How to find yourself:
1. Get lost.
This is why I used to move a lot. “It’s important to go somewhere big enough and strange enough that you’ll feel lost,” I wrote in my journal when I took myself, sight unseen, with no promise of a job, up to the Pacific Northwest.
“Things are always just one heartbeat away from flying off the handle,” I continued in my careful, narrow script. “The bicyclist drafting busses is a pebble in the road away from disaster. Babies lying in perfect cribs sometimes just forget to breathe. Tragedy is not the exception; it is the rule.” But seeing the dangers in the world, unfortunately, does not neutralize them.
So: I moved. And once I was there, in a strange city where no one knew me, I practiced letting go of things, relinquishing control. I took the bus, where I was not driving, where I had to sit next to strangers with unknowable intentions. I walked downtown, where men with unkempt beards called to me from where they leaned against the Walgreens. I would put on my jeans and my boots and strap my bag across my body and put in my earbuds and try to go out into this strange world with strange people as though I belonged, as though the laws of my universe couldn’t change at the drop of a pin.
It was exposure therapy, moving like that. Exposure to life.
Did it work?
2. Get found
The second part’s important, too. I spent nearly a year getting lost, being brave, letting myself become anyone and no one in the great big solitary city. And then I moved home, to where my family was, to the town I hadn’t lived in since my first semester after high school, and I think I did it because I was finally ready to be me again. Or to really become that person. Whatever it was, I was tired of being lost.
Here, people knew me, there was nowhere I could go where family wasn’t just a phone call away. Here, there were people to jump my car when the battery died, and offer up their swimming pools when the mercury hit 105 in August. Everyone was where I’d left them. It was against this backdrop that I was finally ready to start exploring what I wanted, what I needed. I couldn’t really find myself anywhere but home.
Does it work?
I’ll always be this person. Sometimes I’ll have to lose myself, a little: a meditation in letting go. But the second part’s important to. Don’t forget to find yourself. Put yourself near people who love you, and tell them who you are, and they’ll help you do the work. They’ll find you too.