There’s a song by The Maine titled “(Un)Lost”
The lyrics to the chorus go a little like this:
“Unaware of where I’m going,
Or if I’m going anywhere at all,
But I know I’ll take the leap,
If it is worth the fall.
So long as the blood keeps flowing
I’ll set a sail and swim across
I’m not looking to be found,
I just want to feel unlost.”
Hands down, the worst part of this past year has been the growing distance I have felt between the type of person I always believed I was and the type of person I was becoming. For 20 years, I had a firm grasp on who I was fundamentally. I prided myself on these traits and characteristics. From being someone who believed in the inherent “goodness” of all people to being someone who loved letting new people into my heart, I knew who I was. I was a person who believed we could find a home in every person who ever touched our lives. But I lost that person last year, and I have been looking for myself ever since.
Even as I started getting healthier, I was still a shell of the person I used to be. I hated the prospect of letting new people in. Trust went from being automatically given, to a concept I viewed as inherently evil. Being surrounded by people made me cringe, as I spent most of my time wondering how many people I was with hated me as much as I hated myself. I went from being the life of the party to being unable to last longer than an hour or so in groups bigger than three or four people. Letting people in seemed like I was setting myself up for failure, and giving people a place in my heart and my life felt foolish and dangerous. How could I trust other people when I could barely trust myself? Social anxiety stopped existing as something that only plagued my mind after I finished spending time with people, and started weaving its way into my thoughts while I was with people who truly cared about me. I tortured myself by honestly believing people spent time with me out of pity; earnestly thought people kept me around because they were scared if they didn’t no one would be around to monitor me and make sure I didn’t get bad again. It was the most toxic belief system I’ve ever clung to in my entire life, and it was the farthest thing from the belief system I have spent most of my life holding on to. The truths that I always knew to be true crumbled from beneath my feet, and the foundation of the person I wanted to be was destroyed.
However, just a couple weeks ago, I was given an opportunity. One of my favorite people, and one of the people who has stood firmly by my side through the best of times and the worst, told me about an opening on her Alternative Spring Break. She explained that the service aspect of the trip would be building ramps and working with people with disabilities, and that the people on her break were a really good group. Honestly, I was less excited about the group of people I would be meeting, and more excited about the prospect of the service. Service to others has been what I have dedicated my life to so far, and it is what I plan to dedicate the rest of my life to as well. I figured, hey, this might be a good place to start in rebuilding my foundation.
And then I met these people. And I sat down at my first meeting, and I didn’t feel out of place. I felt like laughing, joking, being a part of this group, and caring about these individuals. Instantly. I was immediately okay with the concept of letting them in, with giving them a place in my heart should they choose they wanted one. And while it certainly helped that I knew a few of them, it was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a large group since sometime a year or so ago. Being welcomed into this group felt like coming home to a place I never knew I needed.
In two meetings, I have laughed more than I believed was possible. I have opened my phone to 860 seconds worth of snapchats that make little to no coherent sense. I have been forced to smile on my bad days because of countless ridiculous puns and jokes being sent to the group chat. I have been at meetings, that might normally take twenty minutes, which have lasted for an hour because everyone is goofing off. Some of us have gone to Taco Bell and Tropical Smoothie out of the blue, just because we simply enjoy each other’s company. I have spilt my life story out to someone I met two weeks ago, because I never questioned whether or not I could trust her. I have clung to the title of ‘adopted child,’ and feel as though I got placed in an environment where I am loved and respected and appreciated as if I had been a part of the group the entire time. I have joked, and laughed, and smiled, and never once have I feared that I didn’t belong there.
I have only spent two weeks with these people, and I cannot fathom the impact they’re going to have moving forward when they have already touched my life in such a meaningful way.
In finding them, I have started to remember my way. There are pieces of me that don’t feel so far gone anymore. Fundamental truths turned lies are turning truth again. I feel less like a shell of what I used to be, and more like my old self. I may not have been found, but they have made me feel unlost.
In fact, I’m starting to think that perhaps, humankind isn’t looking to be found. Maybe, every love song in existence has been steering us in the wrong direction.
I am realizing now that I do not and have not ever believed that I will ever truly be found. We are never stagnant in this life. There are a million individuals at any given moment who are looking for us. And quite honestly, we’re almost always one of those people. We spend incredible lengths of time in our lives losing ourselves: in our passions, in our past, in our mistakes, in love, happiness, despair, in other people… Most times, I think we’re looking for ourselves harder than anyone else. Our lives are journeys, and we never truly know where our paths will take us next. Being found implies that we’ve found ourselves, and that’s a little challenging to do when each and every day forces us to be something and someone new, even if only in minuscule ways.
As the song says, maybe we don’t want to be found, we just want to be unlost. When we lose ourselves, when we stray away from the type of people we believe in and hope to be, we aren’t asking for the world to find us. Instead, I believe we’re hoping that we will find people or places or things that help us remember our foundations. We’re asking to remember where we started, so that we can trace our steps to where we are now. We’re looking for the breadcrumbs when we’ve lost our ways; looking for our fundamental truths. If we can be reminded of our foundations and the people we want to be, then we don’t feel quite so lost anymore. We will never truly find ourselves, because there are infinite possibilities for us in life. Endless places we may be, endless things we may become enraptured by, endless possibilities for who and what we can be in life. But we can feel unlost, and surround ourselves with people, places, and things that assure us that we’re right where we need to be.
So seek out people who help you feel unlost. Find people who help you trust in the process of this journey we call life. If you feel lost, search for people who can help you remember the path you’ve taken to get to where you are today. Some people will feel like coming home, those are the people who will help you feel unlost. Those are the people that will help you find comfort in the truth that none of us will ever truly find ourselves. These are the people who will help you know the leap is worth the fall, because the time you have with them will remind you of the foundation you have built yourself upon. If life is a journey, they will be the maps along the way that provide you with the comfort that you are exactly where you need to be.
If you have been feeling lost these days, I hope you don’t spend too much time tirelessly trying to find yourself. I hope, instead, you spend your time trying to feel unlost. Find your pillars, the things that have held you up throughout your journey. Find the things that have you have been proud to believe in. Find your truths. Adjust them when need be. But don’t try to find yourself. The truth is you will spend the rest of your life building and shifting and rebuilding yourself. You will never be a finished product. You will never be found, but there is always hope that you can find your way again.
And when you do, it’ll feel like coming home.