"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On Being Lost

I've been thinking recently about the sensation of being lost. To me, it conjures up two very different emotions. The first is the kind of stomach drop feeling you get when your realize that you have no idea where your are. It's that feeling of being completely alone, and the desperation that accompanies the search for a familiar face, a landmark, something to mark your progress. The second association has more to do with voluntarily letting go, seeking the unknown and unfamiliar,  actually choosing to get lost.

More and more I find myself craving the unfamiliar. You could call it wanderlust, I suppose, but it feels deeper than that. As much as new surroundings can shock me out of my comfort zone, I crave change at the molecular level. For me, change has always been slow and almost undetectable. If you spoke to my former self, I think you'd find them remarkably similar to the person I am now. So many people find their past selves unrecognizable, and yet when I look back I feel like fundamentally the same person I was in the 5th grade: still idealistic, still shy in new situations, still inspired by beautiful words on a page. I suppose I should feel lucky. I've always felt grounded, held in place by the support system of my family and friends and my own sense of who I am and where I want to go. Is it wrong to wish for something as messy and difficult as losing yourself only to find it again, transformed?

I stumbled across a quote the other day that has haunted me ever since. It is a question posed by the Greek philosopher Meno, and it reads:

How will you go about finding that thing which is totally unknown to you?

It's a paradox wrapped in a question wrapped in a dare. How do you look for something you don't even have a name for? Looked at in a different way, it reads as a challenge to take that vital first step into the unknown.

This is something that's been going on inside me for a while, this twisting, this craving for uncertainty and transformation, and I think its finally reached its breaking point. How will I go about finding that thing which is unknown to me? I'll willingly choose to get lost. I'll smother my fear and be accepting of new experiences. I'll seek change in the same way I seek knowledge: by exploring. It won't be easy, and I don't want it to be. What I do want is to be surprised by the person I become.


End Note: I feel I should credit my sources of inspiration for this post, not just because they helped shape my point of view, but because they are wonderful in their own right:

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

This interview with Jad Abumrad, creator of Radiolab

This blog post by Rachel Coker, who never fails to be an inspiration


  1. Don't know why this seemed like the right thing to post here . . . it's a little specific to flying , but I ran across it and I just wanted to add it.

    “To fly is the opposite of traveling: you cross a gap in space, you vanish into the void, you accept not being in a place for a duration that is itself a kind of void in time; then you reappear, in a place and in a moment with no relation to the where and when in which you vanished.”
    ― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

  2. "How will you go about finding that thing which is totally unknown to you?"

    I have a feeling you're on the right path and that you will find that thing a few times over in your life. I will say this much: when those things appear, they are often better than imagined!