I received a comment on my instagram recently with the request to please write some more articles on this blog again. And I hereby apologize for the lack of written updates. I do miss it myself. Writing, I mean.
So, today I decided to share some thoughts.
Here we go…
I’d like to share a personal memory with you today. It happened about six or seven years ago. I took a bus and a plane and a train and a taxi to get to this forest near a tiny, tiny place called Cardigan in Wales, UK. From all that I can remember, it was raining non-stop throughout the entire trip.
But oh well, when in Wales…
I had traveled to this random forest in the middle of nowhere together with my then-editor-in-chief Katja of the Travelettes online mag for which I was a contributor back in my early twenties.
We were invited to an event called “THE DO LECTURES”. If you haven’t heard of it: the Do-Lectures are kind of a mini-version of the world-famous Ted-talks. Once in a while, creative and like-minded people meet in this beautiful forest to sleep in tents, eat tasty wholesome foods and exchange their ideas in various talks on various topics.
Watch my favorite DO-talk here by the way:
So there I was: An incredibly insecure young woman, somewhere in her early twenties; somewhere amongst all these creative people; the achievers of this world; the people who want to make it a better place; somewhere lost along the way from child- to adulthood.
I remember the venue of the event being absolutely beautiful.
There was something about spending some quality-time completely off the grid and offline in a dreamy forest, wearing wellies all day every day, and waking up to the sound of raindrops falling onto the canvas.
Next to a cozy shed where everybody had their cups of freshly brewed coffee in the early morning hours, hung a wooden board with lots of white tags on it.
Every speaker and everyone in the audience was given such a tag at the beginning of the event. The DO Lectures are all about connecting and social networking. To make this task easier for every participant, we were asked to provide two very simple pieces of information about ourselves, so people could come up and talk to us, if they were interested in what we had to offer. These were the two pieces of information they asked for:
Who I am: ___________________
What I do: ___________________
The first line was easy enough to fill out. Even for me. The second one however was a completely different story.
I had no idea what I should write on that line. I had no idea what I did. Neither here, in this forest somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Wales, nor anywhere else in my life.
What did I want to do with this one and only wondrous life of mine?
I had only recently started traveling the world to find some answers.
But so far, all I had found were more questions.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: First world problem.
And yes, I agree. This was definitely a first world problem to have. And I wished I didn’t have it. In fact, I cursed myself for having it. But that fact didn’t make it any less of a problem for me at the time.
I felt incredibly uncomfortable for the whole weekend. I felt out of place. I had gotten my ticket for free and was supposed to write an article about the event afterwards. Yet, I had a hard time to even open my mouth and talk to anyone, being as intimidated as I was.
I finally left the forest on the last day feeling like… shit.
There actually is no better word for it. I felt like shit. On the train ride back to London I kept thinking about that little piece of paper I had been given. It never found its way to the wooden board next to the shed. Instead, it was neatly folded away and stored in my wallet.
And there it remains till this day.
On that day on the train back to London, I made a pact with myself: I promised myself I would keep that tag that had my name handwritten on the first line. I would keep it until I knew what to write on that second line.
… Don’t you agree that life only starts making sense once you start back-tracking?
Until recently, I had completely forgotten about my little tag. I had kept it in my wallet for so many years, to look at it in times of need and remind myself of my goals.
But once life actually started happening, I had no time to think about it anymore – I was getting too busy living it instead. I guess that is the good news. Once you actually start finding answers, you don’t have time to think about the questions anymore.
I have long invested in a new wallet.
And it was only recently, while cleaning out my closet, that I stumbled over my old one and found the tag. And all of a sudden, it all made sense to me: Although I didn’t know it at the time; although I didn’t know it for all those years, it becomes so much clearer to me now. What I spent my whole twenties doing was this:
I was trying to fill out that second line.
I was trying to find my ‘WHY’.
Now, what do I mean with ‘WHY’? – Very simple: I mean the ‘Why’ that makes you get out of bed in the morning. I mean the ‘Why’ that gets you motivated. I mean the ‘Why’ that makes you forget you are working, because the work you are doing actually is that ‘Why’.
Now, I don’t know if your ‘Why’ is something that was defined for you when you were born and remains reserved for you until you finally show up. I believe ‘Whys” are more flexible that way. I believe that ‘Whys’ develop and adjust, depending on where we put our feet and what choices we make along the way.
We all need a strong ‘Why’.
At least that’s what I have come to believe in.
Why do we need a ‘Why’?
We need a ‘Why’ so we finally stop thinking about ourselves all the time. We’d go nuts of we don’t stop doing that eventually. We need a ‘Why’ so we can start contributing to this world. So we can stop searching for our self and instead start looking beyond that very self.
Please believe me when I say that I mean this in the most humble, down-to-earth, simplest way:
Only if we find a cause we can believe in, can we start doing what we came to this earth to do: Contribute. In whatever big or small way.
As long as we are lost in the search, we cannot contribute. And the notion of a first-world-problem may be true, but – unfortunately – it is the reality we are living in. So let us just get it right. And then let us just get it over with. In our own time. In our own way. We don’t need anyone else to give us any more shit.
Because trust us on this one:
There is no shit on earth that you could give us that we haven’t given us ourselves already.
I have spent ten years of my life hiding in my shell – in my self – because I was struggling to find my ‘Why’.
But now that I finally have, not only do I feel incredibly liberated and relieved, but – and this point is so much more important – I want to do my share in giving back. And only now am I free to do so.
And it all started during that rainy weekend in Wales.
Yes, it may take a while. And that’s okay. Not all of us can be Jane Goodalls, who knew from a very early age that we want to live in the jungle with wild animals and marry Tarzan.
Some of us take a little longer.
I have met people who only found their ‘Whys’ in their late 50ties – and although that might seem like an awful long time to look for it – when they finally did find it? – They were unstoppable.
Maybe even more so because they had some catching-up to do…
So, this was it. This was all I had for today. I hope you got something for yourself out of this article. And I hope you’ve found your ‘Why’ already. If not, I hope you keep on looking.
We need you, you know?