what happened, and decided to let it go. My dad said something wise about forgiveness and that I should have checked with him first.

But I didn’t want to hear all of that! I just wanted my money back, and I wanted to erase the sense of stupidity that seemed to be permeating my every thought.

And, now with the magazine…it feels like I’m back at the same place again. Even though, they didn’t take my money… they owe me money. They’ve taken part of what I think I am: a smart, confident, woman that can conquer the world.

Bad Sometimes Overshadows Good

The third lesson I learned is that: when bad things happen, I let them consume me. For the past eight days, most of my thoughts have been flooded with my writing woes.

The thing is that some really good things have happened too, and I should be mature enough to focusing on those things. For example:

• I received a lovely note card from 3 of my former co-workers (Joe, Amery, and Byron)
• A new writer friend, Quanie, sent a super nice email & offered to help, when I need it.
• My sister’s prom was last night and I got to be here to see her.
• My Morris has been supportive through this entire process (and I’ve been a grouch).
• And, one of my mentors asked me to co-teach a college class.

But all I can think about is the money that’s owed me. And I think that’s a plot of the devil to let the bad overshadow the good.

No Longer Plotting Revenge

Unexpectedkindness is themostI’ve decided to stop plotting my revenge on the magazine and give this situation over to the Good Lord. (Which of itself is a huge victory. Because I had come up with all kind of genius ways to get even. Like, texting Bible verses about what happens to wicked people, for example. But, I digress.)

As much as I wish EVERYTHING would just go perfect in my life. That’s not realistic. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 says “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

We are Created to Create

I came to the realization today that we are all created to create.

The Good Book talks about us being made in God’s image. He is the ultimate Creator. And all of us have been given His ability to create. Whether it’s beautiful spreadsheets, heart-wrenching movies, or a welcoming home.

And that truth helped me answer my question: Am I writer if no one pays me to write? My answer is yes. Yes, I am writer. Even if, I never get paid another dime. Because that’s what (I think) God created me to do.

Now, I just have to focus on getting all that good head knowledge to my heart and acting like it.

Question: What strategies have you used to overcome identity questions? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Love, Simone

8 Comments

  1. I believe that it is something that we all go through at one time or another in life.

    I had a huge aha moment recently and my identity question was solved! In the process of allowing God to heal me from soul wounds – the identity of who i am is beginning to be clearer and clearer. As long as my soul (heart, inner man) is jacked up – my identity will be not be clear for me to truly see – who i am in Him.

    My strategy consist of about 3 to 4 steps – it is effective and it is bringing forth much healing. 🙂

    • Simone

      April 15, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      Hey Nan, thanks SO much for commenting! It is amazing to me that your answer came in a moment, but I picked up on what you said it was AFTER you allowed God to heal soul wounds. I guess you are right…it is a process (sigh). I’m not the most patient person in the world and the word process to me means lots of waiting…which in and of itself is a struggle.

      But this confirms something that some friends said to me last night at dinner: ask the Lord to heal the wounds (much of which comes from shame) and then I won’t have the stress of striving to define myself.

  2. I think that we’ve all been here at one point or another. I think the important thing is to focus on your passion (and perfecting it) and not allowing anybody else to be in control of your vision. So if this means you taking baby steps so that one day, you do get paid for your writing–but on your own turf and terms, so be it. And yes, we do have to learn to focus on the positive and not to make that negative thing such a mountain!

    • Simone

      April 20, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      Hey Quanie! Please forgive me for the delayed response.

      You are right. We’ve all been here at one time or another. I was reading on Michael Hyatt’s blog about the numerous NY Time’s Bestselling authors that were rejected countless (i.e. 40, 50, and more) times before being accepted. And it got be me to thinking. Failure IS really a part of the process. My problem is that I often look for external markers of success and tie my identity to that…AND that’s what gets me in trouble.

      But what you said is key”focus on perfecting your passion and don’t let anyone else be in control of your vision.” That’s grrrrreat advice.

  3. Ha, no they didn’t push you to wanting to use the Bible for revenge texts?!? The struggle.

    But seriously, I feel your pain. No one likes to be taken advantage of and they are wrong for not paying you for services rendered. I wonder if you can charge them with theft of service? And you’re a classy lady for not sharing which magazine did this foolishness.

    And I can vouch that Quanie is a true blue cyber buddy. She’s so sweet and frickin’ hilarious!

    • Simone

      April 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Laugh out loud, I was SO close to it too! But Jesus saves.

      I hadn’t thought about “theft of services” as an angle, Simone. Thank you SO much. My small business counselor said that I should write a letter, include the contract, and send it via registered mail. But, honestly, I just want this too be over. So, I’ve asked them to return my stories along with a written notarized statement saying that they won’t use my work in whole or part. We’ll see how that goes. If not, I will try the theft of services route.

      Yet. I have shared the name of the magazine, yet. I guess I’m still holding onto some hope that they’ll do the right thing. But, I still have dreams of sitting on Oprah’s couch one day and telling her how they did me wrong:-).

      Quanie is awesome! AND so are you, Simone. Both of y’all have been so kind and generous to me.

  4. My true eternal identity has been a slow unfolding as i’ve progressed on this spiritual journey. I have tried finding my purpose and worth in jobs, relationships, friendships, etc but finally see, all things temporary pass away and if I hold to those things I will too. I now see I must ask the Father who did He make me to be? And often the revealing of my true self comes through tests and trials which are never fun. But so often the growth and character development afterward shows more of who I really am.
    Nicole M recently posted…God is the IdealMy Profile

    • Simone

      June 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      Yes and Amen! As you can see, I’m right there with you. And sometimes, I really wish I could skip the whole test and trials.

      But it is through the tests and trials that the Father makes us perfect. James 1:3-4 comes to mind “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

      Praying for you, Sis, and that the Lord continues to reveal His purpose. Love, Simone

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