Miha – The Sailor
It seems to be that in life, our journeys can be taking a turn that leads us to darkened skies and rougher seas. The depth and breath of that storm is unknown until you are amongst it. But the sooner you realize that you cannot change the ocean or the weather, no matter how hard you try, to sooner you learn how to sail in all conditions. This week’s Sunday Stories is that of Miha, the skillful sailor that made it through the roughest of days at sea.
This is a quote that I instantly feel in love with. It breaks all the rules of the typical quote that state how we should live, when everything is right. Instead it states what we, as individuals, do when things go wrong. We all have moments where we do not recognise the person staring back in the mirror and that for a moment – or even longer – we became strangers to ourselves. This affirmation reminds me of that rather than skirting over it, we need to address it. Miha was open about her changing faces. She saw others with it “all together” and thought “I want that” and “how do they know what life is?” So she did what any chameleon would do to survive, turn her colours.
“For years, I never knew who I was. I mean, I knew my name and my favourite colour, and where I was born. But that’ s about it. I really didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I enjoyed doing, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, and I sure as heck did not know what my purpose was. I did my best to figure out who I was, by conforming to everyone else. I straightened my hair daily, and had to have a pair of tall black UGGs, because “that’s what people where I live, did”. The worst part is I am against animal cruelty, and here I was giving up some of my morals in order to look a certain way. If people in my class were talking about a show I had never watched, or a song I had never heard, I would go home and watch an episode or listen to the song, just so I could talk about it the next day. And even if I thought the acting was horrible, or the song had no meaning, I would go in the next morning and profess my love for said show or song, because everyone else loved it.”
And this is the first email I received….her insight is surprisingly impressive at the mere age of 19. I am starting to wonder how at the age of 29 I did not know myself as much as she does – ten years my junior. She carried on explaining to me that the depth of this went way beyond the schoolyard. She talked so openly about incurring a disruption of ‘normal’ functioning to a degree to which most children would not even have a nightmare about. When others biggest dilemmas were “do I wear my mickey mouse jumper with those leggings?”, Miha was at war with herself to a level that most of us do not even have nightmares about.
“This went on for several years, and I fell into a depression, partly because I didn’t know who I was, and partly because I felt WAY too much. I consider myself an over-empathetic. For example, something sad on the news that might make someone tear up, will cause my heart to break and then I will sob as if I personally knew that person. This is very exhausting, so I guess it was easier to not feel at all. I also developed an eating disorder when I was 11, as this was a way for me to physically show everyone I was not ok, and a way for me to numb myself so I could not feel or remember certain events in my life. Because I have had my eating disorder for so long, it has definitely evolved and ended up turning into a way for punishing myself. I would not be allowed to eat for 3 days, because clearly I didn’t need to eat, so therefore I wouldn’t. Or I would force myself to throw up my meals because I could not stand the feeling of a full stomach – it literally made me sick to take care of myself. And then some days, I would force myself to eat god-awful amounts of food and then get rid of it, out of anger and hatred for myself. This went on for so long, endangering my health to the point where I was told I would be dead in a year. I was told this two years ago. Last November, I left school before the semester finished out, to enter a residential treatment program. Then in December I entered day treatment, which I did for 3 months.”
In my eyes, it takes everything inside someone to realise they need help. Regardless of any pressure placed on them to force their hand. The vocalization of ones issues had to come from within oneself. It takes true courage to talk about it without shame or fear of judgment. Courage does not mean that you never get afraid, for we all do that. Courage means that you do no let the fear stop you for trying every single day. It is okay to be afraid. It is okay to realise that you are in a dark place. And it is okay to totally breakdown. Its all okay because it means that you are about to do something undaunted and venturesome. It is the decision to change. Miha decided to take on the greatest adventure of all and as Peter Pan said “the greatest adventure of all was to live”.
“While this was easily the most difficult thing I have ever done, it is also easily the best choice I have ever made. Because I chose life, and I am ALIVE. And it is a crazy thing, to be alive despite the odds. It’s crazy to see where I am now as opposed to then, and it’s crazy to see how my body can forgive me long before I can.”
Without the shadow of a doubt, Miha took the only transportation she had available to her – a leap of faith. A leap of faith into the rabbit hole. Miha describes feelings of shakiness, fearful and being completely and utterly terrified about her existence, about who she was and about her abilities to survive. Whilst the settings gave her the space and security to completely dissolve her former self into ashes and process the experiences that have lead her to this point, she realised that she had the power all along. The power to become herself and be confident in that. She just had to learn it for herself. And it was there within the walls of this ‘safe place’, when she was facing her enigma, did she chose to no longer be everyone and anyone else.
“I have been to several centers, but this one definitely was a match for me in who I had as a case worker and therapist, the other patients that were there, and the treatment approach – these are all factors that vary greatly, but also matter. Think about for example, a subject you might have struggled with in school. For me, I really struggled with basic biology – I could not remember the difference between mitosis or mycosis or independent versus dependent variables! Once I had a professor that was able to give me a different perspective, and once I had a professor that clearly cared about her class and also made the class fun and interesting, and once I had a lab partner that cared about passing as much as I did, I was able to ace the class. My motivation was the same all along, but the rest of the factors weren’t right. However, while the center was life changing, that realization definitely came at a good time. The fact that I repeat it to myself so often I think is a sign of how important it was to me. The bathrooms at the treatment center had quotes all over the walls, to try and make it a safer place for those of us who had urges to act upon eating disordered behaviors. This quote was one of them. And although it didn’t happen that day, I came to the realization that I had spent way too long trying to be someone I was not, and that it was literally killing me. Another thing that happened shortly after reading these words, is that I finally opened up about a trauma that may or may not have contributed to my eating disorder and self hate. I literally found my voice, and for years I was acting like I didn’t have one. I will no longer silence myself. I love these words and often repeat them in my head, because at age 19, I am embarking on a journey that most don’t start until later in life – I am figuring out who I am.”
But do not be fooled. Miha is under no false illusion that she woke up one morning and the world was a better place. She realised that she had to tell herself who she was in the world everyday in a place that tells all of us to be someone else. Her motivation was tried and tested and slowly but surely she found herself in the rumble of her own war.
“Motivation sure is a funny thing! It most definitely was a gradual realization for me. Years even. And while I now feel sort of silly for taking so long, like I said earlier…. I am 19. I have a whole life left to live and I’m glad I figured it out NOW. As opposed to years from now”
And it is only now, does she realise that everything she wanted to know – her likes, her dislikes, her favourite song, her favourite TV show, her passions – were all on the other side of fear. In essence, Miha was sitting on the other side of the wall waiting for her.
“I now know my favourite TV show, and my favourite song and that I love to write. I no longer wear those UGGs because I have remembered my morals and values, and I love walking in the rain. For some reason I love reading mommy blogs, and I have fallen in love. And while I still don’t know what I want to be in life, I know I want to be something. Or maybe more accurately, someone. And that is more than I ever could have said six months ago.”
She speaks of her passions and newfound loves as if they were always there. It’s immense to think that this girl did not know herself from Adam or Eve less than a year ago.
“My favourite song, (I have many to be honest) would be “Rust or Gold” by Jill Andrews. Not only do I love the lyrics, but also her voice is so beautiful and the song often just sits in my head for days at a time. My favourite TV show without a doubt, is Grey’s Anatomy. My love for writing, I would not describe as blogging or stories or poems, but as EMOTIONS. That’s why I write, whether it be that I am feeling emotional or need to feel emotion, but any good story or poem or blog post will elicit emotion – be it laughter, tears, hope, fear or apprehension, etc. Though I do love writing poetry, when I am inspired!”
I listened to the song because well to be honest how could I not -and wow! Her voice is haunting with that violin. And those lyrics, so meaningful – it is like she talking about life and whether you can sink or swim in this world. I am in love with it. I downloaded it instantly and it is now on the IPod. I wonder if it is from Grey’s Anatomy. Now unless you watch this show, you won’t understand when I say, it sounds like a song that would feature on this show. I ask Miha and I can imagine her laughing at my question.
“Isn’t the song beautiful? And haha, yes! I did first hear the song on Grey’s Anatomy. I do this thing sometimes when I have nothing else to do, where I rewatch episodes on Netflix with the subtitles on, so that every time a song comes on that I love, I can just write down the name of it and the artist! My favourite line is part of the chorus: “Rust or gold, you decide what you see, what you hold. Let it burn there in your hand; watch it grow.” Life based on perception. Not only do YOU decide if what you see and hold is “rust or gold”, you also have the chance to turn it into gold…into something amazing. It really is such an analogy to life!”
Now Miha stated that she did not know who wrote this so of course my inquisitive mind didn’t let that sit. I scrolled the Internet and Presto…. I found it. It was the closing statement of a beautiful piece of writing published in 2015 by a woman named Adrienne Pieroth (blog link: She was done). She submitted it to Elephant Journal. Elephantjournal.com is all about sharing the good life with the world, living a greener life but mostly about living in this present moment, the right here and right now and how we can best be of benefit and enjoy ourselves in doing so. Miha appears to have discovered a publication that appears to be congruent with her own life philosophy. She described to me that the quote itself describes where she is at in her life right now, which mirrors the philosophy of the publication. I can imagine Miha becoming an avid reading of such a publication as well as submitted a piece of written material. When asked about her love of writing, I love the way when she described emotions as your writing style. I have never thought it like this. I ask her if there is any particular emotions that you find most compelling to write about? Or the most need to feel?
“Maybe self-doubt and also fear. I am 19, so while I am legally an adult, I am still very much a kid. And I am absolutely terrified of the world and of making mistakes and of not having enough to offer. On the other hand though, I love writing about love and infusing humour into what I write as well. I do try to stay on the positive side! And dark humour, when used correctly, can be such a great tool. It makes the darker subjects a little bit easier to not only read, but to understand. As for the emotion I think I need to feel more – happiness! And I actually think I am starting to feel it more and more!”
She speaks about her ideal self, not as a profession but as an ideal collective of qualities and attributions in her head. Someone who she sees herself on her best day, is able to manage life and deal with it with confidence. Miha, without realising, is becoming that person who writes to me.
“If I woke up as the person I want to be, I would be confident. I would ask questions without apologizing, and I would offer advice without “well, it’s just my opinion so it doesn’t matter ya know?” and I would not say sorry simply for walking by someone. I would start movements for what I believe in (this part I actually am already starting! I am working with a NEDA youth outreach advisor to start/bring a body positive group to my campus!). I don’t really know how else to explain it, but the “someone” isn’t necessarily someone who knows who she is…but someone who knows she is confidence. There is a difference between confidence and competence, and I believe that competence is lessened if the confidence isn’t there. I want to be a doer; I don’t want to be just a talker. I feel like the confidence piece is so so important. Perhaps the most important. Like I said about there being a difference between competence and confidence. If you have a beautiful singing voice, or beautiful words through writing, or ideas for life changing inventions….if you don’t have the confidence to show the world, the world not only loses out, but you do too in a sense. And that’s just one thing I’ve learned about taking so long in starting a blog and sharing both my writing and story”
So as always, Miha has taught me two things; (1) a ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it is built for and (2) you can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. There is a saying “a ship is always safe at sore but that is not what it is built for” written by Albert Einstein and I never truly understood its depth until I read Miha’s story. As humans we design and construct the vessel in which we use to transport ourselves through life and the storms that chartered our courses. What it looks likes and the material we use to build our transportation is down to us. I remember in my school days, going on camp and having to make rafts out of logs, ropes and barrels. Once we have built it on land, it appeared ready to take on the world but it was only when we put them in the water did we see the flaws in our designs. Miha has taught me that you are only designed to be yourself but when we stationary, we are all safe. Calm waters do not make for an experienced sailor and all that jazz. And we are not built to be stationary. Life is an accumulation of dynamic factors that are forever testing our stability and model designs. We develop and reform our model designs throughout the journey when we come face-to-face up against the elements.
The second lesson, you can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, is an additional to the first lesson. As I said we all build the vessel that we sail through this life on. We build these on dry land, launch them into the ocean to see if they float. We then dock them whilst we prepare ourselves for the journey ahead. We gather supplies and learn the skills we need to in order to get started. However you can only go so far before you leave to raise your anchor, set sail and do what we are designed to do – live. But there is a difference between sailing around the harbour and sailing the world. Miha has taught me that although you can learn things sailing around the harbour, you have to let the shoreline meet the horizon in order to truly discover yourself. We are all afraid of open waters for there is no safety net, but you will find that the quickest way to acquire self-confidence is to do exactly what you are afraid to do.
Mark Twain furthered this thought by saying, “Twenty year from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
In terms of her ikigai, I believe Miha discovered her reason for being in her Palinoia. Palinoia is a Greek word for the obsessive repetition of an act until it is perfect or mastered. She attempted to replicate other’s personals and sampled out their vessels over the years, she tested their methods and discovered her own identity through those trials. She repeated this process and lost her way for a while. She found this is the latibule of the treatment facilities where she was able to breakdown to build herself again. She has lived through numinous times where her experiences make her fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted. She has experiences powerful, personal experiences of being overwhelmed and inspired through the fall and rise of her own empire. She continued to assess and evaluate herself through these experiments until she mastered it. She found her reason for being when she realised that her experiences are not who you are, nor are what others tell you or expect of you. She built, demolished, and rebuilt her ship so many times until it was perfect. She then set sail, let the sunset kiss the shoreline and now continues to explore the wonders of the world. Her realisation that the world needs her, who she is and just the way she is, has come from a series of tried and tested methods. She would be the first to advice you to be yourself and in the wise words of Miha….
And that’s a wrap on my Fourth Sunday Story. I hope you like it. Thank you to Miha for sharing her journey with me. Miha’s blog can be found here: Perfection Has A Price
Please, if you have any comments, questions and thoughts then leave then below. However, if you want to get in touch privately, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise if you want to be a Sunday story, please write to me.
Until next Sunday,