Over the past few years I’ve lost my voice. In Peace Corps, I felt like I really knew who I was. Every day I got clearer on that. As the pounds fell off and I lost more than just 70 pounds of unnecessary weight I also lost parts of my identity that weren’t really me. I lost my ambition to become someone just to become someone. I lost the need to please others so much while ignoring that quiet little voice in my head. I lost my tolerance for injustice and privilege. I lost my silly rule to not fall in love. I was lighter than I had been in my entire life and I like I was fully myself for the very first time.
I’ve now been out of Mongolia almost as long as I was in Mongolia. After my three years of Peace Corps and a year of mini-retirement, I jumped into two years of graduate school and a year of being an entrepreneur. I gradually put back on every pound that I had lost and with every pound I lost touch with that person I was. As amazing as I had felt, I felt increasingly worse.
I also started writing less. I shared less. I felt confusion around who was and what I stood for, what kind of a life I was creating and the kind of difference I wanted to make in the world. That quiet little voice that became a booming part of my life after 10 days of meditation and years of service in Peace Corps became so quiet that it felt like a distant memory.
I lost my voice.
But recently it’s started to come back.
A whisper at a time, I’ve heard it. The more carefully I listen, the more it’s spoken to me. Saying things like: Relax. Get outside. Exercise, just a little. Do a pushup. Write a little. Pay attention. Really listen. Read a little more. Don’t be afraid. Smile a little more. Don’t worry about that, it will work out. Be honest, don’t hide how you really feel. Write about what you’ve been going through and share it with others. Don’t wait.
So here I am.
The truth is, this is hard for me. I can be a perfectionist and it’s hard for me to put things out into the world that aren’t just right. But I’d rather be human than perfect. I’d rather share this with you, let you in on how things have been going and let you know that I’m not perfect than to pretend. I’d rather be a real version of myself than a perfect version of someone else.
I’d also love to help you find your voice too.
So here are 4 things I've been doing that have worked for me:
- Exercise, don’t sit around. Research has shown that not exercising is the same as taking a depressant. That’s certainly true for me. Not exercising because I’ve been busy, tired (and lazy honestly) has felt depressing. Now the more I exercise the better I’ve felt. I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last 3 months (thanks nifty watch!) exercising 30 minutes a day. My favorite activities have been walking, stationary biking, hiking in the park, doing pushups, and lifting some weights. I plan to lose another 15 pounds in the next 3 months and I look forward to telling you all about it.
- Really share, don’t hold it in. My friends have been amazing and wonderful, but they’ve only been able to listen as much as I talk to them and share. It’s hard to share when I’m having a hard time and it’s easy to just say “Fine” when they ask how I am. Instead I’m trying to really share how I am with others. I started with those closest to me and as I’m gaining my confidence I’m sharing more with others, including you right now. We all have hard times, they mean we are human. My dad once told me, “It’s a gift to allow others to help us.” If we were perfect, we could never give anyone that gift.
- Be inspired, not drained. I’ve read that there are two types of people: those who inspire us and those who drain us. My experience confirms that. I have quite a few inspiring people pictured on my office wall and I actually just read about one of them (Gandhi) in this month’s National Geographic right before writing this post. Not a coincidence. When I read about, listen to, watch, or hang out with people who inspire me great things can happen. I bet you have a friend who really inspires you. Take a moment right now and name them out loud. If you text or call them right now and tell them that, I promise it will lead to good things.
- Get outside, don’t be a fuddy-duddy. It’s easy to sit inside. Ooo, it’s nice and cool in here. It’s so hot/cold, wet/dry, crowded/lonely outside. Yeah, I know. Whatever. I always feel better when I get outside. That’s where all the action is! And all the cool people. They are in coffee shops, in the library, in the park, hiking on trails, at the gym, the beach, in offices, puttering around in their Teslas. This is easily incorporated into my exercise, but it goes beyond that too. Fun awesome people are usually busy being awesome. I have to get outside to find them. Plus I also get a little exercise and some vitamin D from the sun while I'm at it. Win-win-win!
This is really just a short list to get you started and I hope to add more as I explore this and find my voice more in the coming weeks and months.
I'd love to hear ideas from you too! The internet is fun like that.