Whenever I had doubts about my life or place in it, my mother would say, “Just be yourself.” I tried being other than myself and it never worked. I compromised my values and beliefs. I gave parts of myself away and I was not always true to myself. For a period of time I was a master at deception. The one being deceived was me.
When you are trying to find your way in the world. Everyone wants to guide you and tell you what you should be doing or in what direction you should go. Everyone has an opinion and although I remembered mom’s words, it is not that easy being myself when I didn’t know where to start with that search.
The first self deception came after college. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Even after traveling around Europe for over a year following graduation I was no closer to my destination. So, I came back to the US and did what all my friends did a year earlier. I got a traditional job, married, and brought a home. I was miserable the whole time but did not know how to get out of my predicament. I had a mortgage payment, a car payment, and I was climbing the corporate ladder to pay for what I had accepted as my life. I was in a job I did not love trying to be what I was not. I was in a marriage I did not want because that is what I thought I was suppose to do with my life. It was not until years later after a marriage ending in divorce and a departure from the corporate world that my life got back on track.
The turning point occurred on a train trip from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California in 1986. The seat next to me had been empty for most of the journey but somewhere around San Francisco a lady sat down next to me. We started talking and I shared with her my reasons for going to LA. I was going to Graduate school and wanted to attempt a relationship with my brother. When I told her I would be staying with my brother. She asked where he lived. With excitement in her voice she mentioned a bookstore near my brother’s home called the Bodhi Tree and that I should check it out. I made a mental note and thanked her before she departed.
Graduate school kept me busy and I had forgotten the name of the bookstore and the conversation with the lady on the train until one day I was walking around Melrose Avenue and saw the store. Every time I fall in love with a woman, a city, a country, it is like finding a new home, and this experience was no exception. This time, I felt the embrace of the all the masters of wisdom contained in the volumes of books overflowing on the handmade shelves. I applied for a position, moved out from my brother’s home, and slowly began the journey back to myself.
All of this didn’t happen overnight, but I was now on fertile ground and my seed took root and begin to grow again. Sometimes the environment we choose is key to our growth and where we plant ourselves in the world is as critical to our selfhood as what we do. That experience was a rebirth for me and I have been growing ever since. “NoBody But MySelf” became the title of my fourth publication.