A Year of Searching
I was walking with my neighbor one evening when the topic of language came up, specifically phrases that are now too young for us to use. I am a few years younger than her but we both agree on the language. Words like “precious” just don’t belong in our vocabulary the way it does for twenty somethings. Then I thought to ask, wait, am I one of those girls?
“No, not at all,” she says.
“How old are you?”
“I’m turning 28.”
“That's the year you become an adult,” she said, citing some scientific research she had read that refines that yes this is the year I will start to feel like I am an adult. But is it?
The weekend before my birthday I swear I feel it. I clear out my closet of anything that isn’t professional and comfortable. Why hold onto to clothing I’ve had since before college? I throw out anything that I see as too young for me. The clearing goes seven bags deep, donated bag by bag into the bottom of the barrel outside of an empty Meijer’s parking lot.
* * *
This year started off with difficulties, losses of friendship and shredding of past ways. It makes sense then that this is the year I dive deep into self-help and spirituality. I am on my own more, and more than ever I want to feel this is a strength and not a curse.
I start first with Dr. Wayne Dyer, a Detroit native. He passed away this year and yet his smooth and strong voice still comes on through my podcast app each week, a new episode shining his light on life from a man who is deceased. It is enchanting and I am soothed. I find one of his books at John Kings, but I can’t digest it as closely. I listen to his voice again and again.
What Dyer preaches he says is similar to Christ: self-actualization, reliance, and self guidance into spirituality. The bigger shift of our time might just be that god is within us not without. God is not in the scary secular church of my Catholic raising, not entirely as I see it. This is far too comforting now that I am on my own. For I am now entirely on my own if I choose to believe that god lives inside me too.
* * *
It is the year that I feel I meet guides and mentors each step along the way. I am the business owner now. I am the leader now. I am the artist now. These were all choices of my becoming but I feel a heavier light on me as I step fully into my identities. What do all of these identities mean and how do I own and accept them? I have to find my vision, my voice, and my values more than ever so that I can trust myself again.
This is what I think the best mentors do: teach you to trust in yourself.
I meet an older more successful leader in our community. He shares his approach to business and community, one that is so focused on people and I am enlightened. There is something here that I reflect and live as well. He offers simple yet challenge questions on my work building community.
“How do you get people to care?” He asks.
“How can they care if they don’t see each other?” I ask.
But now looking back I feel I know the answer: it is to show you care first. To give first. Building a community starts with what you want to offer to others. What I offer is acceptance, access, support. All of these words come back to me again and again. I am understanding again what it is I uniquely do now on my own. It is forming. It is clearer. I am feeling a bit better.
* * *
Next on the spiritual totem pole is a bigger, tanner man named Tony Robbins. I am more interested in the man himself than the message. His charisma is charming and his voice challenging you past defeats. I buy his financial book. This too is part of my adulthood. I want money to build a future for me. I do not want finances to be how I grew up - unpaid bills, struggling month to month, cable on and then off and then on again. Can you help? Paying bills all the time here and there, whenever and whatever my mother needed. We figured out a way to get by. We always do.
I want security. If it exists at all it is in my power to create it -- right?
“Who’s love did you crave the most growing up?”
This is Tony on the screen bellowing into a crowd questions for all to see on Netflix.
I answer: my father.
“Why? What did you need to do to accept his love?”
I think: be quiet. Behave. He was often angry when I was young. But I know the real answer: accept him. That is it. Accept and forgive him for the drinking and the divorce that was not mine but all of ours.
“There is a time he loved you purely, before you felt any judgement. Go back to this moment and think on it.”
I remember being so young I would crawl all over my dad. He sat on the ground leaning on the couch, his long legs sprawled out in front of the television. He would let us wrestle and play with him. I know that in this memory I am happy. I know my parents are together and happy. It feels like bliss - pure love. It feels like a memory that can never be taken from me.
We are together again. We are all alright.
A man on TV roars. Tony has helped him heal. The roar is loud and odd and the crowd cheers and I am sitting alone, late on a weekday night, with strange tears rolling down my silent face.
* * *
There is one memory that I love more. It is the day of the butterflies. I love it for it feels magical to me.
It is one of the first summers we go up north without our mom, just Dad, myself, and my sister. I am in high school. We turn down a country road, all dirt and cornfield. Flat blue sky stretches above us. But when we turn down this road there is is something else: hundreds of monarch butterflies floating above the cornfield.
We immediately pull over and get out. The butterflies are bright orange and black and overwhelming. They land gently on the stalk or gracing my arm with their presence, then fly up and over into the cornfield.
We know all the roads along here. We’ve been visiting for decades, usually with mom and all of us together. But this year is different. Butterfly road. I call it Butterfly road. We will never find it again.
“Is this real?” My dad said in wonder.
“Were they just born?” My sister asked.
“Maybe it’s mating season,” I guess.
We didn’t know. But the road was magical. When we got back in the car, though we’d come back to this same vacation place on the same days in the same years ahead, we’d never see the butterflies out again.
* * *
Am I still searching? Am I still accepting myself and all the roles I want to play? Or am I stronger now after a year of searching? Will I be a great leader and creator? Will I trust more in myself, my process, and my values at work?
I think yes. I say yes. I say it and then become it. That is the simplicity and the strength of the mind all these leaders speak to me.
As the Dr says life is what you think it to be. I am what I am, or what I want to be. I only have to think it and then become it.
There is strength in knowing your creative power, the voice that wasn’t lost just whispering for it’s turn, the values reflected back stronger and stronger as I turn into adulthood they also do say.