Asking myself this basic question, WHO AM I ? and being brutally honest with myself, was confronting but revealing, in the sense, one can realise looking back, how you have not only evolved, but there have been several versions of you to this point. My outpouring here was because of my weekly focus theme, this week is 'SELF'. So ask yourself these two important questions:
1. Who am I ?
2. Am I happy with the current version of my self ?
Warning, this blog is pretty raw and brutally honest, but anyone who knows me, will know that's who I am. I only share in the hope others will find comfort to read about something they perhaps felt alone with or it helps resolve issues, giving another way to view or deal with something, when it feels really tough.
Read on if you are interested in my 'SELF' reflection latest blog.
Presenting LifeART at the Women’s Health & Fitness Summit 2018 (photo - Fiona Cull)
Do you ever ask the simple question - who am I? Apart from a name and the child of, maybe siblings & partner or wife/husband of - mother or father of. Who am I ????
My identity has navigated some huge changes over the years . . . as a dancer, that was who I WAS and somehow, I didn’t separate what I did, from who Andrea was. When I let it go and became a choreographer & theatre Stage Manager, it felt for a while I was totally lost, but again I became WHAT I did ... probably because I loved what I did so much! I married an Opera Singer and worked a lot on Opera productions, as well as music theatre, my world was one, my career was WHO I was.
This took a massive shake up with several life changing tragedies, the loss of my sister (age 20 in a bicycle accident) the loss of my darling friend & work colleague, Brian Stacey, the breakup of my first marriage & the loss of my Dad when I was 30. I questioned who I was and where my life was going, and a big part of me was so grief stricken, consumed with huge loss.
In my early 30’s I realized I wanted a ‘private non-work Andrea’ to emerge and I craved a real private life outside theatre. I really had no idea what that looked like, but I was aware I WAS my work and I needed to change.
I happened to meet a guy outside of work one Sunday arvo at a longtime friend’s daughters christening. He was charming and fun and nothing to do with theatre and a week or so after, tracked me down at the Princess Theatre (where I was Stage Managing Phantom of the Opera) We arranged a date and he took me out for dinner, I realized there was another Andrea starting to emerge as the relationship developed and that Andrea wanted to have children and become a Mum. I continued to work flat out as a Stage Manager, then Phantom Of the Opera was announced to move to Sydney and I was offered an opportunity to relocate with it. But I nominated to move the show and then leave to return to Melbourne and my relationship. Cameron Mackintosh Australia was good to me, they sent me off to London to learn & rehearse a new cast to come to Australia for Five Guys Named Moe, which I opened and ran at the Atheneum Theatre in Melbourne. The time away in London, I really missed my man and when I returned to Melbourne he proposed. He had already moved into my house and we had agreed our reason to marry would be to have a family together. Things moved super fast after that, in total shock 3 weeks later, I fell pregnant with my first son. Small wedding planned, we kept it quiet and were going to announce it AFTER we were married. He could not help himself and announced it on the day in his speech . . . my identity went straight from new bride & wife to pregnant Mum to be.
We went on to have 2 beautiful sons, but I realize my sense of self was again lost in being a Mum and tragically some 9 years later my Mum was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and my life tipped upside down trying to care for her and juggling being the best Mum and support to my 2 sons and husband.
Along the way I was accused of being a 'lousy wife’ and I was devastated that apparently in my husband’s eyes, I had failed this role and yet he also accused me of being a ‘great Mum'. I took these on and really believed the labels I had been given, my self-esteem was rock bottom. This was followed by a marriage break up, losing my Mum and a 3 year period of deep depression, chronic fatigue & struggling to keep going. I had totally lost myself. I had no sense of self and no clue who I was. If not for my 2 beautiful boys, I really did not feel I had a true reason to live.
Fast forward some years later, slowly I started to piece Andrea back together, started to get to know her and began rebuilding ‘my’ life. Freelance work in theatre, as an agent, assisting on productions, casting musicals, working part time in fashion and becoming the Administrator for the Brian Stacey Memorial Trust helped, but I was still lost. I even partnered with a very special man during this time and when he declared how happy he was with me and loved me, I seriously could not work out why. We separated 4 years into our relationship, because we couldn’t move forward together.
Single mother and alone, going back to study 12 years ago to get my Cert 3 & 4 in Fitness & becoming a Personal Trainer was a huge breakthrough. I was 43, but I was doing something Andrea was interested in, tapping into learning a new skill that drew on my dance background and love of movement. Still very much driven by surviving and bringing up my boys as a single Mum, APT Personal Training was born in May 2008 after I qualified officially. Until my boys both finished school, I was totally the Mum, the rock to them, the stable safe place and nurturer and my work always fitted around everything they did and needed. It was a massive juggle! However during that time after a 3 year break I re-united with the special man I had let go, having worked through the worst depression and in a new career I loved.
Then when my youngest son finished school, I was very aware so many people had said to me as his final year was nearing its end, ‘Oh you won’t know yourself!’ inferring I was entering a wonderful new era of fun and freedom. Not so! I realized very quickly I actually DID NOT KNOW MYSELF! Who the hell was Andrea????
It was devastating, confronting and the grief for my 2 little boys no longer needing me as an integral part of their lives in my Mum role, was overwhelming. Suddenly they were out in the world (which I know is great) doing their thing, but my life was work & work & some more work with some small percentages of time with my current partner (who I love & adore but he travels a lot and we do not live together) I was super grateful I had APT & the Stacey Trust but WHO was I? Sense of self ?
I again, had none.
Over these past 4 years, I have become a teacher and a deep thinker of how I can help others with the knowledge I have gathered from all I have experienced, learned and actioned. I added Pilates Instructor skills in 2010 and a new bodyART Instructor qualification in late 2015, as well as many other additional trainings and conferences through that time. My friends are incredible - dotted about the world from different stages in my life and I often wonder how I acquired such beautiful souls as MY friends. The real ‘me’ has slowly emerged as a teacher, nurturer of people tapping into their moving for joy and improving mobility, health & life in general. I realize all the things I needed and have silently been crying out for, is what goes into my teaching. Sense of self, accepting self, but being a strong kind best self - love of self. Being ok with my flawed self. Yup I am finally me - my own self. And when that is in its best form helping others, it’s pretty damn wonderful !
I have times of deep grief still, it’s part of me and I am struggling with menopause. I allow the grief to come out and release when I can, and know it’s healthier to let some of it go. I even give myself permission to do less and rest a bit (a big deal for a workaholic like me) I miss my family and friends I have lost tragically through my life, but I embrace and embody the incredible people here in this world WITH me, and am less and less afraid to hide the real me.
In my good moments, I really do like myself.
I believe getting to know your ‘self’ is a life long journey. Learning, being curious and loving from deep inside your heart, as well as receiving love, is what keeps your soul alive. I am pleased to say I feel on track now to find out who I really am and what my purpose and passion is in this world.
So have you asked yourself lately, who am I?
Andrea Gaze 10.3.19