When I started this series, The Fundamentals of Personal Growth, I wanted to write in a different way. I wanted to get outside of my own personal story and do the typical type of “How To” blog post where I tell you what to do, but I don’t feel good about that anymore. I started this blog avoiding you, and I did that because I find the directive to be an egotistical way to write, as if I can ever tell you what to do. As if I have some answers that you have never thought of or sought for yourself. If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been deep in a rabbit hole filled with naturopath scammers and con-artists, and in this rabbit hole I’ve begun to wonder about the fine line of writing blog posts in the directive and pretending to be an expert. Now, I’ve never touted myself as an expert, but I do find it slightly uncomfortable to tout any level of authority over a subject which I can know only from my own personal experience. Personal growth is just that – personal – and so I’m going back to my original idea behind these blog posts, which is that all I can do is write about my experience and how I’m navigating my own journey of personal development and growth.
This week, the fundamental is exploration, or perhaps the process of finding myself.
I was a freckly, shy and quiet little girl.
I grew in to a freckly, shy and quiet teenager, and because of my outward appearance I felt as though people often presumed me to be a bookworm. I readily accepted that label (whether it was true or not) because it fit with my shyness, and later what turned out to be anxiety, which was really what kept me quiet. Truly, though, I couldn’t get through a book and remember anything I’d read. I had so much anxiety that reading was merely a façade.
I’d have a book in front of my face, and I’d be looking at words, and I suppose connecting them to their context in the sentence, but really, my mind was racing with other thoughts about how ugly or lonely I felt, or about where I was going to escape to at lunch time.
It wasn’t until my senior year in high school, when I took a college level composition class, that I started to wake up to myself a little bit.
We wrote five papers in that class, and we got to choose our own topics, which allowed me to explore ideas that mattered to me. It allowed me to try new things. For example, it was during that time that I tried going to a Unitarian church as research for one of my papers. I will forever attribute that class to being the catalyst for me developing critical thinking skills and learning to explore and communicate my own opinions.
It wasn’t until college, though, that the bookworm label felt like something that could be true for me. It wasn’t until Dr. Nye shared his passion for Milton and Jane Austen that I started to find some passion of my own. It wasn’t until I got to read YA novels for actual assignments, or when I got to write my own YA novel for my undergrad thesis that I started to find myself in that presupposed bookworm label.
The bookworm label (or idea of myself) was never really wrong, I just needed to cultivate some confidence and inner-peace, through exploring and communicating my own ideas, to find out that reading and writing were a refuge for me.
I remember having weekends dedicated to reading Jane Austen, and I no longer felt that dread that I’d felt in high school. I could finally relax enough to parse meaning from the words. I remember even looking forward to laying in bed all day with an Austen novel.
While I wouldn’t boil myself down into a bookworm, I would say that books have given me a tremendous ability to explore my interests and figure out who I am.
Writing has done quite the same, but this process isn’t done, and it will never be done.
This fundamental requires a lot of experimenting, and that can be hard for me sometimes. I’ve built up quite a complex over feeling like a quitter, and exploration ends up in a lot of dead ends. I’ve had to learn that giving up is a lot different then moving on. Sometimes I try something new and it just isn’t right for me and I move on, and that’s okay.
Moving on, though, can feel bad too because sometimes I get this crazy idea in my head that if I can just get to a point where I have “found” myself, then I will truly be happy. If I have to move on, then it must mean that I haven’t found myself. I’ve come to realize, though, that happiness lies in that process of exploration. Sometimes fear and anxiety lie in that process, too, because self-exploration requires me to go outside of my comfort zone, but there isn’t some golden pot of aged-to-perfection happiness at the end of the process because the process never ends. For that reason, I don’t have a four-step plan to share about this fundamental. There are no steps because self-exploration is a part of every step I take.
What does self-discovery look like for you?