Accidentally Joining the Search Party
On getting lost and staying there.
Lately, I have been feeling lost.
Over this last year, but really, in the short span of the two months comprising this new year alone, I have watched as those closest to me have slowly but surely begun to grasp the malleable material of their lives, and contort it into new shapes. I have watched, in awe, as faithful leaps have resulted in solid landings. They are still standing on both two feet, and they will now be all the better for it. What I feel when I witness loved ones abandoning convention to chase their own happiness is nothing short of a full body high, but once the dust settles, I realize that though they’ve landed on new ground, I am still standing firmly rooted in the same place.
And I don’t know that I want to be. But then again, I don’t know what I want.
My friend Niki recently co-hosted a virtual talk on authenticity, and in it, we spoke endlessly about jealousy, about the origins of this emotion we all collectively experience, and yet shame ourselves into believing is an isolated experience. Jealousy is protected like a secret. Someone expressed feeling frustration at the jealousy they specifically experience towards friends and loved ones, people that they adore and want to support unconditionally. In response I said, “If you pay attention to who or what you’re jealous of, you’ll notice that it’s always the qualities and actions you think you’re capable of yourself, that you innately know you’re capable of yourself.” It’s only in eradicating the “I could but…” or “I could if…” of our thinking (in short, the excuses) that allows us to transform these feelings into something good for ourselves, something resembling growth and progress.
The funny thing about advice is that it’s always easier to share it than to practice it firsthand. Ain’t that a bitch?
After all, life is merely made up of one decision after another, each with the ability to alter the course of our reality as it is known to us, each projecting us further into a future we cannot see and yet are constantly carving out for ourselves. We can do… anything. Literally… anything. This has always been true, and yet, it has only recently come to me as a realization that I am able to process. I can do… anything.
Maybe this is complete and total freedom, but what is freedom without purpose?
For the first time in my life, I have found myself completely unattached. I am estranged from both parents, renting, single, without dependents, and working remotely. Perhaps my friends, my chosen family, could act as my compass, if they too were not spread out across the country, around the world, in addition to being digitally connected in a manner that allows me to forget just how much time has passed since we last felt each other’s presence in person. My decisions are no longer tethered to any one person, to any one thing, or to any one place, except myself. I am my own guide but somewhere along the way, I misplaced the map entirely.
Here is a difficult truth: I have always lived for others — for my parents, my partners, my friends, and perhaps, even, for my so-called enemies. The most significant decisions comprising my existence thus far have not been entirely (or at least singularly) my own.
I studied Public Relations in college and pursued a career in Marketing because my mother stressed the importance of a practical path, more practical than art history, fine arts, or writing — the avenues that captured and still possess my imagination just as one infamous apple once did in the Garden of Eden. I moved to Chicago because of a boyfriend, and to Oakland for very much the same reason. I have, on more than one occasion, sacrificed my own well-being in order to prioritize that of my friends, a protective instinct that, in its most intense example, resulted in both of us being assaulted by their abuser and sitting idly in a courtroom while a restraining order was filed. And I have even dabbled on occasion in the realm of self-improvement for the sake of spiting those who have wronged me which, as it turns out, is not self-improvement at all, but just another way to frame revenge, a way that meanders through the scenic route but delivers you to the same destination as any ill-intention, which is to say, nowhere.
I have known all of these people so intimately, could recite their dreams as though they were my own, but when it comes to my own desires and motivations, my mind begins to drain out slowly, as though from a cup with the slightest crack in its bottom. You might not even realize it’s broken until you begin to fill it, the liquid draining out slowly, slowly, until… finally… empty.
Last month, I read the book Midnight Library by Matt Haig. In it, Nora Seed finds herself encompassing an in-between space ( not precisely life, but not yet death either) which affords her the ability to select any regret from her life that she would like to correct, and live out the fully realized outcome of that decision firsthand. The only caveat is that the moment she begins to feel disappointment with the result, she will be returned to the midnight library where she must do it all over again. After wearing out many lives, most of which were regrets she held because of others’ expectations of her, she finally chooses a life that she wants to live for herself.
“It is quite a revelation to discover that the place you wanted to escape to is the exact same place you escaped from. That the prison wasn’t the place, but the perspective.”
Books always seem to find us when we need their lessons most, and it was no coincidence that at the same time that this reading took place, I was also participating in an abundance meditation practice facilitated by Warde, a digital community space created by Rachel Nguyen. Had I not been actively expressing and practicing gratitude on a daily basis, and observing and appreciating the ways in which abundance has already manifested for me, I don’t know that this book would have impacted me quite the same, but for the way it did, I am so grateful.
Society frames this notion of being lost as a negative, but in it, I am now choosing to bask in its expansiveness. It is a sign that I am outgrowing my own being. The limbs of my mind and spirit are stretching themselves out, and in it, I am creating even more space for myself to become. And who or what exactly I will become is still to be known to me, and that is where the excitement lives.
I have also been thinking a lot about this tweet from Jenny Slate. It has been coming to me in random brilliant bursts of clarity, a sort of manifestation that becomes more beautiful as it begins to feel more true for me personally.
I’m aware that I’ve begun to outgrow my own self-hatred, even while simultaneously grappling with a sense of devotion and loyalty to it. “I almost feel attached to my anxiety and fear,” I said during a recent conversation with a close friend. “Even as part of me wants to let it all go.” This is the reality for many survivors of trauma and abuse. We build a home inside of the pain in order to survive it, so much so that we mistaken our own numbness for healing.
That’s where this newsletter comes in — as a practice in letting go, and as a pathway towards healing. By the time I was five years old, I had not only been born into and experienced Civil War, but fled my native homeland and sought asylum here in the States. Much of my life has followed this same trajectory. I am painfully aware of what I have survived, but have spent so little time celebrating it, celebrating the blessing that it is to live, again and again, for as long as we’re allotted. Through it all, both the darkness and the light, I am somehow still here, and all in all, I am still good.
If you are joining me here, I thank you with the utmost gratitude, and hope that this can be a space where you too feel safe, seen, and heard.
Finally, I would like to end each newsletter with ten things that made me feel good that month, be it a book, a song, a moment, or a memory. In ending this first newsletter, here they are:
The arrival of Pisces season.
Driving down the California coast for miles and miles.
Collecting seashells at Sunset Beach.
Care packages and love letters and snail mail.
This image of alpacas kissing.
The documentary Fantastic Fungi.
Daily yoga practice, and this compassion practice, specifically.
My playlist Manifesting a Reality of Pure Consciousness.