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Alexander has been contributing for THS for over a year! While he attained a major in communications at SFU, he also recieved a minor in Psychology. Despite those accomplishments, Alex has also never had a full cup of coffee (crazy right?!). Alex is a lifelong sports fan and will defend his Seattle Seahawks to the death, especially if faced against a 49er fan. While Alex's long-term goal is to become a marriage counsellor, he also has a strong passion towards writing that he looks forward to exploring.

Finding Meaning in Feeling Lost

Photo Credit: Jen Thomasson

Photo Credit: Jen Thomasson

As a new year rolls in, it is pretty common that an individual will engage in self-reflection. Sometimes we take those reflections and turn them into the resolutions that we try and maintain throughout the following year. But with that self-realization may come days where you experience self-doubt. Doubt about your present, your past or your future. I too have days where I struggle and feel like a wandering puppy with only half the cute appeal.

I struggle with relationships, with the idea of a future career and heck, some days even the decision to take off my Batman pajama bottoms the last one being a battle I only win half of the time.

I am not alone in that feeling of self-doubt. Like myself, you may reflect on what you have achieved in the past year and look at the areas of which you have fallen short. Perhaps that reflection will lead to the thought of, Oh My God, What am I doing with my life?

When you’re at an age such as your early 20’s, every decision seems like the biggest of your life and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with what you feel is expected of you. Yet with that self-reflection, comes the importance of knowing how to evaluate what we choose to assign value to, and the role that it can play in determining our sense of self and overall happiness; and further remember the pitfalls of comparisons, and the beauty of finding joy in every day.

A funny thing happens when you tell others that you are feeling lost. Not only do they listen, but they can relate. When your decisions are no longer just about peanut butter or jelly and instead between the ‘job in New York or job in Chicago; or napping, the stakes get ramped up—and so does the stress. It is important to know that with such uncertainty may come a feeling of being lost. You’re a fish out of water and even if everyone else seems like a calculated predator, they are no more assured of what they’re doing than you. Or so people say anyway.

These feelings are going to persist throughout adulthood so what is best way to cope with such feelings? The start to conquering them comes from within and from your own level of self-confidence and self-assurance. Assurance to yourself that even if you do not know it now, that one day everything will make sense and you’ll be happy for the journey. Sometimes a job can just be a job, and your lack of a ‘great one’ should not have the deciding factor on your state of mind or define your sense of worth. Yet the only way to build these moments of strength are to be able to be aware of your adversity and to not let it overwhelm you. Instead focus on what you have achieved. Look at moments of past doubt that led to triumphs (such as any Finals season for students) and use that as an affirmation on how strong you can be, even if it’s easier said than done. Look at this feeling of confusion and realize that your close friends may also be feeling lost, and use that to gain strength together.

Even in this lost and directionless stage that feels so unproductive, your true passions may emerge. These passions gain strength, being bred from the adversity that helped create the person you are today. It becomes of further importance when talking to others to realize that you don’t live your life for other people, but for yourself and a successful life is whatever you deem that to be.

Was my day a success because I took off my Batman pants and started writing? I would absolutely say so because those are the aspects of my life that I chose to assign value in. However, what if I said that every day when I’m not working a ‘big boy job’ (my biggest struggle), would be a day without value? I would be robbing myself of so much happiness and adding stress to every single day that fell short of my long-term goals.

When your friends come to you feeling lost, use those as moments to bond and reflect together on the areas that you want to see improvement. Use others to inspire and not alienate yourself or make you feel left behind.  Just in case I am not alone in this, I’m pretty sure nobody is as hard on you as you. Sometimes it is talking to someone who seems like they too are struggling or wandering, that can offer that solidarity to help keep both of you pushing on. It’s all going to be okay, we just don’t always know what that means yet.

If your friends are such an awesome source of strength, when might they not be? Comparison breeds insecurity and it may never be more fueled than in today’s world of social media. It is very easy to seem even more lost when you see others who seem to have their own lives together—gee, thanks Facebook. Yet it is important again to realize not only do you need to live your life for you, but that the path that you are going on is just different from that of some of your friends. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact it may end up being the best path for you. If you live your life for others or to put on an image for the world, then you may lose your own sense of identity.

For example, say I’m envious of a friend with wealth. What about someone with a career they’re passionate about and loved by millions? All aspirations I would be envious of. They would fuel my own insecurities on what I wish I had achieved by the age of 24. Yet when I look at what I want to achieve in my life, my mind goes to Robin Williams. A man who brought so much joy, who had all the aspects that were deemed invaluable to me and to the general public, so when he ended his own life, it left everyone stunned. How could a man who would walk down the street and be told by so many people the value he has brought them, do such a thing? Robin’s value however, at least not towards the end of his life, was not put into his wealth or career—a reminder that only you can choose what to assign value in. If you choose to assign value in things you see others achieve, you will never truly be happy. You can be jealous or envious of your friends all you want and feel left behind, but it is important to remember that our story isn’t done being written yet, so how can you be irresolute of a book that is only half done?

There is a fantastic song by Led Zeppelin called “The Rain Song”—one of the more meaningful lines of the song talks about how yes the rain will fall, but “it’s just a little rain”. When you feel lost, every little drop of rain may feel like it is too much, but it too will pass. Life is going to throw rainstorms at you, sometimes news that might seem so overwhelming you don’t know how you are going to handle it. Lord knows there have been days in which I have struggled at the burden placed upon me, but then I look back at my past tribulations and stresses. I spent hours nerve-wracked and depressed at the thought of never getting into a post-secondary school. I assigned all of my value to that—a problem that alleviated itself instantly when I got into Simon Fraser University. What I could not get back is that time I wasted being worried about a future that never arose. That’s my perspective on my Mom as well, who is currently battling Stage 4 colon cancer. Is there reason to be sad? Absolutely and you cannot be blind to that, but there is also a sense in knowing that no preparation would make me ready for what life will be without her. Instead the value can be spent in seeing the beauty of life and the finality of all of it.

If we are to compare ourselves to others, then what should we be doing? The biggest aspect we should always focus on is making sure to love every day. Love every day? Cliché much? Pretty sure I’ve seen that on Instagram like 1,000 times, Alex.

Image Credit: Letter Shoppe/The Prince Ink Co.

What does that phrase actually mean? If you know what you assign value in, that’s fantastic. Go out and try to achieve those goals, and in that way you can love every day. But you know what? If you don’t know what you value or want, there is peace in knowing that, that too is okay. Passion can come from feeling lost.

I, like many, spend a lot of time worried about what I could be doing with my life. But how much value will all that thinking have when I land that ‘big-boy career’ or when I find the right path for me? Right now the most stressful thing at my job is folding a t-shirt just right. Is that hard? Heck no—unless it’s a XXXL, things get tricky. So what do I want to do next? Help with emotional support in regards to people or family members dealing with cancer; and talk about a 180 switch. But when I get there, I guarantee you, I will have at least one day where I’ll say “Oh Boy, I wish I could just fold shirts for 8 hours”.

What do I need to make sure when that thought happens and how do I handle it properly? I need to make the most of today, of my current day and the blessings that come with that. I can feel lost and directionless or unfulfilled at times, but that doesn’t mean I can start beating myself up or actively taking away the joys that my life does give because I am worried about what it is not. Spoiler alert! I can worry about “future me” all I want but the only person that can handle those issues is going to be “future Alex”—and I hear he’s going to be pretty awesome.

It is also important to remember that happiness can be an active choice. There are days in which that might seem impossible but even in those days, it is helpful to think of your happiness in such a way. Active means it is within your control and it can be a reminder that when life is spinning, you can choose (within reason) how to react to it. Could I look at cancer in a different light than I do? Absolutely. However, I know how to view it in a way that brings me happiness and that viewpoint has allowed me to inspire others and find my passion. A passion that was found as my life seemed without direction. Optimism comes from reminding yourself that while the cards you are dealt with are out of your control, how you choose to play them is still within your power and with that comes the knowledge that you have control over your emotions.

I was recently watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia when character, Dennis, stated, “I’ve known beggars to be kings, and kings to be beggars”. The quote sums up the aspect both of comparison, as well as reminding ourselves the importance of what we choose to allow us to be happy. The King might never be happy because he has 5 million, but really just wants 10 million. Whereas the beggar may attain more happiness out of a loaf of bread than the King ever would have. That happiness derives from what the beggar chose to put his value in. His control over his emotions, and his value system are both monumental factors in him living a happier life. It is another reason as to why we cannot get so bogged down with what we have, as well as with what others think of us. If we can teach ourselves the ability to view emotions in this way, as being in our control, then we can find a better overall sense on how to control ourselves and give meaning what may seem like a life without any sense of direction.

With this knowledge of life being within your control, one may also come to that sense of happiness and optimism that pushes you through your toughest of days. Believe me, viewing the world as a negative (which could be possible some days), is a lot more work and tiring than trying to see the beauty and value even from unfortunate incidents.

Here is the deal with the future. No matter how hard you try, you really cannot predict it. The future will come together and it will be one of those things that you will look back at and say “How on EARTH did I manage to buy my own house, my own car, and have kids?! OH MY GOD AM I A GROWNUP?”

What that feeling can sometimes overlook is that to get to that point, it takes small change. It takes change that some days can be as simple as saying ‘Today I took off my Batman pants’ (though I can’t reckon why anyone would…) and celebrating yourself for those successes because it will all play a role. When I am 65, I don’t want to look back at my life and say I wish I did things differently at 24. I want to be able to say that I have lived my life with no regrets, including this age, because I will be grateful at the position I am at.

I will have that dream career, girl, car or whatever I choose to assign value to. When I achieve it, I’ll just be happy for the road that took me there. You make the most of the day and you keep on living. You work to find the things you assign value in and you try and realize that nobody truly has it all figured out. In that sense we really are not alone. Try and embrace the unknown because while it is scary, when faced with an unknown, your passions may also start to emerge along with a stronger sense of self. Know that this wandering feeling might be what you need to move towards that direction in life and when it does, you’ll just be happy to be in that place. 

It is not going to be easy, life isn’t easy. Life is a confusing, jumbled mess some days, but you know what? That’s just how life is. Don’t let that lack of meaning in the long term erase the meaning and joy of every single day that you get put in front of you. Do not let what you do not have, rob you of the joys of what you do have. Comparison is the thief of joy, and you must not let it take away your current day. You instead must love your current day for what it offers to you. Love it because it is your day, your moment to learn about yourself and that can be a beautiful thing. An inspiring thing, even in the toughest of moments. A strong lesson to remember for all of 2015.

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One Comment on “Finding Meaning in Feeling Lost”

  1. Classy Canuck January 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    And those that lost don’t always wander.

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