When I meet new clients, they often tell me they feel stuck in their lives: that the decisions they made or experiences they had along the way keep them anchored today in feelings of both defeat and a lack of positive meaning. I’ve also had times I felt this way: sometimes profoundly and other times in which positive meaning in my life simply felt elusive. It was one of these moments that led me to find my way to my life as a therapist: a job that isn’t what I do, but who I am.
I’ve always derived immense joy from the arts: it feeds every corner of my soul and in my twenties, I was fortunate to have a career in the world of museums. I recall an epiphany I had one day: I was working on a write-up for an exhibition and it hit me that in the years to come, I knew I wouldn’t remember the show (I don’t) and my career was for my own gratification—it offered no meaningful contribution to anyone else.
I’ve always been interested in people...why they think the way they do, why they behave the way they do. I used to watch crowds in the galleries: why did people go to this or that painting first? What drew them in and kept their gaze...or not? I wrote reports about it until the Director gently informed me it was appreciated but please for the love of god stop, there were other things to focus on. I think the need for understanding was the seed that was planted for me to find my path to the career I cherish today: helping others, being present and witness to another person’s pain, communicating as best I can that we all matter, we all have a story that deserves to be heard.
Sometimes our lives don’t follow the path we first step on, but I find that every experience, every decision, every encounter with another human being informs the opportunities we’re given along the way. The ancient Greek poet, Homer, had it right about the human experience: we are all like King Odysseus, sailing our seas and trying to find home. We land on experiences like islands...sometimes the adventure is awful and you can’t wait to get back in the boat, other times the adventure is sweet and you want to stay for a very long time....the beauty, the meaning, is in the way you navigate your waters.