I’ve been on an incredible journey this past year. A reset. Dipping my toe into freelance work, taking on a new job, traveling, meeting amazing people who are brilliantly inspiring, whether because of their talents or genuine friendship or simple humility in getting through daily life with humor or compassion or even grace.
It all came about because the universe kicked me in the ass to move along another path.
I’m honestly filled with so much gratitude… but somehow the word doesn’t quite capture the nuance. It’s more like this incredible sense of clarity: about what I want and don’t want, and what matters most to me. The more people I talk to, the more I’ve realized that no matter what age, stage of life or supposed level of "success," we are all literally trying to find our place. It’s the age-old nagging existential questions: “Where do I belong? What city or suburb, what profession, with what person or life circumstance? What do I want to be when I grow up? What is happiness in this busted, broken, imperfect world?”
Well I’m here to tell you, I have the answer. No, really. I’ve cracked it. Never mind that scholars and philosophers have been grappling with this mystery for centuries. I’ve got news. It’s really simple.
It all has to do with your inner compass.
During a particularly rough stretch, I had a random kitchen conversation with someone. She was a casual friend, certainly not a close confidant, but after exchanging niceties and complimenting each other’s shoes, the conversation somehow shifted from superficial to sage. She opened up about a really toxic time in her life and how, though she had absolutely no clear plan what escape looked like, she knew one thing. Her “inner compass was off.” She was sick to her stomach. Hives. Stress. Daily dread with a cocktail of meds and a cherry on top.
So one day she left.
She trusted her gut. And set off to find a new direction. She didn’t have the destination mapped out. But closing that door, while terrifying, opened a slew of new ones based on her own inner clarity, and the connective tissue of friends and loved ones—that magical safety net of support that appears when you need it most, but you forget exits when you’re in the thick of your own drama.
The moral of the story: “Keep doing you.” It’s literally all you’ve got. You are one in 7.5 billion people. A truly unique, one-of-a-kind combination of hair and eyes and heart and cells and atoms and thoughts and talents that only you can bring. And you have the power to make a dent in the world when you’re firing on all cylinders. Authenticity is such a lame, stodgy word, but at the heart, it’s about living your truth. While all else might be murky or uncertain (your ultimate path or detailed plan), your inner compass never lies.
If you sense something's off, you’ll know it. You’ll physically feel it. If it’s just a slight inconsistency, then perhaps all you need is a little course correction—a series of turns, pit stops for help with directions, small changes in attitude or focus.
But if your compass is literally taking you in the opposite direction from who you are and where you want to go, then listen to that nav. Whether it's your conscious choice, heroic moment or the forces of the universe giving you an unexpected nudge, maybe it is time anyway to take a pause. Pull out the roadmap and figure out your next move. Or better yet, get lost for awhile. It’s terrifying when you set off on a journey that you mapped out clearly in your mind or life plan.
But trust me. Side streets and detours can be utterly delicious. They can open up worlds of opportunity and inspiration from places and people you never knew existed. And despite your deep-seeded fear about veering off onto the wrong path, you may well realize it’s ultimately exactly where you need to be.
If you can’t make a wholesale change because finances or kids or life obligations box you in, then take even small steps that get you out of your comfort zone. Put yourself out there in little ways, express yourself, create, talk to people and make connections. At least it’s movement in the right direction. It’s better than inertia, standing still.
And no, it won’t be easy. Many of us end up or stay in the wrong situation because we believe in the narratives that other people tell us—about ourselves, our talents or skills or definitions of what happiness is supposed to be. The truth is the biggest roadblocks you will face are the doubters and the haters: those who seek to knock you down or even your own biting inner critic. Battling both will take resolve. But when those voices creep into your consciousness, take inspiration from one of my all-time favorite memes. It’s both hilarious and anthemic...
Following your inner compass means trusting yourself above all else. The haters and skeptics are just noise. Don’t try to chase other people’s dreams or listen to external scripts about who you are and what you can do. Follow your own inner compass and you can’t go wrong.