On Self-Discovery

Photo by G.S. Matthews

Do you believe that each of us has a unique gift to share with the world? I do. I look at my children now and am aware of the responsibility to introduce them to new experiences and knowledge so they can uncover their passions and begin to understand who they are at their core. 

Recently we’ve been visiting secondary schools and though my children are young, I’m aware our environment shapes us as much as genetics. I’d like to find a school where there is no mould, where a sense of community is balanced with a sense of self.

It took me so long to crystallise who I am, to find the confidence, courage and understanding to know and be kind to myself. It was at university that I began to feel comfortable in my skin. It’s freeing being somewhere new without the pull of culture and old ties. You can peel back the sticky layers of memory and experience and start afresh. 

Photo by Bruno Cordioli

I question now whether I was a late bloomer, but friends have told me sometimes it took until marriage or career changes to really find their way. And that way is constantly changing. Knowing ourselves, discovering who we are, piece by piece, is a lifelong process. We are changed by every interaction, we live through a chain of ourselves and are never stagnant. 

I was always meant to be a writer. I know that now, looking back at the clues from childhood, at how deeply I feel and my need to unravel and analyse the world around me. Though I used this skill when I worked in politics, I resisted embracing writing as a key part of my identity for so long. Now I know: sometimes fear isn’t a warning to protect yourself; sometimes it’s a signal showing you where to go.

If I’m honest, perhaps I am less happy-go-lucky in my thirties than I was in my twenties. It’s hard to say why. Sometimes it’s like writing is an addiction. If I’ve not written good pages I get cross at myself for wasting time. I love the creative process, but I find the public evaluation of that work harder. My shell is too soft and I’m already buried deep my next project.  

Photo by Hartwig HKD

Does time and responsibility take its toll on all of us? Do creative jobs open the door to vulnerabilities because we dwell on the troubles of the world and then turn inwards to process them? Or is there no correlation, rather creatives have existing tendencies to openness and empathy which is why we are drawn to creativity in the first place? 

As I grow older, I’m less willing to twist myself into different shapes to make others comfortable. I’m less willing to bite my tongue or smile if I find something offensive. Is that courage or am I becoming less tolerant? As the shades of our personality become clearer, people fall away. There is pain in that cut. 

Not everyone can honour who we are and some may try and pull us into different wormholes to convince you that their way has more meaning. We can be a million things to a million people, but when you lay your head on your pillow at night, it’s only your contentment and self-respect that matters. We aren’t responsible for other people’s reactions to us. We can each carve out our own piece of the moon; we don’t have to fit the mould or approved narrative.

I’m still figuring it all out, like a jigsaw in my head that will never be tidy. And that is the beautiful, messy wonder of living. 

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