Looking back through my old iPod is like a map through all my past dating relationships.
Top 20 hits and country music from the year I turned 16, Jet and White Stripes, Coheed & Cambria and The Silversun Pickups... or, Bryan, Jon, Mike.
The music I listened to changed, quite a bit, depending on the guy I was dating at the time. As did my shoes, as did my hairstyle, as did my habits and interests and hobbies. Because my identity changed depending on the guy I was dating at the time. (Which is one reason our identities should be firmly rooted in Christ).
Bryan was my first boyfriend. He was well-liked in school but not too popular- got good grades, and ran cross country. Bryan was a nice guy, but our interests just didn't fit. Instead of cutting my losses and moving on (like I should have), I tried to mold myself into someone just like him. He was so athletic, and I desperately tried to fit in with his cross-country running friends.
I was pretty laughably bad, despite my attempts, but I had convinced myself that I needed to change who I was. I spent all my time with him, trying to be just like him, and started to identify myself with his interests, his passions. Of course, asking a 16-year-old boy to define my identity was way too much for him, and our little relationship crashed and burned pretty quickly.
After Bryan came Jon. Jon had moved to the area from Ghana, and went to a different school nearby. He was pretty much the exact opposite of Bryan. Jon was interested in music and art, wasn't athletic in the least, and where Bryan was light skinned and blonde (like everyone else in town), Jon was dark skinned and exotic. He also had a huge heart for God and God's will in his life, and I really admired that about him.
Even though my interests clashed less with his, he still didn't fit. So once again, I tried to figure out how to be just like him. I tried to learn guitar, wrote some songs, posed for artsy pictures. I molded myself into what I thought he wanted. I was getting good at that. We didn't break up until I moved away, and I'm pretty sure that he wrote a melodramatic song about it.
Next was Mike. Mike was rather similar to Bryan, except for the "from Africa" thing. He liked music, concerts, playing guitar, questioning authority in a safe sort of way, and watching the Sci-Fi channel with his friends so they could mock the bad acting. Mike was the only child of a pretty successful business woman, and had a lot of his future mapped out for him. He had a lot of security, and I sort of envied that.
He was not a believer, and made that pretty clear, but I had convinced myself that I could stick with my faith and be a good example to him. Besides, he was so fun. He took me to concerts and introduced me to bands, and he had a group of friends (which was important to me, since I'd just started at a new school). I dated him for about a year, convincing myself that I liked the same bands he did, that I liked his friends, that I could see myself with him in the long run.
By this point, I was so convincing, so good at being the person I thought my boyfriend wanted me to be, that I had even fooled myself.
I went to college about two hours away from Mike, and by some miracle of friendship, independence, and plenty of chapel services, I started re-claiming myself. So much so, that when Mike came to visit one time and tried to convince me that we shouldn't be "exclusive," I realized that I didn't really know this guy at all and I stood up for myself enough to break up with him.
Here's the thing. None of these guys asked me to change for them. None of them tried to force me to like the things they liked or to do the things they wanted to do. I did that. I thought that if I could be just right for them, that maybe they'd really truly like me. I thought that I wasn't enough- I had to be something or someone else.
I think part of that stems from the fact that I didn't know who I was to begin with. Then, after I dated someone and tried to shove myself into a mold, I was even more confused, and much more vulnerable to trying to "re-invent" who I really was.
After Mike, I realized what I'd been doing to myself.
My identity was smooshed, cut up, filed down, and I didn't really resemble anything I recognized anymore.
I didn't know myself. So I made a commitment that I wouldn't date anyone or be romantically involved with anyone for a full year, and I'd take that time to figure out who I really was, who I really am.
(To read more about it, click here...)