Mahatma Gandhi taught, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Sometimes it feels like the needle of my compass is spinning. Sometimes I like that. But sometimes I don’t. Early on in life I knew that my trajectory would be a little off the beaten path. I love exploration, innovation, and opening my heart to new things, thoughts, beliefs, experiences, and people. I don’t like feeling tethered to any one way too long. But I also seek stability and hold myself to strong performance standards. This dichotomy- at times a brain/heart disconnect- defines me. It defines my aspirations, my actions, and my relationships. I’ve gained, and lost, a lot along the way living by these dictates.
Back to the spinning needle. Over the summer, I went through a divorce. It’s an immeasurably difficult experience and process, and losing my other half- my best friend- was the hardest part. When you choose to part with someone that you had previously chosen to build a life with, you lose a piece of yourself. At least it felt that way for me. All of the sudden, I felt like I was standing on shaky ground. I felt isolated. Friends and family were supportive, but I didn’t feel like sharing or talking about it much. When you go through something like this, there are all these complicated emotions- shame, anxiety, guilt, failure, desperation- that are both personal and uncomfortable, to say the least. It’s not something that I had any interest in disseminating, so I processed most of it in my own way, in my own time.
In a way, I’m lucky. I’ve always been confident and had a strong sense of self. Never struggled with depression, anxiety, or other overwhelming emotions that can result in stagnancy. I’m a mover, and a shaker. If I need to make a change, I do it. I firmly believe that life is too short to give up, get stuck, be unhappy. Even through my divorce, I was able to keep my head up and face every new day with enthusiasm and optimism. I’m eternally grateful for my disposition and ability to get through the hard times without breaking down.
Despite this fortitude, overall, I found my head a little foggy. I was having a difficult time putting my finger on what I wanted from my life. Once you push the “reset” button, you end up spending a lot of time thinking about “what now.” Those thoughts can compound and become a bit overwhelming. I knew that it was important to “get out there”- to stay busy and involved. Enter that tidbit of wisdom from Gandhi.
I wanted to find ways to help other people and focus on things outside of my head and my small world. This opportunity chose me, as much as I chose it… life is (sometimes painfully) poignant that way. I serve on the THMF Board. We work to promote suicide prevention and mental health awareness. We’ve personally experienced and seen the grief of this kind of loss. We’ve felt the shockwaves that rip through a community when we lose one of our bright stars. We’ve felt helpless as we’ve seen our loved ones struggle. This is why we serve this cause. This is the big picture.
But for me, it’s more than that, and maybe it is selfish, in a way. I choose to serve because when I lose myself in this service, I become myself. My footing becomes firm, once again. Working with THMF has given me that stability and helped me through a hard time in my life. In THMF, I have a family and a purpose. I have a renewed sense of hope and determination and a refocused lens through which I view the world. I’ve developed empathy, patience, and insight. It has helped me to become an advocate and better friend to the people in my life.
THMF Board Member