Marlissa (1992): Dutch, Photographer, Marlissa Hilkmann
1- What do you understand under feeling lost?
Feeling lost… I would say is a state of being or a period in your life where you have a lot of questions but no answers. During that time you feel uncertain, insecure, confused and afraid about your life and life in general. I think it’s very much connected to the experience of a kind of crisis.
Most of the times, it occurs during some sort of change or multiple changes in a short period of time. These alterations psychologically take you away from what you are doing what makes you question life and that’s kind of scary.
- You may wonder where you are or where you are going in life.
- You may question your identity and all the choices you took so far.
- You may be uncertain about something you were convinced of for the most part of your life.
In addition, feeling lost can come in different degrees and forms, but what everyone experiences is that void of the unknown and uncertainty. Along goes fear, because we somehow think we should have the answers to everything or at least about most part of our lives and ourselves.
We assume everyone else has all the answers all the time because we hardly open up about the periods of our lives where we are more in doubt and unknowing.
I guess we are simply pretty good at pretending we “know” when we actually don’t. The reason for that is that feeling lost is portrayed as something bad, stupid or foolish – kind of like a taboo. But what things do we really, really know for certain?
Fact is, everyone will eventually have a point in his/her life where he/she feels lost.
2- Please, describe a specific situation when you felt that way.
The time when I felt most lost was when I came home to the Netherlands after traveling for over a year through Central America.
The thing was: I thought I grew so much more in understanding myself and the world while traveling, that coming home seemed just another part of the journey I would be able to navigate.
Well, coming home turned out to be a totally new map to explore. I wasn’t able to imagine its intensity in forehand. I felt very belonging traveling the world and living so freely, but once I set foot back in Holland I felt completely out of place like I was not coming home at all.
The area where I used to live in for so many years, seemed to have vanished into a faraway place and it was not the paradise kind of place I am talking about. I felt estranged from my environment and the Dutch lifestyle.
My plan was to earn some money and then keep on traveling but I did never get to that point. I was struggling on a daily basis. There was no space to simply go on with my life and ‘just be happy’.
Of course, there were moments of strong happiness but those were compensated with profound confusion and lostness. It felt like a rollercoaster, I wanted to get off but I couldn’t.
To accept this situation was hard. Now, looking back, it doesn’t surprise me at all that I was where I was. I needed time to process my journey and integrate myself again.
Photo by Marlissa Hilkmann
3- What helped you to overcome or to deal with this moment?
A routine has been very important to me. What I really needed was a base or at least feel that I had one. So going to work, going for a run, doing morning yoga and taking coffee with my friends repeatedly helped me develop that sensation.
Creating a sense of belonging
Recreating the scenarios in which I felt part of something was essential for me. I never realized this was so important, until then. Being in contact with people from my travels, hanging out with colleagues, spending time with my family and friends helped a lot.
Talking to someone who is experiencing something similar
For me that was Sam. I contacted him when I read his posts about struggling getting integrated into Berlin. I thought it would be a good idea talking about this difficult experience and it was. I felt understood and super supported. He always made me feel like I could do anything I wanted, which helped me trust and believe in myself which was even more needed during this time of confusion and insecurity.
4- Which lesson or result did you get out of this more challenging time?
There is no one thing, idea or way to reach happiness
A big trip like mine didn’t give me happiness or an answer to my questions. It gave me beautiful moments and experiences that made me who I am today, just like all the other years before that. My goal wasn’t to ‘find happiness’, but perhaps in my subconscious, I was hoping to have some kind of a result out of all the exploring.
Changes will always be part of life
I realized that change will always be there and sometimes it’s harder to navigate it, accept it and have the patience to be able to move on. But in the end, I will make it through and yes, definitely stronger and with more awareness about myself and life than before.
5- Why did feeling lost become such a common experience nowadays?
I guess we are exposed to so much content through social media that we get the idea that everything is possible and that we need to do all of what we see.
Let’s take traveling as an example. It’s a hot topic on Instagram and Facebook and it’s very easy to get some tips and to book a ticket to another country. Beautiful experiences seem to be what we need: a trip to Bali, a cocktail at the rooftop bar…
It’s all really one-sided though. Yes, to make good memories is important but life is not only built on those happy moments in the sun. Life isn’t just fun all the time. It’s not about jumping from one high to another.
You have the rest of winter to get through. So, we tend to feel lost when we are not doing all of that cool stuff or perhaps our expectations are not met. That is what frustrates us.
Social media subconsciously influences us and makes us believe that we should do more, get more and be more. All of this makes us chase stuff/experiences and eventually leads us towards feeling lost in the world.
6- What could be done to help somebody who is feeling lost?
For the biggest part, we need to talk about this more. Feeling lost seems to be like another taboo which we need to break open, acknowledge and listened to. There is a need for a safe space to openly talk about it, without feeling shame, guilt or weird about it.
The best thing is to talk about something you’ve been trying to deal with by yourself, and you finally open up and it is welcomed with open arms and it somehow all seems much less big of a deal. It will still be something you struggle with, but now you don’t feel alone and you can deal with it with support, understanding and that changes everything.