Last week, Nate and I spent the better part of four days in Florida. It was fantastic: gorgeous scenery, beautiful weather, amazing food, quality time with only one disagreement. Perfect way to spend my spring break from school.
But the best part? Like the actual, honest-to-God, best part of it all?
I got to be Caylee for that time.
Not Mrs. S.
Not a parent and a teacher in a small town and all the expectations and weight that comes with that.
Just a person, with her husband, on a beach.
To be honest? It was liberating: if I wanted to have a beer with lunch, I could without fear I would be judged by someone. I wore shorts and v-neck tee-shirts without worrying I was “too revealing” or what kind of impression I was making on high school boys.
I could eat hot meals at restaurants without thinking about what they’d have for kids. I slept in until ten a.m. one morning. I walked mindlessly up and down a stretch of beach, without worrying one of my kids was going to end up in the water or kidnapped.
I missed my kids so much it was a physical ache, but for the first time in close to seven years, I was able to just be me.
Whatever that means.
I know how cheesy this all sounds, because I have had nights or weekends away where I drink a little too much, but there’s always a thought in the back of my head: I might run into a former student or parent here. Yes, I’m 30, I’m entitled to go to a bar if I choose, but there are still comments, looks, whatever.
I spend a lot of time ruminating on who I am now: I feel like the past fifteen years have been trying to find an identity that fits: I was a college student who partied, who had sanctimonious friends and wild ones; I was a college student who lived with her boyfriend and worked a lot; I’ve been a new teacher, a new wife, a new mom. I’m become a veteran at all of those things.
But those are just titles, right? Just words we use to describe ourselves. But, to me at least, they feel empty. They feel like titles, not actual descriptors of who I am.
The descriptor I keep coming back to is: Just Caylee.
I mean. I am a mom, a wife, a teacher. But I’m also a college-educated, masters holding, coffee-addicted, woman from a small South Dakota town who can double fist beers, and down a mixed drink in no time flat. I’m an avid reader who likes fantasy novels, some of the classics, and cheesy romance books; a music lover whose playlists go from ABBA to Hamilton to Koe Wetzel to Garth Brooks to Juice Wrld. I’m a feminist, who probably has liberal leanings, but will absolutely go to bat for your right to own a gun and the importance of rural life.
I, like so many people I know, am a mass of contradictions. Juxtapositions, conflicting ideas and views. I think sometimes these things get lost in the shuffle of who I am to the people in my life: my kids, my husband, my students and their families.
I don’t think I should have to give up any of my other descriptors to fit into the boxes that “mom” and “teacher” demand.
I don’t think anyone should.
I think living in the age of social media has made us feel like we have to have this short, quippy, descriptor. A little blip about yourself that sums up who you are.
But, for me, and honestly like everyone, I don’t think it’s that simple. I don’t think I can be summed up accurately in an Instagram bio. Fuck, I don’t think looking at my social media gives you an accurate idea of who I am, what drives me, what I’m passionate about or I love or I want out of my life.
Maybe that’s the point. Maybe we all need to be reminded that we’re supposed to be complex. We’re not supposed to be easily described in two or three words. I for one, would be pissed if Nate, who’s supposed to love me, described me saying things like, “Wife. Mom. Teacher.” Because who I am, isn’t that simple!
So yeah, I’m going to go with: Just Caylee. And I’m going to spend more time getting to be her too.