Some reflections on what it means to be yourself in a noisy world. This is a 6-minute read.
Who am I, really? And when did I start feeling so disconnected from my core?
I ask myself these questions so much right now. Whoever thought becoming yourself is a linear journey or one that happens as soon as you become “grown-up” was sadly mistaken. At certain points, we may think we know where we’re going, but I find it is so easy to get caught up in the blur of daily life that we forget. We forget why we started, or where we wanted to go to begin with. And so, we have to stop, look up to check our surroundings, and reorient ourselves before we start walking again.
One of my favourite analogies for life is the act of flying a plane: the pilots will intentionally set their course a few degrees off of where they want to go in order to get to their proper destination, as they know the winds will pull them in one direction or another as they fly. Throughout the flight, they have to continue to course correct. You can’t just set yourself on a straight line and go – you have to keep checking in to make sure you’re still headed in the right direction.
Today, I’m in a space of checking in. I’m sitting on my couch, cozy beneath a blanket, reconnecting with who I am and where I’m going. Eh, I’m not sure if I have anything too profound to share with you at the moment, but I do know I love writing and that writing helps me figure things out. It’s always been that way, for as long as I can remember.
All my life I’ve been a writer. I wrote my first story before I could write – my mother had to transcribe the words onto paper and then I drew illustrations to go with the words in my very first attempt at a picture book. It was the story of a volcano and a daisy, and how, despite their differences, the two became friends. Quite profound for a four-year-old, but I didn’t think of it that way. I just told the story that wanted to be told. And I’ve always loved telling stories, living in imaginary worlds. Books are one of my very favourite things about life. There is nothing more healing for me than to lose myself in a storm of characters and words, either of my own imagination or someone else’s. Nothing like it.
I’ve tried many things in life yet writing has always been there, that one constant element that remained through the highs and lows of growing up. The phases in my life where I stopped writing were inevitably the phases where I felt most disconnected from myself. I just wouldn’t realize it until I finally sat down and actually started writing again.
One such phase occurred when I moved out on my own for the first time at eighteen. I picked up my life and moved from the city I’d grown up in, to a new, much larger city to pursue my dreams of attending circus school. It was a dream I’d latched onto after my first big dream crumbled, and it was finally happening. I was living my dream.
I think it’s disorienting to move out on your own in ways you don’t fully anticipate until you get there. I’d lived a fairly sheltered life, largely because of my own decisions, and once I left my parents’ home, it was like the whole world opened up to me. There was so much to experience and explore. In my mind, everything was so much better than it had been in my teenage years, and I saw my life through a shade of rose-tinted glasses, completely infatuated with my surroundings and disconnected from what I was truly feeling a lot of the time.
I got swept up in the new and disregarded the old: the pillars that kept me anchored to who I am at my core. Like writing.
I didn’t write a single thing for the first six months after I moved. Aside from a few journal entries and school assignments, there was nothing. I took no time to sit with myself and reflect on my experiences or the thoughts and emotions I was encountering. You know you’re disconnected from yourself when you go home for autumn break and feel awkward speaking with your parents whom you’ve been close with all your life. Still, I thought nothing was wrong. It took me a few more months before I began to come back to myself and even then, the journey was slow. Drawn out.
Eventually, the rosiness wears off. Reality sets in. That January, I started writing again, and that was when I began to rediscover my sense of grounding. It was like a long exhale after you’ve been holding your breath. After I began to write again, my new dream life began to fall apart as the first dream had. Much of it had been an illusion. What remained? Writing. My words were the anchor that got me through one of the most difficult + uncertain times of my life.
I’ve always had an affinity for many things, many skills and avenues of creation. While this is a gift, it can also be quite confusing at times. In school, I was that weird kid who excelled at both English and math and liked them both. As a result, people – teachers and peers alike – have never quite known what to do with me. I don’t fit in a box, and I don’t do well when I try to. I’m not so good at being told what to do.
Still, all my life I’ve been seeking this sense of belonging. When you have an affinity for many things, people will see potential in you and try to encourage you down different paths. I’ve often listened to what others have to say without first checking in to see if it resonated with my values, or if it was aligned with how I wanted to spend my time. That’s a big one: I spent many hours obsessed with dreams that weren’t really mine to begin with. I know they weren’t my dreams because I didn’t enjoy the process of getting there. I saw someone else living their life and finding joy in a certain way of being, so I decided if I wanted to be happy, all I had to do was follow in their footsteps.
Like putting on a cloak that’s a little too small but you think is quite stylish, I crammed myself into others’ dreams and ways of doing things for a long time. Not so comfortable. Not so much room to breathe.
In a sense, when I would take on these ideas and pursue paths others set before me, all I was seeking was belonging. I figured, if I could fit into someone else’s idea of who I was supposed to be, then I would finally be accepted. I would finally feel like I belonged.
I can tell you now, it didn’t work. I still find myself trying this tactic to this day, it just doesn’t last as long because I’m more aware of myself and what I’m doing. It’s hard to listen to what is really true for you when you’re trying to fit in and appease those around you. The irony is that once we start being ourselves, we attract the people who love us for who we truly are as opposed to the ideal we choose to let others see.
What stories are you projecting outwards in the hopes that you’ll find your tribe? What have you done in the hopes that you’ll receive the recognition and acceptance you desire?
When we find ourselves constantly looking for answers outside ourselves, it is often because we don’t trust that we’ll be able to make the best decision to lead us down the path we want to go down. We don’t trust our inner guidance system because we’ve spent so long listening to what everyone else has to say. You’re really the only one who has the answers about what you want and what is right for you – no one can know you better than you know yourself. They can act as mirrors that reflect your thoughts and feels back to you with more clarity + objectivity, but ultimately you are the one who has to live with your decisions.
You are with you, all your life. You’re the one person you can’t get away from. So I’m curious: what is your relationship like? How well do you listen and how often do you ignore what your deeper self has to say?
A couple of months ago, I was listening to a podcast with the wonderful Brené Brown, and her words on belonging really stuck with me. She said she was surprised to learn that the opposite of belonging is not loneliness or isolation, the opposite of belonging is fitting in. All we’re seeking is belonging and yet, so often our attempts to get ourselves closer simply alienate us from the feeling we so deeply desire.
True belonging requires vulnerability – the vulnerability of allowing your true self to shine through the cracks, even the chaotic bits and the stories you’d rather no one knew. It doesn’t always make sense, and it’s messy, but it’s meant to be that way.
Since the summer, I find I’ve been seeking belonging in places I didn’t before. And while it has felt closer to something I can say is real and true, I’m sitting at this point because there are parts of myself I’ve been denying. Truths I’ve been wrestling with beneath the surface. Answers I’ve been looking for someone else to tell me so that I would have some reassurance I am walking in the right direction.
It was easy for me to fall into another version of myself that served what I thought others wanted to read or hear, but again I find myself asking, is this truly me? Is this how I would like to spend my time? Why am I doing this? Is this the avenue I’d like to go down? I’m just exploring. I know I may not find the answers right away, and that’s okay.
This is what it means to course-correct, I think. Taking moments to pause, look up and check in with where you’re going. How it feels. Where there is tension and where there is ease. It’s not about what is right or wrong, not about beating yourself up for decisions you’ve made in the past. It’s just about listening. Listening, so that you may continue forward with more alignment and ease.
Simple as that.
If you’re looking for more grounding words and mantras to accompany you on your path, you may enjoy my first full-length collection, Kitchen Table Talks: Simple Reminders + Thoughts on Life. You can find out more about the book here.