I was at a conference a few weeks ago, and one of the speakers made a comment that resonated deeply with me. In order to find out who you are, you must first lose everything. I can tell you from experience that this is true. I have lost everything in my life twice…at two very different points in time. Each loss altered my road significantly. Each one stripped away the non-essentials and left me bare. It is when we attain this state of “rawness” that the fillers of life fall away. Then begins the journey of rifling through the real parts of who you are and enjoying the comfortable feeling of each one.
My first loss came early…I was a few hours old and the papers were signed for my adoption. This act did a great many things for me and the stars aligned for my benefit. In a strange way, I was so fortunate to grow up without any genetic connection to a family. From birth, society places labels and parameters on infants (i.e. “his father’s eyes, his grandmother’s stubborn streak, his mother’s disposition). It is as if we are searching so hard for explanations of people’s traits. Growing up, nobody was able to comment on my appearance or personality other than to state the obvious (“gosh Amanda loves to read”). After all, there was no explanation for why I looked the way I did or how I did the things I did. As a child, it was very freeing to not have guidelines or expectations to live up to. I never had to worry about the possibility of looking like Auntie Bessie when I grew up! This took a great deal of pressure off. It also served to help my development of some pretty serious introspective skills. I knew myself well because there were no external reference points to identify with.
Obviously, environmental factors play a pivotal role in one’s formation of self…they certainly did in my case. Fortunately though, these extraneous benchmarks did not exist for me. As I child I always thought that I arrived on earth in a box-and only I could open the package and reveal the contents.
My second loss came at age eighteen and left my brain and soul in a state of chaos. I had a falling out with my parents which I thought to be temporary at the time. Seventeen years later, I can confidently say that it was not temporary. Aside from my physical losses of home and belongings, there was the disintegration of many beliefs and values I had developed. Trust was non-existent for me. Your parents are your safety net after all. When the net lets go, the crash is fairly rough.
Becoming peaceful with this situation has been exhaustive work (and I use “peaceful” in an active way because I do not believe that people “make peace” with something in one finite step…it is a process). For years I scrutinized everything in an attempt to determine why circumstances happen. This procedure was relatively pointless however it did lead me down the path to this revelation-there comes (or will come) a time in everyone’s life where they hit their own private “rock bottom”. Rock bottom serves to remind you that external “stuff” is just that-stuff. You will never discover who you are looking outward.
A wise man once said to me (several times) “you have to walk your own road”. It took a long time to understand this as I like to learn things the hard way. When the message finally was able to process, I realized that I had walking my own road all along.