“I think I’m losing myself,” a friend told me recently.
He had just had his second kid, and from my perspective, things had been going somewhat well for him. I asked for clarification.
He said, “Life moves so quickly and all of my old hobbies and ways that I used to live my life seem to have been muted by the needs of my family. I just feel like I’m a shadow of my former self. ”
I didn’t have any answers or wisdom; after all, I’m on my first child, and he isn’t even walking and talking yet. But it made me stop for a minute, because this wasn’t a person that I ever thought would describe themselves as a shadow, kids or not.
When I think of losing something, I think about what it means to be lost. Directionless. No map. Uncomfortable. Despair.
If you feel you’ve lost yourself, perhaps it feels exactly like this. You’re used to setting your own sail, you’re used to charting your own course, and now you have to chart the course for a family-entity. You can’t just listen to your inner voice anymore, that was murky and hard to hear to begin with. Now, you have to hear the external voices of others, and try to interpret them, and serve their needs.
It’s an entirely different way of living, and I suppose it’s what people mean when they say they’re a “family person.” No longer are the choices you make for yourself. They’re for the good of your familial unit.
And then I think about what it would take to find yourself again. When something is found, it happens through careful inspection and the retracing of steps.
When I was a kid I used to lie on the floor and stare deeply into the carpet fibers. I’d look for bacteria and other small particles, even though I’d never be able to see them. But, I remember catching a glimpse of what the floor look liked under the carpet. And from then on, I couldn’t picture a carpeted floor any other way than a cold bare piece of concrete covered in fabric.
The experience changed my perspective. And much like losing yourself happens because you lose a familiar perspective, finding yourself is all about developing a new perspective.
If one loses and finds themselves, the person or life that they re-claim is probably not the same one they lost; they just made meaning out of their situation in a way that felt like a discovery.
It takes years to lose yourself, and probably years to find yourself again.
But there’s a micro-level to it as well. You can discover new parts of your identity every day. And you can accumulate new meaning at about the same rate as you discard old meaning.
It’s hard to stay on top of this exchange, admittedly. And it won’t necessarily mean you feel found very quickly.
But it’s a good alternative to being lost all the time.