When I was in high school I remember hearing friends say they were on a journey to “find themselves.”
It was the first time I remember hearing the saying and I liked it. Who wouldn’t? We were teenagers trapped in this small town, wondering what our futures held but also trying desperately to make these moments mean something. More often than not, finding themselves meant maybe trying new music or clothes, maybe getting bangs because let’s face it, is there anything more traumatic and life changing than bangs? That is mostly sarcasm.
Fast forward so many years and I see posts all over social media of influencers finding their true selves. I won’t lie, nothing draws me in more than someone who is openly and publicly sharing their journey. So I watch videos and scroll posts and see these transformations and changes and the person usually looking so at peace at having found themselves. So of course I want that feeling too. Let’s face it, it’s been well over 20 years since high school; I should have found myself by now, right?
So how do you know you’ve found yourself? How do I know I haven’t? Why is it that deep down I feel like there are moments when I have “found myself,” but that is quickly swept away by the next wave of life? For instance, when I was in college, living on my own for the first time, I was making my own meals, setting an alarm to wake up and hit the campus gym before classes. I remember a feeling of pride mixed with excitement. It seemed like I had everything in order. I had a social life but was maintaining good grades and in the best shape I had ever been. Then I graduated. I moved from my small college town to a bigger city with my boyfriend, found my first job, bought my first car, and things were moving fast. We were talking marriage and mortgages and even children and my mind felt off. I was watching “Sex and The City” at the time and I remember thinking, this is not at all what life is like. I was off-kilter. I hated the fast-paced life. My world was upside down.
And then we married, moved to a small community, had a dog, and low and behold I found myself pregnant. I was focused on the new life growing in me. I was taking vitamins and listening to my body. I was drinking water and eating well. I was walking and stretching and feeling absolutely beautiful and confident and powerful. My life felt balanced. Sure I knew it would change, but life had become so focused on doing for this baby still growing that I was at peace everywhere else. Then the baby came and toddler years and another child to the family and life was off-kilter again. That feeling of perfect balance gone after a fleeting nine months.
So what does that mean? My children are now 16 and 12, and for the life of me I cannot pinpoint another moment when I felt at ease, felt comfortable, balanced, and for sure not like I had found myself.
Well, maybe we just don’t find ourselves and that’s that.
In high school I thought it meant: I found myself and now I am goth or punk or whatever I was into. But that certainly didn’t last. That wasn’t finding myself and going forward to speak praise of the goth lifestyle for the rest of my life. No, it was a moment in a lifetime of moments that I identified as goth. There was a hippy moment too. There was the newly wed time. The new mom moment and the moment I am in now, which I think I need to call the “Mom searching for meaning moment.” My kids are grown, I’ve been a stay-at-home parent their entire lives, and now I am looking for my next work phase.
But it doesn’t mean that I haven’t found myself.
It means I know that there are moments in life when you feel so at peace and so balanced that you know for sure you will look back with pride and call it a time of success.
But the counterpart to that is the moments when life is difficult and challenges must be faced and changes must be made. There are moments when you spend most of your day anxious or depressed. Moments when you look back to the balance and wonder what you did to find that peace. And these moments of challenge aren’t meant to break us. They are not the end of us ever feeling balanced again; it’s just us transitioning into the next “found myself” moment.
The transitional moments are the journey, the trying new music, new workouts, eating different, getting married, and yes, new bangs…but they lead you to that balance where you can say “I think I’ve found myself again.”
And hold onto that moment while you can because you never know what life will hand you to evolve you to your next found moment.