How often do you interview yourself?
I have that written as a margin thought in my notebook. It is scrawled off to the side, clearly an attempt to stamp down a concept for later exploration.
I have been on vacation this week. I took a solo road trip, read some great books, did some writing, watched a bunch of Netflix and listened to a lot of podcasts. I’ve been running almost nonstop for the past two years and this was my first real space of pause.
I believe in the healing power of transition spaces. The in-between times stuck in the middle of the ending and the beginning of seasons are sometimes itchy, uncomfortable spaces. They are also essential spaces.
I realized that because I have been so focused on action and ploughing through the gritty work of finishing school and working a bunch of different jobs at the same time, I haven’t taken time to get quiet and think. Life operates according to rhythms of work and rest. Both are needed. If you work way too much without a break, you’ll get burned out and maybe even a bit disillusioned. If you never do any work, you’ll end up feeling foggy and purposeless and also rather disillusioned.
So there’s a rhythm. I started noticing maybe a month or two ago that I was running close to the edge of burnout. The signs were starting to pop up in certain questions that would start flashing on the screen in my mind like Why am I doing this? I would feel a bit dulled to my surroundings and the pizzaz of ambition didn’t make me feel as excited anymore. In short, I was really tired.
But then I got a week off with no responsibility to anyone other than myself. I took it as time to heal and recharge and reflect. For me, that reflection looks like sitting down and letting myself play in the arena of my mind. There are a lot of thoughts boggling around up there and unlatching the gate to let them breathe is my way of clearing some space up there, as well as getting some clarity and closure and direction in the middle space.
How often do you interview yourself?
That question came out of this reflection space as commentary on the space itself. As a journalism student, I’ve been trained to interview others. I’ve spent two years asking questions and sculpting the facts and quotes into articles and documentary and punchy headlines. I noticed that I was absorbing so much from out there, but I wasn’t venturing very far into my own interior to explore what this all meant for me.
In short, I kind of felt like a machine that channeled other people’s stories and facts, but there was some kind of essential turnover and critical examination missing.
How often do you interview yourself? How often do you sit down and ask yourself how you’re really doing? How often do you wonder why you reacted that way or how that incident affected you? How often do you actually grab an emotion and slide down the thread of where it came from to the root of the whole thing?
I do this practice through writing. I’m sure there are a hundred ways to do it. Some people draw it out. Some people talk it out. Some people write poetry. Some people make collages. Some people make spreadsheets. Some people need to stand in nature. Some people compose a song. I don’t know what your way is, but you have one. You have a way that you get inside and figure out what you think and why. It’s a way of pulling through your thoughts and making sense of them. Usually it ends up in the form of something made.
One of my ways of doing this is through notebooks. I have big sketchbooks where I write thoughts or quotes I’ve heard or sketches in my head. I found one of those notebooks yesterday and I spent time wandering through my own mind on the page. It’s a fascinating, illuminating experience to see what you think. It’s like a bulletin board of thoughts all tacked up and waiting to be explored.
You’re more interesting than you think.
The reason I believe in this practice so much is because it does something healing in you. Talking it out or writing it out or making a song out of it funnels all of those loose, rogue thoughts into something pithy and whole. You can look at it and make sense of it, then. You can also share it and build off of it.
As I worked through all my thoughts this week, I discovered that I still needed to say good-bye to some old things and I needed to open new spots in my heart to welcome some new things. It was kind of like spring cleaning my heart: dusting out the corners, closing some doors, and opening some windows to let the breeze clear out all of the musty air. Taking real focused time to notice these things and allow myself to confront it all and, in some cases, make a plan to navigate it, is the reason why I think the reflection space is essential. It’s how you figure out where you are in the story and how to open the new chapter you’re about to dive into.
So, if you’ve never done this, take some intentional space to interview yourself. Actually ask yourself who, what, why, when, where and how. You can express that through writing or talking or drawing or thinking or composing. Go running or swimming or climbing while you think about it. Here are some sample questions to ask yourself:
Where am I right now in life? Is it really where I want to be?
Who am I and do I like that person?
What is bothering me right now?
What am I enjoying right now?
Who do I need to talk to?
What do I need right now?
Why did I react that way?
How can I do better next time?
Those are just a few questions of a thousand you could possibly ask yourself. The point is to critically think about where you were, where you are now, and where you are going. Critically reflect and maybe make a new plan before you head into the next season of life.
You might learn something from yourself.