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Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.  ~Henry David Thoreau

This is a quote that I put into my signature on my email account. I picked it up some time back because I felt like the past two years (and in particular this past year) have been quite the journey down roads unknown, and at times I felt more than a little lost. But during that journey, I also discovered new things about myself; some things I liked, some I didn’t.

At times, I had to reach deep inside to find courage and tenacity. I had to learn to let go of certain ideas, so that another could heal. I had to put on a brave face when all I wanted to do was cry. I learned to trust God for the sake of a family member that I could not bear to lose. And most recently, I had to put my heart aside, insulate it, and make certain decisions based upon conviction, rather than on emotions.

So thick was my insulated shell that I had literally stopped allowing myself to feel. Ah, but sometimes the sneakiest little things penetrate our shields, cracking the ice, and warm feeling flows in a river of tears.

What was the catalyst?

“Sometimes we have to get lost to find ourselves.”

This New Tourism Australia advertisement was the catalyst. I saw this ad on The Australian two days ago for the first time. On the surface, one might not quite “get” how such a rather benign commercial could have such a profound effect on me. Technically, it shouldn’t have. Suffice it to say that I see things differently than most.

This ad is about a romantic couple. One individual is a high-powered executive whose work dominates her and interferes with her personal life. Her husband or partner seems to have had “enough” of that and wants a break from her. But, an Australian aboriginal child comes to the woman during her sleep and sprinkles red earth on her, whispering, “Sometimes we have to get lost to find ourselves. Sometimes we have to go Walkabout.” Corny, right?

Americans who remember Crocodile Dundee might remember the expression “walkabout.” In general it refers to a rite-of-passage that aboriginals engage in wherein they wander the wilderness alone at a young age. I think in this case however, “walkabout” refers broadly to any sojourn away from a hectic life where one can re-connect with nature. The following scenes show this same couple swimming in a magnificent natural pool, clearly rediscovering their love for each other. The sense is that they are renewed and changed, for the better. The overall message is that Australia is a place of healing and peace; a place to let go of what isn’t important in our lives in favour of what is important. Come Walkabout, let your old self get lost and discover a new you.

This touching, earthy advertisement made me cry. Having just returned to the States from a lengthy, yet not long enough, stay in Australia – I cried for things that could have been and never were, and how I wish I could have been the one swimming with her partner, rediscovering love. I cried for a great many things; my heart finally shedding its self-imposed ice in mourning for all the things I miss about Australia (which is indeed magical), all the things I wanted to be in Australia, and for my husband who is still there ~ alone.

Analysing is a coping tool

In relation to the commercial, on the surface I could say that it is the antithesis of the prior Tourism ad wherein they asked, “Where the Bloody Hell are You?” (Seems we’re lost – we don’t know where we are…) I don’t think that one can consciously choose to “get lost” so that one can find themselves. It seems to me it’s rather something that happens to us when we make choices and one day discover that those choices aren’t necessarily in our best interest, or don’t represent the real ‘us.’ Then you have that, ‘I was lost, but now I’m found – aha moment’ that makes life so intriguing. This is, in essence, gaining a new perspective on life. But, does this new perspective on life help us to make real changes so that we cease to make the same old mistakes?

Do we grow inside when we face hardship and then struggle to overcome it? What if we bring those hardships down upon our own heads simply through our own bad choices or unhealthy patterns?

Experiencing hardship can bring out the best – or the worst – in people. It can uncover the ‘real you,’ even help you discover things about yourself you never knew existed.

It should never be about running away

What does running away from our problems teach us about ourselves? Leave your old problems behind? Start afresh? If only life were that simple. Just about any good parent will tell you that you can never run from your problems; instead, you drag them with you like invisible unwanted baggage. And they have a sneaky way of popping out of your closet when you least expect it.

Yes, we surely need inspiration, and even hardship, to make excellent changes in our lives; to fix what might be broken, like being overwhelmed with work, being ruled by money and the commitment it requires to earn it, such as is depicted in this advertisement. Almost as if such dedication is too much of a good thing.

Whatever our problems are, can we rise above those problems if we focus on our needs, rather than our wants? Safe housing, good schools, a stable job and home-life are what every person dreams of. These things are interdependent upon our individual state-of-mind. What is comfortable and acceptable to one person may be deplorable to the next. What is normal to one person may be an unattainable dream to another.

So what is the solution? Run away to another country and lose oneself in nature? While a healthy break to commune with nature is certainly one very valid way to regain perspective and redefine personal goals (…and Australia is certainly a great place to do exactly that…) it is not the only answer.

I think the key lies in communication with ones heart AND with your loved ones. Talk about what really matters to you. Is it a fine house in a great neighbourhood? Is it a fast-paced job on Wallstreet? Is it serving your community? Working with needy families? Or is it rock climbing in Colorado, or building a runway in the Antarctic? The key is to discover who you are inside and take a leap of faith; it’s about letting go of fear, so you can build your dreams your way.

And when we find ourselves in that Aha Moment, the key will be in summoning the courage to say, “This decision was wrong for me and I want to make changes.” Doing so will help remove the stress from your life, help you to feel more in control, and ultimately lead to healthier relationships.

Yeah, then when you’ve got the money, go swimming in Australia. It can’t be beat.