When I Used To Be Someone

Whoa! This column got a huge response. I’ve received more email than I have in a long time. Feel free to comment at the bottom. And please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Dayton Daily News.


All I really wanted was a manicure. Really, just about a half-hour to myself, a trim of some nasty hangnails and a couple coats of pretty light pink nail polish. “Bubble Bath,” I read on the bottom of the bottle once I got out my reading glasses.

            What I wasn’t expecting was a punch in the gut.

            “This is Daryn Kagan,” the shop owner said the manicurist doing my nails. “She used to be someone.”

            There you have it. The punch in the gut.

            I remember thinking, “I know where she’s going with this. I used to be a national news anchor on CNN.”  So, in that respect I guess, I did use to be someone, someone who I am not anymore.

            I suspect I’m not alone. I think there are a lot of us out there who used to be someone. Someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, some big job that’s no longer ours.

            Losing my job a few years back—that was not my choice.

            Not continuing to pursue a career where I got paid to talk about doom and gloom every single day—that was a conscious decision. And so, no, I am no longer someone. Well, not the shop owner’s someone, anyway.

            I think people like it when you fit into a single neat box. I rarely miss that, unless it’s a moment when people want to label you easily.

            “And now she is…?” the shop owner continued, eyebrows arched seeming to say, “help me here.” She might as well have said “And now she is dot dot dot.”

            I can connect the dots when somebody cares enough or has the time to really want to know. I’m now somebody’s wife and somebody’s mother. I squeeze in time to be a columnist, run a website and do a TV show called, “Bookmark.”  In other words, dot dot dot.

            It’s hard not to be someone anymore in the manicure shop. It was hard at the new dentist’s office the other day when I got to “Occupation” on the new patient form. What do you write when you’re not someone?

            I knew dentist didn’t care about my dot dot dots.  Certainly didn’t leave enough space for anything more than a single word. He just wanted to know if I had dental insurance. I do not. But I did when I was someone. Does that count?

            I will say this about all my dots—they fill my days and even more importantly, fill my heart.

            A lot of people feel the need to replace their big label with running out and getting another one.  Gotta go be someone.  I suspect I won’t be doing that, though there could be a few more dots in my future. 

            No, it’s not easy to explain who I am these days. But I know I’m happier and my life is more interesting than when I was someone.

            What about you?  Did you used to be someone? I’d love to hear about your dots.




  • Not much to say, except, “dot dot dot.” These words have blessed me in a way that cannot be explained.

  • Richard

    Awesome insights. Be who you are. (from a former “someone” at Georgia Tech)

  • Margaret

    Job=identity? What a sad world that would be. Tell it, sister!

  • Love your raw honesty. This is the third big dose I’ve received today. The universe is speaking. Thank you, Daryn.

  • “So what do you do?” has become my least favorite question and this has become my new favorite quote: “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.” Thank you for writing this–it’s incredibly empowering in its straightforward simplicity.

  • Shannon

    Appreciate your honesty, and know that you are not alone. Change & transition are never easy, but you are stronger for going through it.

  • Hal

    Daryn, I watched your last CNN broadcast with a sense of anger. “How dare they?” I remember you holding up a box of Kleenex (or whatever) to show you where prepared just in case. “What are these idiots thinking?”

    I hindsight, they gave us a great gift. I have been parked at darynkagan.com since you flipped on the switch and graciously allowed us in. I have laughed, cried and been uplifted by the pearls you have shared with us. I am so very happy that things are going well for you because, whether you will admit it or not, you most definitely are someone; more true today than ever before. — Black Jack approves of this message. 😉

  • I understand completely. I just had to resign from my high level administrative job in higher education. It was not my choice and it has pretty much ended my career. Now I am facing 50 and having to figure out what the rest of my life will be. Yes, it is definitely a different world now.

  • Polly

    You are someone to me. I haven’t known the name of a daytime anchor since you left.
    : ). But I get your point. It’s kind of like having a conversation with a 20 something and all of a sudden it becomes clear they are relating to you as a peer to their Mom not themselves…ouch!

  • I absolutely love this blog. I totally understand. I am now a …. I still get that “used to be ex editor” just before someone introduces me, as if I am not important in my own right as a person. Its so sad that people used the job definition to define you as a person. I never realised it when I was an editor but its blatantly clear now!

  • JSA

    I used to be on the radio network of America’s talk queen, I used to be the executive producer of America’s doctor on radio, I used to be a voice on radio all over the country. I used to be a husband. I haven’t “worked” in the media in over three years forcing me to remind myself of the difference between who “I AM’ and what “I DO”….thank you DAK.

  • Rowcar

    What if you’ve never actually been someone in the first place?

  • whodatcharlotte

    Rowcar, thewanderer’s new favorite quote might provide some food for thought… “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”

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When I Used To Be Someone

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min
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