Sometimes, I am taken aback by the abruptness and deliberateness with which I can suddenly go from having a firm grasp on what and where my place is in this world, to feeling so utterly and completely lost that I wake up dizzy in the middle of the night, feeling in the dark for a lamp on the windowsill behind me only to realize that this is not home, and that this might never be home. They say that moored boats can never explore, and I try to remind myself that cutting ties is supposed to free me up for bigger and better things, but lately the freedom doesn’t feel as liberating as I had hoped.
Despite the anxiety I’m beginning to feel towards my unanchored lifestyle, and for all my talk of wishing to grow roots in a city to call mine, I’ve begun to adore the way it feels when a stranger takes my hand and asks me for my story. I tell him that I have no idea where I’m going, because it’s the truth, but whether this is taken as frank or cryptic is beyond my control.
Maybe I’m just not as adventurous as I thought I was. Maybe I had this image in my mind of the globe-setter go-getter type of woman I wanted to believe I was, and part of my sudden loss of direction can be attributed to the fact that I am not those things. I feel that I was born with a thirst for adventure close to my heart, but the realities of school, work, and responsibilities have slowly overshadowed all whimsical possibilities of a life spent on the move. Maybe this recent decision to uproot my life as I knew it and move across the country was a feeble attempt to feel that wanderlust again, a halfhearted grab at something I used to effortlessly prioritize. But I can’t help but feel slightly ashamed, because I know that I am not fooling anyone. I am lost; physically and metaphorically, directionally and spiritually, but I am trying my best to remind myself that maybe being lost is okay.
Maybe I will find everything I’ve been looking for while I’m lost.
Because I have been lost before. The first time I was lost, my already teetering relationship with my mother crashed and burned in a fit of hurtful accusations and a relentless refusal to compromise on both of our parts. We are fire signs; intractability is in our blood. Add to that mix a devastatingly contradictory difference in cultural upbringings, and we understood that our relationship had become a land mine. But we picked ourselves up that night with the weary but grateful knowledge that we had finally hit rock bottom, and that the only thing left to do was to let love build us back up.
The next time I was lost, I was in love — so much so that I failed to look up until I began feeling the growing pains of wanting something bigger than what our love could provide. It hurt me to hurt him, but our relationship had become an old favorite sweater — one I knew I had long outgrown but stubbornly continued to wear. I was lost in the sad realization that you can love something with all your heart, but that won’t stop it from becoming a bad fit, nor will it keep you from thriving without it. And it wasn’t until I woke up one morning, neckline too tight and pulse points exposed, that I had finally decided the time had come to let him go.
The last time I was lost, I knew exactly where I was. I knew that I was nowhere near where I needed to be, but I decided to stay lost, because that is where he found me. And I knew he was a dead end the moment we met, but his attention felt so good that I stayed. I think a small part of me believed that we could find our way together, but after a year of allowing myself to be blindly led deeper and deeper into the maze by the worst kind of love you can imagine, I cut my losses and decided it was time to go it alone.
I had been lost for so long that I didn’t even know when I found what I was looking for. But I did find it. I found it in the quiet Sunday mornings when I could lay there with my thoughts, no longer feeling the need to jump out of bed and immediately fill my day with pointless activities and mindless conversations in an attempt to distract myself from being alone. I found it in my little sisters, in their gap toothed smiles and lopsided pigtails; I saw it in their eyes as they anxiously searched for me in the crowd of parents outside the elementary school, and I felt it in the way they would sprint full speed at my legs with a force stronger than should have been possible for such a small person. I found it in my dog, who provides the kind of unconditional love that humans can only dream of being able to harbor for each other, and I found that I was capable of loving him back just as fiercely.
I found parts of myself in so many ways, in so many places, in so many people. And I may not have it all figured out yet, but I have enough to know that I can be lost without feeling like I am.