After Years Of Trying To 'Find Myself' Here's How I Figured Out Happiness

by Jess Koontz

Being alive for a quarter-century is kind of an accomplishment. Especially after all the stupid things I did in college.

I have a "real world' job, pay my own bills and experience hangovers that rival childbirth.

However, as I scrape the last few bits of birthday cake up, I can't help but reflect on what wisdom I may or may not have acquired over the past 1,200 weeks.

Here are three things I've (kind of) figured out about life and happiness by 25:

1. Stop trying to find yourself.

As a child, my mother used to tell me, "If you look directly at the sun too long, you'll go blind."

I don't know the validity of her warning, but it scared the shit out of me.

In a way, the sun is like many existential questions we ask ourselves.

What's the meaning of life? What's my purpose? Who am I?

I like to believe there are ultimate truths, or “answers," to life's big questions; but like the sun, when we think about these questions too much, the results can be damaging and distracting.

I recently traveled halfway around the world while on a quest to "find myself," but if I'm being honest, I haven't found much.

After all my time spent contemplating, dissecting and pining over the question, I realized maybe it's me who's been doing something wrong.

Maybe I've been obsessing over this question for so long I couldn't see what was happening right in front of me.

Maybe after all the time I've spent staring into the sun, I've become blinded from the truth.

Trying to “find yourself” is like looking directly into the sun while someone holds your eyelids open. It implies part of you is missing and must be “found," but you can't do that if you can't see.

So I propose deep down we aren't trying to "find ourselves." We just want to know ourselves -- to reconnect with who were before the world told us who to be.

Unlike finding yourself, knowing yourself requires looking inward. It requires time, patience and love, and it demands we focus on rediscovering things we were once passionate about.

Though we'll never be able to directly look at the sun, with enough light, hopefully all the answers we need will become visible.

2. My body is MY body.

I've been at war with my body for years; it's been the battleground of so many disordered thoughts, behaviors, feelings and beliefs.

I don't remember exactly when I started to hate my body so much, but I have a hunch it was somewhere around the time when boys started noticing girls, and girls started to compete against each other.

Suddenly my body was no longer mine, it was a physical object I was judged by.

This story would play itself out in the years to come through chronic dieting, eating disorders, obsessive exercise, shitty relationships and meaningless sex.

While I still have days where I feel bad about my body, the voices in my head cursing it have quieted.

At 25, I've finally accepted this is the body I was born with and it's amazing.

It's carried me across marathon finish lines, through the streets of foreign cities and to the tops of mountains.

It's embraced loved ones, shaken the hands of many new friends and picked me up off the floor even when my mind had given up.

Instead of blaming my body, I want to take responsibility for it. I want to account for my mind, body and spirit, and balance them.

3. Love beyond your means.

By 25, most of us have experienced loss, heartbreak and disappointment.

We all have that “damaged” friend who regularly throws pity parties about how much their love life sucks.

And as the old saying goes: If you don't have that friend -- it's you.

For a while I was that friend. I bitched and moaned about being single, about how every guy was an asshole and how I was always the only one getting played, hurt and cast aside.

Truth is, I was getting what I gave and what I thought I deserved. But I blamed everyone but myself.

About a year ago, I logged onto Facebook to find all of my ex-boyfriends were in relationships -- literally all of them. I burst into tears and wondered, “What's wrong with me?”

Obviously they were capable of love and commitment, so why the fuck not me?

And then it hit me -- they moved on.

Every single one of my boyfriends and flings moved on. They weren't thinking about me, rereading old messages with me or reminiscing on good times with me.

They were opening themselves up to the possibility of love.

In that moment I knew I was the problem, not them.

Realizing this was liberating; it made me realize I could give and receive the love I deserved, too.

The older we get, the more terrifying and vulnerable opening up feels.

Even if we can get over feeling “damaged," we don't want to get hurt again.

However, as I get older, I see the importance of love. It can be scary to love loudly and boldly, but fortunately for us, we have a lifetime to practice.

At 25, I don't know much, but I do know I'll experience loss, heartbreak and disappointment again in my life. It's inevitable.

But like running a marathon, you take it mile by mile, and just when you think you can't run anymore, you run a little harder.

So if you're young, hurt and wounded, just remember you're not damaged.

Clean up the pity party and give yourself a chance because anything is possible if you let it be seen.

Originally published on the author's personal blog