An Alone Journey to the Heart: How I Got Lost, and Found Myself
In July 2014, I decided to give myself a break. "I will do nothing," I vowed. By that time, I had finished more than 5 years of my work with AIESEC - a wonderful youth NGO. Having thought that helping others would fulfill me, I'd helped many people throughout these years. I did get down to business and fight for something bigger than myself. But there was still something missing - a void that emerges in my moment of solitude. It was time for me to help myself. What I needed most was time - the time to find out what I truly love.
I moved in with Rapha that summer, in a small German city named Bonn. Bonn flashes back in my memory as a small town. The sand in the hourglass must flows slower in Bonn than in any other places I'd been to. There was a church, several market squares. There was the Renee flowing through the side of town like silk scarf. There was an old train station. And the loudest noise was the calm sound of the tramp, especially in the residential area where we lived, a little away from town center. The only skyscraper in Bonn was the office tower where Rapha works.
All I did by that time was rest, exercise, cook, clean, learn Portuguese, read, doodle, take a walk around town - a dramatic switch from my previous life when productivity, deadlines, teamwork, responsibilities, results, clients' satisfaction were sanctioned. In the first few weeks, agitation hit me. I was compelled to do something "useful for my future", fixing my LinkedIn profile for instance, I did that. Slowly, I began to notice and observe this phenomenon: I needed to go something in order to feel enough. Somewhere in my consciousness a feeling was forever creeping: "The world will start forget you the moment you stop doing stuff."
It dawned on me: I'd hustled to be good enough for somebody else all my life.
"See you tonight," Rapha whispered one early morning. He gave me a kiss and left for work. I opened my eyes and saw the corner of his jacket gliding out the door. My head felt heavy, we watched a movie until late the night before. So I decided to sleep a little more. When I opened my eyes again, the room was brightly lit by rays of sunlight through the square glass window - the soft but shiny kind of sunlight. It was so quiet. I stay lying on the bed watching the golden rays tracing on the beige wall, watching tiny speck floating slowly in the clean air, sparkling like diamond dusts. In the hourglass, the sand stopped. I felt like there was only me in this whole world, as if all other souls had, in an instance, vanished. I wondered if this was how the first woman on earth felt thousands of years ago. That moment was an infinity. And for the first time in my life, aloneness, utter aloneness, tasted like honeydrew.
Slowly inside me, something was growing - a blend of emotion, sensation, feeling, thought. I asked the air "What do I want to do now, really?"
The answer came instantly, as if it'd been waiting ever since I was born in this world.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, most of us are trapped in the hamster wheel of doing things to please, to prove, to perfect, pushing upward for the next place in the hierarchy. We yearn for others' approval, recognition, and attention because they assure us that we are worthy, and that we are loved. But that exists only for a moment. Very soon after the gratification, we are back to zero. So we try some more. Please. Prove. Perfect. All the while, at the torn corner of our life's secondary backdrop, our dream fades away.
I didn't understand how I could find myself that morning in Bonn. Now I know. There I was plucked out from the circle of please, prove, perfect. That morning I was the only person in this world. And from that place, the answer came.
It is a good thing to ask ourselves in the middle of any activity: "If I were the last person on earth, would I still do this?"
If you say yes, I bow to you. May you continue doing whatever you are doing with love. If you say no; perhaps it's time to wonder; perhaps it's time to begin the search; perhaps it’s time to get lost, to find yourself.
My colleague Christopher once said to me that each of us has our own ways of expressing ourselves. Some dance. Some sing. Some build big shapes out of Lego pieces. Some solve puzzles and crosswords. Some draw. Some write. I call this our naturalness. I am a wild flower. Writing is my blossoming.
What is yours?