1: having or marked by great physical power
2: having moral or intellectual power
What makes you feel strong? J played soccer Sunday afternoon. He scored a goal for the first time in years and came home glowing with post-goal and post-game bliss. J enjoys soccer for many reasons, but he freely admits that part of the joy comes from its link to his past. He likes pushing his body today to do what he routinely did 20 years ago. He likes to see that he "still has it." And while he didn't say it, I think it makes him feel strong to be out there on the field, seeing plays develop and positioning himself to block an opponent or aid an offensive gambit.
As J relived his soccer game by telling me all about it, it occurred to me that, in stark contrast to J, links to my past do not make me feel strong. I was not (and am not) an athlete. There's nothing that I used to be able to do and long for in a slightly wistful way. There are certainly some skills that I've lost or have atrophied over time. I used to be able to talk with high level business executives in an intelligent, insightful way. I think I've probably lost that in seven years away from the for-profit world. But it's not something I regret losing since I made the choice to leave that part of my life behind.
In fact, when I feel strongest is when I think about all of the things I can do now that I never would have attempted years ago. Even though I'm not an athlete, I enjoy running. I wouldn't have imagined being able to say that ten years ago and I feel strong when I run. I feel strong when J and I have a disagreement and I manage to actually talk it through with him instead of shutting down to avoid conflict. I feel strong when I write something from my heart and hit the "publish post" button.
Maybe I don't miss who I used to be because I wasn't very accomplished to begin with. But I think it would be more honest to say that my previous accomplishments just didn't mean as much to me because they didn't come from the real me. I am proud that I've spent the last few years peeling off the layers of desensitized, artificial me in order to reveal who I am today. Because those other layers made me feel weak, but in my own skin, I'm strong.