How to Find Your Place in the World

Photo by Moyan Brenn

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve lost my place in the world. It happens rarely, this feeling of being in limbo, but when it does, it is a reassessment of who I am and what I have achieved, and often I’m not kind to myself. The best approach is always to give myself some breathing space, to write out my thoughts, and eventually to refocus.

This is what I journaled in the most recent bout:

I am nothing.
I am hopelessness and hate
below a veneer of humanity
I am sweat-slickened exertion
striving in quicksand
while others soar
I am red earth and bone shavings
interspersed with dark roots,
the shreds of my soul forever disparate
There is no glue that
can knit my pieces together
so I shrink into myself,
a collapsing eco-system,
my losses outweighing my gains
as if life were a great unequal set of scales
At night I writhe with
the serpent of my dreams,
my body an immoveable stone
on a river bed
destined for erosion.

Photo by Randy Robertson

Who knows what brings me to this place. Are these thoughts driven by social anxiety, waves of self-doubt, or something more wholesome, like wanting to be our best selves? Perhaps, it is a perceived lack of movement, or a lull just before a breakthrough. Sometimes, we’re buffeted by events around us and their residue seeps into our personal realms. At other times it’s the realisation we have become divorced from ourselves, have acted out of expectation or ease, rather than made conscious personal choices.

I don’t think it’s unhealthy, this reckoning. Far from it. I think it’s necessary. There are less signposts in adulthood. As children, we leapfrog over milestones laid out for us. As adults, we are our own rudder. How lucky to be in a position to shape our futures, and what a shame it would be to squander the cards we are given. A reassessment of where we are going is critical from time to time.

I am not scared of the darkness in me. It’s ok to flounder. Vulnerability to me, is strength. It leads to authenticity. But I’ve come to realise that there is no single place where we belong. I’m a mix of contradictions, but then, aren’t we all? I am honest from the crown of my head to the tips of my toes, yet I invent truths for a living. I crave both human connection and time alone, sometimes at the same time. I can be both empathetic and judgemental. I am naturally buoyant, but feel deeply. I embrace freedom in how I live, but sometimes like relinquishing the responsibility of choice. How can there be one place where we belong, when we are so complex, when our offer is so large?

Photo by Trey Ratcliff

What is more, there is no imaginary seat with our name stencilled above it. We carve out the places we belong, and sometimes, those places change. We reinvent ourselves, we evolve. Either way, the places we inhabit are never handed to us. We come to those places guided by talent, but mostly by persistence and effort. We pay attention and invest in the areas that are important to us.

So dream, dreamers, but also do. Be bold. Don’t be foolish or self-important enough to think you can’t make mistakes. You just need to look at the natural world to know how small each of us is in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you might fall, but who cares? Dust yourself off, readjust. Continue. Little by little, we’ll get to the place that feels like home.

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