old self

Dear Vaishali: How do I go back to my old self?

I have a pair of rollerblades that I’ve held onto for years, but haven’t pulled out since before my first child. What should I do with them? How do I go back to my old self?

It is inevitable after having children that our identities change. You may not feel like your old self anymore. Our centre of focus completely shifts from ourselves to our children. And, with that change, our decision making process evolves.

Prior to having children, “Would I enjoy doing this?” might be one of the first questions we ask ourselves during decision-making. After kids, it can go to the bottom of the list of criteria.

We might not realize how having children alters our identities, as it causes small but intricate shifts in our mindset. Our hobbies, our interests, even what we read shift along with it. We believe things will go back to the way they were once the little ones in our life gain independence, that the list of decision making questions will go back to the order they were in before.

I have found it is not that simple. When we’ve stopped doing activities for long periods of time, we might lose our connection to them. We forget their value, how they shaped us, and at times it becomes awkward to do them. Even if our decision making process goes back to the way it was before, we answer the questions differently. Instead of a resounding “Yes!”, the answer to “Would I enjoy doing this?” might be a little less definite or even a big “No!” Doing something that we thrived on before might feel out of character now.

So what do we do? Just abandon the things that shaped us before? Or, jump right back in despite your lapse in time?

Here are some questions to add to your decision making process:
  • Does thinking about this activity right now bring you joy or pain? What does your gut say?
  • Would you do it if the opportunity were available today?
  • If you answered no to #2, what’s holding you back? Do you have the people you’d want to do this with? Are you apprehensive of perception? Is your body still able to do the activity?
  • What was it about the activity that you enjoyed so much? Is there a way to extract the same joy by changing the activity or without having to do the activity at all?

If, in answering my questions, you still yearn to go rollerblading, or biking, or you wish you were part of a book club, try to find a way to get back out there. You might need to find a partner or group to join you, or take baby steps to get back to it. If you realize that you only like the idea of your former favourite activity, not the reality of doing it, donate those rollerblades and find a new activity that will actually bring you joy. It doesn’t mean you are a lesser person if you give it up, it just means you are have evolved into someone different. It is essential the activity helps you feel like you—whoever that might be now.