Friday, 12 April 2013

The genius of “being or feeling lost”

Nobody ever tells you that the greatest potential in a human being is activated when you feel lost. We do not relish the magic of being lost. Being lost is likened to failure, a situation that cannot be salvaged, or so many think. I think that being or feeling lost is the surest way to finding true purpose.

My friend Laura* resided in the United Kingdom for a long time. For 10 years, a ‘career woman’ exclusively played house wife and did it graciously. But during those years, she felt lost. She reminded herself every day that she would find her self-worth during this period. In the course of time, she took so many development initiatives and courses and piled a unique set of personal competencies. These initiatives and courses made it hard to shut her out of the job market. When she returned to Kenya, she interviewed with one of the blue chip companies for a managerial position. A move many thought hopelessly futile if not completely daring. What these people did not realize was that Laura had become a better person in those ten years. During the interview, the Managing Director of the Company with which she was interviewing asked her why she thought she could exit the job market, stay out of it for 10 years and assume she could jump right back in; at the top of the ladder. Her explanation was simple, in those ten years, she simply explained that she had found herself, her true purpose; her true north. For ten years, she had managed her family affairs, businesses and taken courses focused on leadership and management. For ten years, she had been the sole manager of her home and her life. Those ten ‘lost’ years had transformed her. As you may guess, she got the job and went ahead to double the company's marketing returns in just six months. Many would say she had lost ten years of her life. But to her, she had found her true potential; literally. This is her last year of employment, but she feels that the ten years contributed to her successful career in top level management. At only 55, she is ready for self-actualization. I am awed by her story.

Sometimes we hold on for too long when all we have to do is give ourselves away. Allow ourselves to be caught in the transition between seeming self-awareness and actual self-realization. When we are 16 or 17, when we have a clear chance at doing something random, we usually are too busy trying to be 25 years old. We do not allow ourselves to satisfy our childhood dreams. To let our minds wander into the world. To let our unrealistic aspirations carry us off the ground. In most instances, we run off to University almost immediately, to become what, in our minds, and in society's heavy push, is marketable and secure. In those rushed choices, in those compact and calculated moments, in a bid to outrun the power of our minds to carry us into nothingness, we loose the connection with ourselves.

I will tell you of another of my friends who found herself in her moment of being lost. Habida*, is the loveliest person walking the face of this earth. I mean lovely, inside out. She understands exactly who she is. But she allowed herself to get lost during the Tunisian Revolution. She had already secured a Fulbright scholarship to study in the U.S when she decided that she wanted to stay behind and witness the revolution, help refugees and be a voice to her country's future. She knew that to her parents and to any conventional person, it didn't look right to give up a prestigious scholarship for the love of getting lost in the history of her country. But to her, it was the perfect-imperfect thing to do and so she stayed. This experience molded her and pushed her into a self-awareness zone that being away in America, would not have given her. The following year she reapplied for the scholarship and got it. At the end of it, she had found herself and retained the chance to study in the U.S.

I have also had my period of feeling or being lost. At 17 years of age, I was what many people would call “hip”. Living in a small rural town, studying in a medium accountancy college, I subconsciously expressed my free will in my mode of dress. I consistently wore knee-high skirts, knee length boots, and preferred to have red hair. At the time, it seemed completely usual for me. To my colleagues, it was too much expression. I dressed like a high end New Yorker in Wyoming. I didn’t realize it then. I was just doing what my spirit was pushing me to do. But besides that, I was building a personality of true honesty and expression. I was building an inner brand of advocacy and I didn’t even know it. This phase continued through the 1st semester of University and all of a sudden, I donated all my boots and most of my skirts. I did not even realize that I was doing it. I joined a University club (Community Smile) that allowed its members to mingle with the community through charity and voila, all my high end ‘expressives’ were gone. I hope those who got them inherited the spirit worn in them. The good Godly kind that allowed me to feel I could be anything I wanted to be. In my moment of being lost, in my alter-personality, I found the Advocate within. I found my strength in diversity. My parents would have put out my fire, but they did not. They did not kill the fierce girl within. They did not kill the girl who likes to love without holding back. They did not kill the girl who can work for 24 straight hours because she understands that it’s her destiny to get done, what needs to be done professionally or otherwise. They let me wander in that state of oblivion and I am grateful that they did not interrupt me.

As I recount all these things, I am convinced that we find the best in us, when we seem our most unusual. In my words, when we are lost. When you are lost, you reside in your spirit and it is a lovely concept! Spirit feeds your soul and body and in the end turns you into an enigma. A person comfortable in their skin, at peace with themselves and with others. As Hermann Hesse said, “we must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.” 

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