Over the past couple of months, I’ve been revisiting a few of my favourite books. I am most drawn to memoirs of personal growth and journey, and among my favourites is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. It is a book about self discovery, set amongst the backdrop of three unique locations; Rome, India and Bali. Within this novel, Liz has a theory about each city or place having a word. A word that encapsulates the intention of the true citizens of that place. She says that if a person’s personal word matches the word of the place, it is where they belong.
Liz struggled to feel truly at home in Rome during her four months there, even after eating decadent amounts of pasta and artichoke hearts, and learning to speak the language. Her friend suggested that Rome’s word is “Sex”, which was a word that did not resonate with where Liz was at that stage in her life. She labelled New York’s word as “Achieve”, Los Angeles as “Succeed”, and the Vatican’s as “Power”. Later, I’m sure that she named the places that she travelled for herself. Namely Rome= Eat, India= Pray, Bali= Love.
This led me to consider what my word might be, and the places that I would still like to explore to help bring me into closer alignment with my word, my purpose, and my growth.
I think that we have many words in a lifetime. Our personal and professional goals translate and transform through time, and therefore we are in a constant state of change as life progresses. Your word may change in a matter of days, weeks, months or years. But when your word changes to something new and authentic, it often sticks around until you have fulfilled all of the growth necessary for that moment to teach you well.
I think we can all agree that we change over time. Maybe not dramatically, but we definitely do change, both physically, mentally and spiritually. The way that we feel about change in other people is an interesting topic to explore. Consider how so many people reacted when Miley Cyrus cut off her hair and took part in that super controversial performance at the MTV awards back in 2013. People went crazy! They could not fathom that she had dramatically “changed overnight” from Hannah Montana into a sex symbol. It can be assumed that Miley’s discomfort with being categorised based on a character of her youth caused her to push so hard against that image, that an extreme change and display was the only way to make people understand that she is in charge of her body and her actions, and will not live within societies expectations of her. Regardless of how you felt about this massive change in image (or whether you knew about it at all), it was totally and completely her choice to make.
The ownership that people feel over other people’s choices is astounding. This need to focus on someone else’s actions and how we feel about them shifts our focus away from where it should be- on ourselves, and how WE live authentically. People’s words change, and that’s okay. It’s not our place to choose someone else’s word.
So I’ve been mulling over this concept and have been trying to identify my word. I kept trying to think of how other people see me, what other people might think that my word is, which is a fools errand if there ever was one. I remembered a time when a family friend had been talking to my sister about me, and had said “oh that poor girl is just so lost”. My sister told me this and I nearly spat my drink across the table as I laughed. I was so amused at how this perception had managed to come across! I was perplexed by the wider issue of how people can honestly think that they know you, and totally believe that they understand your experience. It was a funny lesson for me, as I realised that I definitely did not have to take that perception of myself on board, and there was no place for me to be offended, because it simply wasn’t true.
Your personal truth is the only one that you have to live with day to day, so don’t let someone give you a word that isn’t yours. “Lost” wasn’t my word, so I promptly let it go.
Due to the amount that I travel, work, study, multitask, and try to be positive even when life becomes a shit-storm, I have been trying to find a word that captures enough of who I am and what I am seeking through living the way that I do. I’ve come across one that seems to fit at this juncture in my life, and it’s “Philomath”. Aside from having the word math in it (I hate math, can’t do it, can’t care about it), this word fits. It is basically a way to describe someone who loves to learn, or a better explanation for me, “a lover of truth”. To me this isn’t love of the overall truths of the world, but of the personal truths I am finding within myself. Of the truths that come to light every day as I continue to travel, grow, and become the person that I want to be.
So I ask you to consider, what is your word?
And where in the world will it take you?