• Ginger Pennington

The Picture of Vulnerability

This picture isn’t me. This picture simply displays an aesthetic I created using this 36-year-old body I live in, makeup, hair dye, natural lighting, and a position that minimizes wrinkles. I created this aesthetic because, although I believe that true enlightenment comes with egolessness, I haven’t yet found a way to be comfortable having no identity.

Like many adoptees, artists, ENFPs, Enneagram 4s, Leos, and Jim Carrey, my entire life has been a search for my true identity. The question that drives me daily is “who is my truest self and how can she use her gifts in the way that will reap the most benefits for everyone?” I’ve gone through more looks, jobs, obsessions, hates, friends, locations, and chewed fingernails than the heroines in the last ten books I’ve read. I’m less like a snake shedding its skin than a meticulous collector, sifting and sorting through what suits me, getting rid of what doesn’t. This quality in me is not for the faint of heart; it baffles the type of person who is just content to be “normal.” My truth is so self-evident that it easily weeds out those for whom I am “too much.” For me they are too little.

But it’s easy for a person like me to get lost. I’ve lost myself a lot on the journey to finding myself. Sometimes losing yourself is good--like when you lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it--mom’s spaghetti and all that. But truly losing yourself, to a person like me, is a fate worse than death.

I feel lost now.

Countless tidal waves of grief and loss have knocked me down for the past two years. Every time they recess, I catch my breath and look around to see where I’ve been left. The landscape has changed and I find myself alone and shivering on a rock in a place I don’t recognize. I react, and in my reaction, I don’t recognize me.

One of my favorite versions of myself was a girl who knew damn well who she was. She didn’t know what she didn’t know and she wasn’t searching; she was just barreling through with open arms, accepting what she knew was rightfully hers. She trusted. I smile now at her ignorance, but I’d have her back if she’d come.

It’s often painful to be the me I am now. She breaks like a Faberge egg again and again and super-glues herself back together with the help of friends and family and therapy. She doubts her ability to weather the next tidal wave. She’s exhausted from the search. She’s caught between wanting to know who she really is and being afraid of truly finding out.

And so I paint her like a version of my former self and take a picture. I make a list at the suggestion of a friend and write down what I am--or at least what I was, in hopes of finding it again. I read old journals, listen to music that reminds me I’m alive, cry and talk, and I pray for clarity.


I am a singer/songwriter. I am a coal miner’s daughter. I am a mom. I am an artist. I am a poet, a novelist, a writer. I am a kind, caring human. I am a friend. I am a designer of interiors. I am a badass. I am an actress. I am a funny person. I am a woman. I am a surfer, a yogi, a runner, a hiker. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am intuitive. I am spiritual. I am loving. I am a truth teller. I am afraid, but I am not going to let it stop me from living the most authentic, beautiful life ever.


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