In 1960, P.D. Eastman wrote a children’s book entitled Are You My Mother? The narrative tells the story of a young bird that is left in the nest alone because his mother goes to find him food. The bird is unhatched before the mother leaves but as soon as she flies away he breaks the shell. As a result of being alone the bird purposes to go find his mother. He falls out of the tree because he cannot fly but learns to walk on ground. He comes across a cat and he asks, “Are you my mother?” The cat wasn’t his mother so he keeps walking and runs into a hen. The little bird asks, “Are you my mother?” but the hen says no so he keeps walking. He then comes across and dog and cow and discovers that neither are his mother. A little discouraged, but still intent on finding his mother the bird keeps walking. He sees an old car and thinks that it’s his mother but he reasons that surely his mother doesn’t look like that! He then sees a boat in the water and yells out to it because he thinks that’s the way his mother moves. However, the boat doesn’t respond so the bird keeps going. He sees a plane and surely, he thinks, this is his mother. The plane flies in the sky but it doesn’t respond to the little bird. He keeps walking and sees a big machine called a snork and says you are my mother, but the noise that the machine makes doesn’t correlate with what the way the bird thinks his mother should sound. He says no you aren’t my mother but before he could get off the machine it starts moving. Eventually the machine drops the bird back off in his nest right in time for his mother to return. The mother asks the bird, “Do you know who I am?” and the bird responds ‘Yes, you are my mother.”
This children’s story resonates with me on so many levels. I was once like the little bird searching for my identity in the people I came across in my life. I once searched for my identity in the things I accomplished only to be left empty. Like the little bird in the story, I entered into certain relationships searching. While the bird was open about his quest, I didn’t know that it was identity that I was in search of. I thought I wanted love, respect, and patience but I was looking for my identity.
What’s funny is that the people who I once entertained at various stages of my life knew that they couldn’t provide me with the things I was looking for. They would often say, “Bri, you deserve better!” or “Bri, you don’t look like you would date someone like me.” In my brokenness, in my blindness I would plead with them to understand that they could give me what I was looking for. I wanted them to understand that I wasn’t stuck up or bougie and I went for the common person. I didn’t know when I begged certain people to stay in my life, in spite of their ability to see that they could not fulfill my needs, was me letting myself down. I was silently giving up on myself because I didn’t think that I deserved better. I didn’t know who I was.
Can you lead me to my identity? I would secretly question when I met men. Can I find my purpose and my worth in our relationship? Can you lead me to someone who knows who I am?
A lack of understanding about my identity put me in some very tough situations. Ones that I never wanted to be in, and others that I struggled to leave. When we start to settle. When we start to forfeit the destiny and the awareness that God places inside of us, it becomes increasingly difficult to see the best version of ourselves.
Like the little bird, I moved from people to objects and things looking for my identity. In the children’s story the little bird started talking to the car, boat, plane and machine. I, on the other hand started talking to education. I threw myself at the books, the degrees, the publications because I thought those would give me my identity. If I can be honest, I went into a doctoral program because I was searching. Maybe the high-level theories could help me understand who I was. Maybe if I achieved more than I would feel fulfilled. Maybe if I worked hard then I would discover who I was. Are you my identity?
Thankfully, like the bird, I landed back into the place where I could find what I was searching for. It was only through God that I found my identity. I didn’t plan to discover it in him but I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I exhausted all of my options long ago. The relationships didn’t seem right. The talks didn’t fit. The accolades didn’t fill the void. Nothing.
However, when I found the reason that I was created, when I heard the familiar voice that only my spirit recognized I knew that I found it. I didn’t ask “Are you the reason I was created?” I didn’t have to investigate the matter. I just knew with every fiber of my being that I had finally arrived just as the little bird recognized the voice of his mother.
While the journey wasn’t easy and it required hard work, it was worth it. I know who I am now. I love myself more than I ever did. I no longer put the value others placed on me over what I know to be true.
I’ve found my mother. My destiny. My purpose. My identity.
I found me. Not the me who I pretended to be but the me who I was destined to become.