From Tracie: These Definitions No Longer Fit Me

Monday, March 16, 2015

These Definitions No Longer Fit Me

I was fourteen when capri pants came back into style. I wasn't a fan. A friend and I stood in the mall one day and decided together that people needed to make a real decision: pants or shorts. No more of this indecisive, in the middle, nonsense. And we agreed not to give in to the capri craze. In that moment I defined myself as a person who didn't wear capris. Not a major definition, of course. Not something I thought about daily, or to which I gave too much weight. But I continued not buying capris.

A few years later, my friend arrived at church in a pair of (admittedly cute) capri pants. My mind immediately went to that day we stood in the Gap and agreed to not give in to indecisive clothing. It hurt just a little. The change. The moving on.

Of course I understand that there is nothing wrong with changing your mind or buying a cute pair of capris. I understood it then. It wasn't a betrayal. A lot of things change in the years between fourteen and seventeen. This is probably one of the smallest changes a teenager could make.

My feelings were very little about her and even less about a pair of pants. What this experience really spoke to was my strong memory and my tendency to hold on to small things. Moments. Inside jokes. Bonds.


There is a lot of advice out there to not let other people define you. To see your own self. To chart your course without listening to people who would limit you to a safe and boring shoreline.

But what do you do when the person writing the definition is you?

I have defined myself in big and small ways.

Some of those definitions have served me well, others have not. Sure, they were fine for a time, but I held them close, writing them over and over again like a school assignment, long after they should have been erased. Writing them in ink and type and blood. And when those definitions itched and burned, when they hurt so bad I could scream, I cooled them with my tears. But I did not let go. They were a part of me.

How do you let go of something that is from you and of you? Or even worse, how do you show up one day in a pair of cute capris without apology or explanation - even if just to youself? I did not know. Not for many years, and not really now.

What I do know now is that I'm tired of the itch, the burn, the pain. I'm tired of the definitions that no longer fit, and I am ready to make new decisions. I am ready to find out what is hidden.


Katarina and I just finished watching The Wonder Years. I hadn't seen all of the episodes in many years, and it was her first time watching it. It is the kind of show that feels different in different stages of life. In the last two episodes, Kevin wants to find himself. He keeps saying it over and over again. Sending Winnie away for the summer, then wanting nothing more than to be with her, and as he packs his bag to leave home after a fight with his dad, this is the explanation he gives to his mother, "I gotta be on my own. I gotta find myself."

"I know, but you can find yourself here. People don't realize it, but there's lots of places you can find yourself. I mean, you can go into a restaurant, lost...not knowing what you're doing. And all of a can find yourself. It can happen anywhere," she replies.

I've been thinking about it for days now, that restaurant. Being lost, but not really knowing why or how. The struggle against definitions that fit too tightly and words that chafe. I think of what it means to let go of these things and to introduce the world and myself to the person who remains. I think that the problem isn't finding myself. The problem is not allowing myself to be free.


What do you do when the definitions you, or someone else, have placed upon you no longer fit?


  1. This pulled me in, Tracie. It's funny I feel like I'm going through a sifting a sorts too. I guess we just have to let go of those definitions, but it's hard. I think it takes facing some fears to find what's hidden and also allow the new definitions to take shape in our lives.

  2. I think as we age we find that our definitions of ourselves have to change with the point of life we're currently experiencing. It's not easy to just let yourself "be free" and accept the changes in your opinions and beliefs you've held onto for so long. I know I'm in the same situation on some issues too.

  3. As we grow we change and many of us can look back and think these things don't fit me anymore

  4. I haven't thought of that last defining episode of The Wonder Years in quite a long time, but still definitely does make me sit up and think, too. I think as I am getting older myself, I am getting more stuck in my own ways at times, too. I definitely used to be more flexible and yet now not nearly as much. Not sure what the answer might be, but still got me ponder this more now without a doubt.

  5. Wow, I really enjoyed reading you work through this. I can relate even though perhaps I am in a slightly different stage of life. I think, on some level, we keep going through this to different degrees. The best part for me when I struggle is asking Jesus: "Who do you say I am? Because that's who I want to be and know that I am." He always answers me somehow…through a note a friend sends me, a sweet encouragement, and unexpected blessing or reflection. I find it helps me shake off the negative labels people have given me…or even the ones that no longer fit (even if they are positive). It's great for us all to self-reflect like this. Blessings to you! Thanks for going deep with us.

  6. I love this so so much, Tracie! So insightful... vulnerable, profound. It takes a lot of strength and incredible intention to strip some of the definitive layers off of us... that no longer apply. This is such a powerful piece. Thank you for sharing this precious thought process with us all...

  7. I love this! The manner you wrote it in is grabbing! I was sucked in with the first few sentences. I love the humor and the truth. We do define ourselves, don't we? Very powerful and insightful, I'll be thinking on this for a few days (at least).

  8. I think change in how we define ourselves is inevitable as we grow older, I certainly am not the same girl I was in high school (thank God), or the same mom I was when I had that first baby at 21. I do what I can to enjoy and embrace the redefining moments.

  9. Oh tracie!!!! I totally get this. It's so hard. So hard. I'm not 100% sure what the change is you're fighting. It's only what I can infer about what I know of you and this space. I do know this and for me I had to embrace who the new me was. I always knew what the change was that had to be done. I was the one not accepting it. Take your time. Talk to friends. You'll find your time and your way. Then suddenly you will wonder why you never did it earlier. Sometimes we just need our time. But I do know this. It's ok to be whoever you want to be and its ok if that changes and grows over time. You don't have to stay stuck! XOXXOXO

  10. Even when it's simply capri pants, or more what the change symbolizes, I have been there. I have been the one to go against the definition and I've been the one to feel a bit left behind when someone else did.
    I used to think about what defines me a lot more than I do now. Now it's all murky but I kinda love it.

  11. So you have my brain swirling this morning. :) Good swirls. I'm a work in progress, so I feel like I'm always evolving, old definitions no longer fit, but some do.

    And once upon a time I was anti-capri, I'm short as you know. :) I would be a liar if I didn't admit to owning a pair.

  12. I think of change as being associated with our age .oh I wouldn't give into the capris pants either.

  13. I feel like I can look back over my life and see all the changes, little and big. The definitions are a bit harder for me, I never felt like I fit in to any particular slot, and so I see myself more as the one always trying to find her definition.
    Maybe that's still me, but I think not. The changes of these last few years have helped me to define who I want to be.

    I agree with others, you definitely have my mind in circles today, in the very best of ways. I almost want to write a post expanding on this idea...

    As for the capris, I happen to be a fan because I don't like my thighs, and so shorts aren't my thing. But I'm more about maxi skirts than capris :)

  14. I should get my sons to watch the Wonder Years - I loved that show.
    I used to let other people define me pretty much over and over again! I guess, learning not to give a rat's ass about it came in my 30s!!

  15. This really resonated with me, Tracie. I've been going through many changes, mostly shifts in my attitude and perceptions. Little shifts, most of them, like your capri pants decision, but needed shifts. Some of them have been painful, whether merely a twinge or like a sharp sting. But so needed.

    I don't know anyone who hates change more than I do. Like you, I define something about myself and then hold on to it and write about it over and over and over. But doing so makes it true only in a surface way. Who I am isn't really defined by even my own conclusions about who I am, because I don't have all the information I need to be informed enough for my conclusions to be 100 percent accurate. Who I am--who I truly am--emerges in bits and starts and sometimes I barely catch sight of my authenticity. But it's there, and it's held back, its emergence delayed, by my efforts to cling to the safety of the little I've seen of myself.

    The biggest revelation I've had this year is that I am much more broken than I ever suspected, for I've spent a lifetime hiding my brokenness not just from everyone around me, but from myself most of all.

    Wonder Years is one of those shows that nearly always causes me to have some kind of an epiphany about my own childhood. I can only watch it now and again because of this, but I do so love it.