• Claudia DiMartino

VICTORY OVER IDENTITY THEFT


Identity theft is rampant.

The internet has opened the world to us. It has also opened the door to the greater risk of having our identity stolen by hackers.

Many people have gone through the pain of having their identity stolen and have had to fight, oftentimes through great expense, to get it back.

Identity theft has become so problematic there are companies with services designed to protect people from having their identity stolen.

Identity theft is very real. Identity theft is very personal. Identity theft robs us of more than our finances. It robs us of ourselves.

IDENTITY THEFT IS PERSONAL

Hackers can steal our identity. Our identity can also be stolen by life.

When we are children, we start discovering who we are. As children, we are free to play and explore the endless possibilities.

We begin to discover our strengths and weaknesses. We learn what we enjoy doing and what we don’t. We start to identify who we are and, hopefully, make life choices that encourage and support what we are called to be.

As a child, I loved watching TV and going to the movies. I imagined myself on the big screen. I would make up my own stories and act them out. I would even drag my cousins into my pretend world.

I was the kid who didn’t quite fit the mold and I often moved to the beat of a different drummer.

As I grew up, I learned that acting was not a responsible career choice. Instead, I ventured into the business world and became a marketing executive in the beauty industry.

I was good at marketing; but I always had that nagging pull to express myself creatively. I took ceramics classes. I immersed myself in Ballroom and Latin dancing. I took acting classes at the community theater. Movies, TV and the theater were my escape and my joy.

Instead of recognizing who I was as a person, I listened to the voices in my life that caused me to lose my identity.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a quick wit and have been able to get people to laugh. My own laugh is rather infectious.

Then, one day, I allowed someone to steal my laughter.

I was in my office and my boss came in. He closed the door. I thought, “This can’t be good.” He said, “We need to talk”. He then proceeded to tell me that I laugh too much. WHAT?

He said it again, “You laugh too much. It’s unprofessional.”

I was so stunned. Part of me died in that moment. My laughter turned to sadness.

A few months later, my boss came back into my office and closed the door. He said, “We need to talk.” I thought:

He said, “You don’t laugh anymore.” “EXCUSE ME? You said I laugh too much. It’s unprofessional.” He said, “people are noticing.”

UNBELIEVABLE! He wanted me to laugh again. But the damage had already been done. I allowed my identity to be stolen and it would be a long road back.

I didn’t realize how long that road would be until I was rehearsing this scene for my show, It’s Only Lipstick. I couldn’t get through it. I broke down and cried.

WHO AM I?

I spent years trying to be what others wanted me to be and it cost me dearly.

But nothing could have prepared me for the battle ahead to discover the answer to the question Who Am I?

On January 30, 2010, I was in a serious car accident. I was driving on the freeway, when I saw that there was a sea of red lights ahead of me. I was able to stop in time.

I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the car behind me ready to barrel into my car. I screamed, “JESUS HELP ME!” In a split second, I checked the carpool lane next to me; and I saw that the lane was free of traffic. I turned my wheel to move over. CRASH!

I was rear-ended at high speed. Because I turned my wheel, I was propelled into the carpool lane instead of being crushed between the car in front of me and the one that hit me from behind.

I managed to dial 911. When the police came, I managed to get out of the car and tell them what happened.

It wasn’t until later that I started to feel the physical pain from the accident. I was also very foggy and couldn’t think straight. It wasn’t until 2 ½ years later that it was diagnosed that I suffered a concussion.

The fallout was dramatic. I lost my ability to memorize. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t put two and two together. I had difficulty walking because of nerve damage. I was a shadow of the sharp, have it all together business woman I knew. My cognitive skills were seriously affected.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. My identity was stolen.

I was so broken and depressed. I kept crying out to God and asking “WHY?”

As an actress, losing my ability to memorize and read was catastrophic. I always said, “If you don’t want me to remember something, don’t tell me.”

During the darkest days, something happened. I started to write poetry. I entitled one poem, I Need to Mourn. This poem came from a very deep place. The loss of two dear friends – one died at 47 from an undiagnosed heart problem. The other at 53 succumbed to cancer. My mother passed away and one month later, I was in the car accident. I believe this poem captured what I was feeling. Here is the last section of that poem.

And, I need to mourn the loss of myself

Changed in a moment by one careless behind the wheel

Grateful to be alive. Yet struggling to understand what’s real

I’m not the person I remember

I need to embrace the differences in me

Differences that make me feel tender

To circumstances and the challenges of life

I cry out and ask why. I’m told I’m not supposed to

But do I doubt my faith and You if I do

I know my loved ones are in a better place

And I know Your love sustains me

Yet, I feel torn

And then I realize, I just need to mourn

I KNOW WHO I AM

Out of that car accident came a blessing.

I have battled back; and key cognitive skills have been restored. My mind is once again a steel trap. I’m beyond grateful.

Most importantly, I have embraced the new me. I have come to a place where I can stop and smell the roses. I look at life with more ease than I did before. I accept me for me. I have found my identity; and I have found my laugh again. For me, laughter is all about

I am grateful to be alive; and I’m pursuing my lifelong dream of acting with childlike freedom. I’m enjoying the daily gift of discovering things I’ve never seen before.

I know who I am and am overjoyed that I’ve been able to fully embrace…it’s never too late to go after your dreams.

Claudia DiMartino

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