I began this blog with the hopes of achieving a lofty goal, to use the life within me to beget a more creative life. A move toward being the most authentic possible version of myself. To foster my creative energies, to develop and focus my talents. Indeed, it may be said that I’ve learned a great deal about myself here on The Used Life. I’m discovering a real direction for my interests, allowing myself the freedom to play, to experiment, to connect with others who share similar interests. All of that brings me joy. Yet, I am still very much grappling with the one thing–the single, most important thing–I came here to discover. What my talent is.

I have one. I know it. I’ve always known it. Ever since I was a little girl, it’s been my difference. In my mind, I refer to it as “that thing I do.” When I articulate an idea that instantaneously charms me with its depth, its level of insight, and the aura of profundity in which it seems to bask. Those smooth, simple phrases that alleviate me of the burden of understanding. Lush, cerebral, and hazy. “The essence of the feminine is creative.” Oh, my, did that come out of me? But, it did. It popped into my mind while I was sitting on the couch one afternoon. Another seductive phrase whose meaning partially eludes me. A sentence that, for all intents and purposes, may as well have been written by someone else. It’s just a sense. A sense from which I must work uphill. Pitting logic against faith. Patiently, diligently chasing clarity. Utility. An ever-increasing burden.

I often feel as if my inner world is too close to the surface. I see it with a far greater exactitude than anything on the outside. My familiarity with the nuances of feeling. My gaze is disproportionately focused. It is a peculiar way of thinking that I’ve yet to find a use for. That, in my younger days, I worked very hard to conceal. And, that I still keep under wraps in my professional life. It brings me a great deal of joy to express it here now–to develop it on this blog. I have the dim sense that it’s my greatest gift. Introverted intuition? Is that what they call “that thing I do?” That thing I at once love and despise. I am speculating. Based on a description I recently read of my cognitive type, INTJ, however useful that kind of information is. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t even know if it has a name.

At times, I get discouraged. I devour psychology books. Carl Jung. Otto Rank. Karen Horney. Rollo May. Jordan Peterson. I look to Nietzsche. Kierkegaard. Paz. Nin. I’m not just following my intellectual interests. I am searching for wisdom. For insight into the human condition. For an “aha” moment. For something–anything–that can help me figure out–for God’s sake, what do I DO with this THING?! Because I am facing the possibility that I have been given a talent that is useless to the society in which I live. I am a hyphen. A blur in the lines. A poet-psychologist-philosopher-connoisseur of sexy little things. (The fourth role being, clearly, the most fun and the most charming.) In a world of sepcialists, toiling in the gaps. But, with a drive, with such an insatiable drive to express it. The hyphen. Whatever it is. That manner of thinking that makes me view nearly all other kinds of thinking as dreadfully one-dimensional, uninspired, or lacking in life.

All that unused life. This is the stuff of my existential crisis. Can the world use what I can give? Does it matter? To hell with the world? Is the work itself not enough? Should it be? What sacrifices do I make to preserve my uniqueness? Do I even have another choice? I’m not a one-woman island, even though I think I am. At bottom, do I only want to be understood?

To be clear, I didn’t write this because I expect any of you to have the answers. I am not looking for you to lift me up. (I’m fine. And, in real life, I am not all that “feel-y,” anyway.) I wrote this post because I had something to say. I wanted to be realistic about the pangs of a struggle with which, I suspect, a number of creative thinkers can empathize. The prospect that some of us will never be able to actualize our potential according to our hearts’ desires. That we’ll have to make peace with some concessions. Short of giving up. The eternal optimist in me never permits that thought to cross my mind.

19 thoughts on “Hyphen

  1. I think I have said this already a few times here, but I’ll say it again: I have related vert much to what you’ve written. As I read, I pictured myself in the kitchen at six am preparing my extra strong mug of morning coffee and experiencing a sort of existential crisis: does my passion for my books, for my favorite thinkers and subjects, and for my writing, which I see as connected in unconscious ways to what i read every day, really mean anything in the world outside of my own head? To realize anew every day that I read and write because they are meaningful acts to me helps me in a way that I experience in my body: I am alive right now. These acts of reading and writing and imagining and thinking are what make me me. I too often feel that my inner world is too close to the surface. Then I remind myself that up until the end of my twenties my inner world was nowhere in sight. Being oneself isn’t easy, is it? This post has been very thought provoking. Thanks!

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    1. My smile is wide from reading your comment. Thank you. I was wondering how relatable this post would be, and I am delighted to know that you have felt similarly. When I was younger, I couldn’t have cared either. But, it seems time has suddenly sped up. And, I now have much more to do. Potential to fill. Meaning to make. I know what you mean when you say you feel the experience–the aliveness and the satisfaction–in your body. It is an all-over experience, isn’t it? Of the books I’ve read, both May and Peterson touch on the importance of getting (back) in touch with the body. I couldn’t agree more. Isn’t it amazing how we can forget what it feels like, physically, to be alive? The basics of everyday life. I think I am suddenly getting inspired for my next post…thank you for that!

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  2. I always come away from your posts thinking. I do not always understand what you are wishing to convey but most definitely you do get my brain working and thinking in a new direction. I enjoy your blog very much.

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  3. An interesting read and good questions. I grapple with them too. There’s the internal work – which is always shifting, inching along – and then there’s the work of belonging in the world (or not, or just to some degree, or only in a particular way) and that can be confounding :-).

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  4. I can completely relate to everything you’ve laid out here, and so eloquently I might add. 🙂 I’ve always felt that same sense that I’m somehow special or destined to do something meaningful, yet humility tells us to keep it to ourselves and blend in. It can be so challenging to traipse though life in search of meaning, direction, and truth when so many are content to plop down in front to the TV and consume other peoples’ ideas. I believe that being the type of person who concerns themselves with asking the big questions, researching existence from all angles, and making efforts to discover personal truth and purpose is highly admirable. At 29, I still haven’t wholly discovered or properly articulated my own “hypen,” and yet I feel that I crawl just a little bit closer every yet. There are baby steps and huge strides forward interjected with backsliding and aimlessness, but overall I see progress. The small successes assert who I am and what I believe, whereas the perceived failures plainly point out those people and things which do not align with my values and truth. Both are such a gift! Anyways, I know you weren’t necessary looking for an answer, I certainly didn’t provide one; however, please know that you are not alone. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep creating, and keep polishing away the grime to reveal that truest part of you–the gift that sets you apart from everyone else who ever has and ever will exist. ❤

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    1. You’re very kind, and thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. I suspect most of us feel, at least at some point in our lives, that we were created for “more.” I wonder if sometimes it is just an illusion, or maybe some of us simply do have talents that don’t thrive as easily in the times in which we live. It is nice to know others feel similarly, though. Sometimes we put our thoughts and feelings. “out there,” wondering how strange we must sound, if anyone else can possibly understand. Sometimes, knowing that others can is enough. And on that note, I’ll thank you again…and I will keep up the good fight, as I hope you will! 😊

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  5. I too can empathise big time! There are no easy answers to this, I’m 56 and I still cycle around to wondering where to discover and develop my very own meaning that I’ve always felt I need to find and express – so far it has come through art and painting for many years, doing a degree, then creative writing over the last few years, and my current voluntary work in mental health was sparked off by my wanting to become a counsellor (had to discount furthering the professional developmment with this one due to costs and many red tape hoops to jump through) It’s a hard road in the arts, it gets me down sometimes and I have to manage these spells. My natural sensitivity is at odds with putting yourself and your work ‘out there’ – but this seems common for creative people, so I know I’m one of many. On the plus side, I know I have used my innate abilties to the full, I’m far happier with myself than I was in the past, I have done my very best to be authentically me. I think the times we are living in make it harder to have some kind of impact, with so much competition – but in the end we have to keep creating and asking questions and searching, because that is who we are. In fact it might very well be the defining feature of creative people.

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    1. I like that you call that kind of searching a defining feature of creative people. I think you’re right. I sometimes ask myself if I’ll ever become so content that I stop searching…I’m not sure that will ever happen, and maybe, to an extent, that’s ok. But, right now, I find I am at a stage in my life in which I am going back to a talent, or interest, that I thought I was done with many years ago. I guess that’s what happens sometimes, though. When I think about the alternative—“settling,” becoming stagnant, and no longer striving for meaning—I would never want it. If at 56, you continue to strive to be and express yourself fully, maybe it just means you are very much alive. Sometimes, that, in itself, is a fight. I admire your spirit. 🙂

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  6. Thank you – I can go with that perspective, cheers! Going back to a talent is what I did with my painting. I loved it as a child but didn’t pursue it further…it felt sooo natural when I finally realised it was calling me, everything in me fell into place, I finally found my tribe of arts and crafts people too, with similar mindsets to myself which I hadn’t found up until that point. I wish you the very best in returning to that talent of yours and seeing where it takes you. :>)

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