It’s something we pay a lot of lip service to in our culture. You’ll hear a lot about “finding yourself” in the same sentence as what students are supposed to do in college or when someone travels the world.
I couldn’t disagree more.
For one, it’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a young person. If you’re privileged enough to go to college in your late teens or early twenties, you probably have a hell of a lot more to learn about the world in your place in it and a 4-years of keg parties or term papers won’t begin to scratch the surface of what’s “out there” in the real world.
The statement of finding one’s self also assumes that there is only one self, and that it will be consistent after you “find it.” Yes, I believe there is a true, authentic, best version of ourselves that you should spend time learning about, however you will change and your life will change around you forcing you to revaluate yourself and position in life.
After working professionally in a variety of digital marketing jobs from 2009-2015, I decided it was time for me to take some time to find myself by traveling alone around the US and around the world.
To my disappointment, there wasn’t any magical moment that transformed me from my old self to a new self. If anything, I had to do more unlearning about myself and my patterns, rather than discover some hidden traits or passions I’d never known.
You are guaranteed to learn more about yourself and your position in the world after putting yourself in new situations and cultures, however that doesn’t mean that you will change for good for the better.
Transformation, like anything in life, is a process. You may have an insight of something about yourself that you wish was different, but it takes at least a month to wire a new habit into your brain. For many people it may take years of practice.
Like the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail this is a never ending process of death and rebirth.
Here’s what I did find while traveling.
I found myself in situations when I was happy and others that I was not so happy about. I looked beneath the surface and tried to understand why I was happy or unhappy.
Then I continued the experiment over and over and over again with new situations, trying to figure out exactly what variables were meaningful.
I found myself doing things I loved and attempted to strip back the social conditioning that kept me from expressing or exploring these passions in the past.
The road towards your authentic self doesn’t always have a neat little Disney happy ending. We will learn and change until we die unless if we decide to never live in the first place.
Believing that you will magically find yourself one day is similar to the naive belief (that I once held) that traveling forever would be a dream.
Some people claim to have an endless lust for wanderlust, but true happiness comes from sacrafice and when you face a series of demons in the pursuit of a life worth living.
This can happen on the road, but the road is filled with endless distractions.
Don’t get me wrong, you will be distracted by so many pleasurable things while traveling, but this is not the same as lasting happiness.
The lasting happiness, the self you are searching for, it must be created, not found.