Finding yourself, what does that really mean? It was one of the things people said to me a lot when I started sharing the news I had made the decision to quit my job and disappear to the other side of the world for a while. “Have fun finding yourself” or “Oh, you’re really going to find yourself while you’re away” were said so much to the point that the two words lost all meaning.

 While I did have a lot of things I needed to sort out in my own head, and was desperate for a break from the everyday life which hadn’t been so kind to me over the past couple of years, I got to the point where I found the phrase almost upsetting, like other people also thought I had lost some of the essence of who I am. Perhaps they were right, perhaps all the events of the last few years had led me to forget who I am, and what I believe I stand for.

 Over the last few months I have found myself flung into social situations I might have otherwise shied away from and doing things that I never would have usually dreamed of. It has shown me a side of myself that I knew existed, but didn’t show itself very often, and I love that side of myself. It’s the side that gives me great anecdotes to share over pints with friends. The one who dives head first into meeting new people, the one who is passionate about culture and finding out how other people live, who loves trekking through countryside to see something new.

 The problem with the phrase ‘Finding Yourself’ is it is counter intuitive to what it actually means. You are not lost and you never have been. You are who you have always been, continually shaped and moulded by society and the events in your life. Some of these events change you for the better, and some change you for the worse. Sometimes being true to yourself can be inexplicably difficult and sometimes it comes naturally. The trick is understanding yourself and why you react in certain ways to different situations. It is understanding that following your own head and heart is the best thing you can do, regardless of what anyone else says.

 There is a quote by Emily McDowell which sums it up perfectly: “Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other peoples opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself: an unlearning, an excavation, a remembering of who you were before the world got it’s hands on you”. 

What I needed was the opportunity to reset, to let go of everything that had shaped me into somebody I didn’t quite recognise . ‘Finding yourself’ eludes to the idea you are looking for something misplaced, where as I see it as more of a stripping back of everything that had shaped me in ways I didn’t like.

I imagine when I return home in a few weeks jokes will be made asking if I found myself while away. My answer will be no, I returned to who I knew I was all along.

Photographs taken at The Sand, Nusa Ceningan, Indonesia.