You won’t find yourself where you lost yourself – and this is so often the trap we fall into.
Our lost selves are gone, they’re unrecoverable, they are trapped inside of a past we cannot access and separated from us by the infinite complexities of time. And yet we search mercilessly for our lost selves. We are sure they’re simply waiting for us around a corner or in some dusty cupboard we’ve forgotten, so we pursue them like a misplaced set of keys; we want to go back because we know what that once felt like.
We return to the last place we were happy. We turn to the people we once loved. We hold on to the memories of times that we have once had; nostalgia, can we ever recreate what we once were? We search for ourselves in each forgotten corner of the lives we used to lead and we come up empty-handed. We think that souls can be lost and then recovered. We do not know that we’re searching for ghosts.
When we lose ourselves, what we really mean is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our direction, our end goal, our carefully charted course that we once found ourselves barreling down. We’ve lost the drive we used to use to propel us. We’ve lost the vision we once used to light the way ahead. We feel lost when the tools that we used to build our past no longer apply to our future and we mistake those tools for ourselves. We are lost when we feel like nothing will ever be the same again.
But here’s the truth about being lost – we’re only ever as lost as we are in denial. When we don’t want the past to be over and the future looks too daunting to touch, we call it lost. We are too afraid to imagine what might be waiting for us around the next corner, so we think that going back to ‘find’ ourselves is the only course of action. When we’re barreling forwards at a thousand miles an hour but gazing determinately out the rearview mirror, we call it lost. When what’s been is so painfully appealing compared to what is coming up next, we call it lost. Because we’d rather be lost than be found in this new, uncomfortable place. Because change is hard, it’s scary and that is what makes us feel like we don’t know what we should do next. We want to go back to everything that we know, everything that feels so real that for a split second we think we can have it again, just as before. And so we bury our coordinates. We toss away our compasses. And we declare ourselves citizens of no-mans-land.
The truth about being lost is that we choose it when we just aren’t ready to be found yet.
Because getting found happens wherever you are. It’s not the recovery of the person you used to be, it is the abandonment of them. The release of them. The willingness to set fire to what you’ve known and open yourself up to whatever comes next. Everything that you were, while part of the reason you are where you are now, isn’t you. You don’t get found by carrying the past into the present. You get found by deciding to chart your new course. And by acknowledging it’s time to move on. By knowing it’s time to be someone and do something different.
When you’re lost, you find yourself in every step you take towards gaining back control of your life. By stopping the cycle of passivity and replacing it with one of autonomy. You find your new self in each small choice you make, each risk you take, each opportunity that you fail to pass up, even if it ends up being a flop. You learn so much from all decisions you make, however those decisions wind up working out. You find yourself by re-creating yourself into the kind of person who is ready to take on what’s next.
Because the truth is, we can’t ever truly lose ourselves. We are nothing but a collection of stories, a mismatch of memories, an assemblage of pasts, wrapped up into a body and left to associate ourselves with what’s coming. We can never truly lose ourselves because all ‘losing ourselves’ means is that we’re choosing to live a story that ended over the one that is still going on. It’s always moving. Each day, however we are feeling, is a step into who we are becoming. It means that we were gazing in the wrong direction and calling our disorientation lost.
Getting found, by definition, is the simple act of recognising where you are. You don’t need to retrace your steps, send up a smoke signal, or ask for directions to elsewhere. You simply have to recognise that you’re somewhere new now. Somewhere different and challenging and less than ideal, maybe. But there you are. You need to make the best of wherever you are right now. And to find yourself somewhere new, you simply need to start walking. That first step.
You’ll find yourself in wherever you end up.
You’ll find yourself in any place where you go with your whole heart.