"Who am I?" - My 8-Month Journey to Find the Answer
So we have this life. As we live through it, there is one human condition we dare not think of, or feel. The condition is that we are, as R. M. Rilke once wrote, "at bottom, and just in the deepest and most important things...unutterably alone". School did not teach aloneness. And no one ever taught us – which is not difficult to understand. How can we learn about aloneness with someone?
Being alone robs us of our persona. No one is around to remind us of who we are. When we are alone, we are no longer a daughter, colleague, lover, achiever, or loser. With aloneness, questions come.
“Who am I, really?”
“Why am I here?”
In August 2014 after a year in Europe, I returned to Vietnam with these questions. It felt so strongly that the time had come: I had to find the answers. I didn’t find a job and gave myself what I needed most: time. I needed lots of time.
“But time to do what?” I wondered. My intuition replied: “Time to not do.”
All my life I had been doing. Tasks, goals, responsibilities. Climbing from one position to the next. Too busy achieving I lost sight of what those achievements were for. Even though I worked for an NGO with a beautiful cause, beneath all the pleasing, performing, perfecting was an unutterable belief: “I am not enough, and never will be.”
I was a beggar, with my empty bowl, begging for love. Bựt no matter how hard I begged and how much love I thought they gave me, my hunger remained.
One alone morning in Bonn, I asked myself: “If I were the only person left in this world, what would I do?”
I was born an artist. I knew the answer ever since I was 5. And the world made me forget it as I grew up. Like in the movie Spirited Away, Yubaba the witch, to enslave Chihiro, casts a spell on her. That spell makes Chihiro forget her own name. At the end of the movie, Chihiro remembers. Because of that, she sets herself free.
For me, it took 19 years. But it’s never too early, or too late, to follow one’s passion. I began to write.
Writing down the wounds was hard - I don’t know if it will ever be easy. You step into the attic of your being, going in dark corners; then you come out and write about it. You pour it all out, and you also put it under the light so the world can see it. Outrageous.
“Telling our stories and loving ourselves in the process is the bravest thing we can do.” (Brene Brown)
I wrote about growing up with the smell of black ink on my grandfather's paint-brush. Every afternoon, he rode me home from school on his squeaky bicycle. I would watch the shadow of his beret hat on the concrete road; in my hands cupping my afternoon treat: a small dumpling.
I wrote about licking milk off my index finger, as my grandmother and I made a new batch of yogurt. I adore her tiny yogurt shop. On its wall, my grandfather wrote a poem.
I wrote about her death. About looking into my father’s eyes on that same evening.
I wrote about my first trip abroad. Kenya summer 2011. The dirt road, the deep blue sky, eager’s screeching. The African woman holding a newborn in her arm, naked breast; I saw her skin and bones. Her eyes haunted me.
I wrote about that bus accident in Kenya. A friend was dead. Blood in twilight, the grain of sand in my dry mouth, the panic attacks. About my recovery and the gratitude of having another chance to enjoy this short precious life.
I wrote about my cross-continent relationship, about Rapha, and the miles we travel for the promise of love.
I wrote a thousand words every day, for 8 months. I counted; I’d written 120,000 words - that is the length of 3 novels. A practice like that must change you!
I began to experience a love unlike any kind of love I ever knew. This love has no drama, no emotional turmoil, no heart contracting, no stomach churning. It is expansive and light, overflowing with a heart energy that is pure and sweet. It puts courage in my heart; it brings smiles to my lips; it makes me dance; it needs no reason. Perhaps this is true love. I am in love with life.
“Who am I, really?”
“Why am I here?”
In those 8 months, I learned that the questions can’t be answered logically. The only way is to drown ourselves in our existence. To taste it. To feel it.
Right now, writing these words, with the taste of cheap coffee in my mouth and the Tycho song in my ears. I am breathing.
I am drowning.
Many of you have asked why new articles did not come out. Even though I still do my writing practice every day, I decided to stop publishing new articles for a while in order to take actions to make my dream come true. Obviously, now you know it is Soulful Garden. I have 3 passions in life: practicing yoga, making art, and helping others. Soulful Garden - Yoga & Art for Body-Mind-Spirit – is my way of combining these 3 passions to create the kind of world I want to live in.
As much as I don’t want to have any boss, I don’t want to boss anyone. Soulful Garden is a one-woman startup project and labor of love. As a part Soulful Garden’s core, one or two articles will come out every week from now on.
I am so happy to be back to share my stories, learnings, and inspirations with you. To fall in love with life, one needs to be crazy. To continue loving, one needs to be brave. What I do now is my bravery.