Last year, I spent most of my days in a dark forest, struggling with all kinds of pain. I couldn’t see a way out. I was, metaphorically, physically, mentally and in every way possible, lost.
But recently, something about this forest has changed. It feels lighter somehow, more manageable. The reason? I have worked hard to change my outlook on being lost.
It was through this new enlightened way of thinking that I was able to see the lessons I had learnt – it wasn’t so much about “finding myself” but more about understanding a little bit more about the world, and the people that inhabit it.
1. Self-esteem is more important than most things.
Being lost has taught me that the most important thing you can harbour is a healthy sense of self. It is not what you eat, what you wear, how much money you have, how much exercise you do, how talented you are – these are nothing without high self-esteem.
But the most difficult thing about learning this when you’re lost is that a sense of efficacy and respect for yourself is not an emotion – it doesn’t fluctuate from moment to moment, it is a continuing disposition. It cannot come from anyone else and it is something that is built over a long period of time.
Unlike your smart phone, it doesn’t come quickly; you have to work really hard over months, years and centuries to love yourself. At least I’ve made a start…
2. Creativity over Conformity
Guess what! You don’t actually have to be like everyone else – you don’t have to be in a 9-5 job (or let’s face it, actually 8-6 or for the poor teachers out there, 7-7) you can go crazy and go freelance! Or you can be an entrepreneur and start your own business, or you could move to another country and get a job as a yoga teacher. You could be an artist, a writer, a gymnast. You CAN do anything you want to.
Being an outsider provides the time and space to experiment, to do things you always wanted to – to re-connect with those things you used to be passionate about at University or when you were 6 years old.
For most of my life, I never realised how much CHOICE I actually had because money and other social norms kept weighing me down.
But when you’re lost, you start to think imaginatively about how you can live your life. Let yourself be lost and aimless and directionless. You’ll find your way and then you’ll lose it again. Such is this strange, beautiful, and terrifying life.
3. A Sense of Gratitude
When we struggle and feel lost, we ruminate on that suffering, and find little specks of light shining deep inside.
Have you ever just thought, “wow it’s amazing that I can see, that I can marvel at so many beautiful sights in the world and hold these in my memories forever.” I have started to feel thankful for these simple delights every single day.
“Noticing that light only serves to enlarge it, and we cultivate gratitude, love and compassion from it. All of which would be impossible to do without the discomfort that suffering brings.”
(MAZWI TYSON ZONDI)
All you have to do is to be perceptive enough to look beneath the surface.
4. The internet is a little bit evil, so just ignore it.
There was a time when I read everything on the internet as THE TRUTH. I obsessed over how I could sleep better by eating prawns and running excessively, because that’s what the internet told me. Then I believed I would definitely get a stroke because I was to anxious – the internet told me, so of course it was true.
The other evil, evil side of the internet is that it exposes us to all these people who seem to be very glamorous and happy all the time.
Don’t invest any part of yourself in this – it doesn’t resemble reality in any way. If you really want to connect with the truth, go out and talk to people.
Find reality for yourself.
5. On good terms with failure
To reach deep inside yourself, to fight with everything you have and to expose yourself, to leave everything out there on the battlefield – failure is some scary shit. On top of that, society doesn’t reward defeat, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books.
Being lost for a year put me on constant contact with failure. So much so that, well I’m not sure I really fear it anymore, at least not as much as I used to.
They say that the sweetest victory is the one that’s most difficult. True, but even if you fail every single time and there is no such apparent victory – at least you bloody tried.
6. Sometimes there isn’t an answer
When you feel lost and trapped in that dark forest, the first logical thing to do is to ask why? Why has this happened to me? If I know the answer, then surely I can find the solution.
I desperately tried to ask why and I came up with all sorts of answers. But forcing an answer only served to disturb any inner peace that I did have.
Here’s what they don’t tell you – most of the time, there isn’t an answer.
Sometimes, you have to just let things be. You have to just sit with it. That was the hardest lesson I learnt.
I will end by saying that what I relay here is just my story. Whilst you may be able to relate to some of the things I’ve said – it’s only my truth, not yours.
My experience has been truly and wonderfully abstract, messy and directionless. But it is exactly this abnormal state that has made me a slightly wiser and I hope, better human-being. In fact, I may just stay lost for a little while longer.