Lost Girl is a dedicated SOLO’er mapping her way through her 30s. She’s writing to you anonymously as she asks refreshingly honest questions about life… perhaps a little too honest. This is her series.
Several weeks ago, when Trishna asked me to join the S.O.L.O. community as a regular contributor, I did a small jump for joy at her impeccable timing. I’ve been itching with uncertainty around a lot of big questions in my life and her invitation felt like the confirmation needed to share my journey in the hopes of connecting with others asking similar questions. Plus, I was signed up for a writing workshop called…wait for it… “Writing to Find Yourself.”
Flash forward to a bright, rustic loft in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I sit down next to several women of all walks of life, and anxiously await the start of the workshop. As the small group of us settle into our seats, the facilitator announces our focus for the day:
“For the next few hours, you can set aside your prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that controls reason, logic and problem solving. We are not going to be efficient or productive, we are just going to be curious and explore.”
Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. Um, wait what? I am almost too good at using my prefrontal cortex. Control and logic are my friends! Open ended woo-woo exploration? You might be wondering how I ended up in this workshop at all. Let me explain…
The overwhelming trend these days seems to be “follow your passion” and “do what you love” and other catchy slogans you see plastered around hip co-working spaces. And I get it. I really do. The story of the accountant who secretly loves watercolor painting and finally summons the courage to quit her day job? It’s a great story! Get out there and watercolor your heart out! Everyone deserves to be living their best, most passionate life. But… what if you don’t even know what your passion is? What it is exactly that you love to do? What then? Where are the stories of people who desperately want to do what they love but aren’t sure what that thing is? How does one go about discovering herself? At 33 years old, I’m still struggling to figure myself out. And though it feels as if I’m totally alone in this, watching my peers buy houses, have kids and settle into the relative certainty of their lives, I take solace in knowing that life unfolds at a unique pace for each of us.
I’ve spent most of my adult life doing all the things you’re supposed to do – checking off the proverbial boxes of good job, health insurance, nice apartment, great friends and family – essentially living a life that makes perfect sense on paper. And yet, here we are. I seemed to have missed the boat in your twenties where you date terrible people, make a whole bunch of life mistakes, and emerge in your thirties solid in who you are.
I often (semi-)seriously consider asking everyone I meet, How did you find yourself? Is there a series of steps I can follow? Who do I talk to that might know? Am I over-analyzing and should just be grateful for the life I have (a wonderful life, to be sure)? Does one just gallivant off to Europe for 6 months?
As you can imagine, a workshop called “Writing to Find Yourself” felt wildly applicable. Of course, a single workshop isn’t going to miraculously solve everything. But that’s not really the point. The point of signing up at all and doing exercises that ignore your prefrontal cortex is this: it’s an intentional step towards curiosity and exploration. What usually emerges from there? Growth. Perhaps not all the answers (life is a journey after all) but growth, nonetheless. And that’s never a bad thing.
At the end of the workshop, did I walk out with all the answers? No. But I left reminded of the inherent beauty in remaining open, soft and curious. The Irish poet John O’Donohue says it best:
The Greek root for the word “beauty” is related to the word for “calling.” It means that, in the presence of beauty, it’s not a neutral thing, but it’s actually calling you. One could write a wonderful psychology just based on the notion of being called — being called to be yourself.
I hope one day to live my way into the answers. In the meantime, I’ll share bits and pieces with you along the way. It’s an honor to be a part of the incredible S.O.L.O. community (thank you Trish!) and as I continue my journey – unsure where it will lead, I may never “find” anything – I hope to do so with curiosity lighting the way. And in doing so, inspire you to ask big questions, explore the world around you (whether a foreign country or your own backyard) and remain inquisitive about yourself. Curiosity must be present in order to hear what’s inside your heart. Start there.