I am the test case for our "journeys of self-exploration" theme. I know how it feels to have a sense of purposelessness — terrifying.
I am the baby of a very large family, which means my parents were tired and less attentive, and that I was often viewed as a child well into my adulthood. I began my work life in a low-level clerical job at age 18 as a single mother with a six-week-old child. When I became a mother, I knew I had to be a different person, but I didn't know who or how.
In fits and starts, over the course of many years, I finally earned a BA through evening classes. I was mentored personally and professionally by Jeannine when we shared a work site and in the years since then. We developed a close relationship, authentic and transparent, helping one another grow and face adversity — and never giving up on each another. We developed the courage to step out, to stop writing the same story endlessly, to be accountable to one another to do the right thing. We gradually came to be quite bold in confronting one another with the dissonance between our words and our actions, with the likely consequences at the end of our paths.
The education outreach work she did spoke to me: I believe that people need to figure out what they're good at and build on that, fashioning themselves a balanced life. When the active mentoring programs of Michigan Reach Out wound down last year, I tried to mentor her. I pushed Jeannine and Martha to write a book that would summarize, consolidate, and pass on the legacy of all that had been learned in their decades of experience.
We are all convinced that people need deep thought and deep conversation to truly understand themselves and to turn their lives onto new paths. That is what is missing in families and communities today, and there is simply no substitute. That is exactly what we put into our book: deep thought and conversation weekly for a full year. The material we began with from Reach Out workshops was already very good. But we think we have created something much richer and deeper together.
Let this be a model for how much depth and clarity you can bring to your own thoughts with the same kind of sustained attention and effort. And do consider making the journey with a trusted friend!