Dorothy Aldis, "When I Was Lost"

I still walk nervous. I’ve done a lot to be calmer, to learn to breathe.

Exercise, meditation, reflection.

On a larger level: the ability to prioritize.

But adulthood in this world, at this time, is a nonstop creation of traps. Whether I’m productive or not, expectations emerge from every corner.

I imagine a lot of us can relate to feeling nervous on an everyday level. I know I make myself fearful in order to motivate myself.

It isn’t quite the sensation of being lost when I was younger. The feeling I had done something gravely wrong and was paying an awful, lonely price:

“My stomach was a stone. / Sinking was the way I felt.”

It does feel related to that, though.

When I Was Lost
Dorothy Aldis

Underneath my belt
My stomach was a stone.
Sinking was the way I felt
And hollow.
And alone.


This extremely relatable poem is from a children’s anthology. I was introduced to it on Twitter thanks to Kamran Javadizadeh:

The trochee—stressed, unstressed—has the voice of the reader fall. The “Sinking was the way I felt” line actually does sink.

When I was lost as a child, I felt a complete lack of control. If I was in public, I wasn’t sure who to trust or ask. If I was strictly on my own, I desperately wanted to see something I could recognize to get a sense I knew where I was.

It’s that need for landmarks, for knowledge to embrace familiarity, which links being lost when younger with being nervous when older.

When I create expectations and make myself fearful, I can say who I am: I am someone who can’t handle this; I am someone who doesn’t want to do that.

It sounds pretty pathetic. But this is the sort of thing I use to remind myself that I exist.

Just walking on the shore with the family at some Christmas.
Photo by Lionel Gustave / Unsplash


Why can’t my motivation be more positive?

It’s going to take a lot to reprogram. To turn from talking about a sense of self to actually building one.

It would be nice to blame myself entirely for this situation. To say “I’ve been lazy” and just start making progress.

Adulthood, though, lays subtle traps. We measure ourselves in relation to productivity and the power we wield. That’s just my awful sense of self-assertion turned on its head. I am someone who can handle this; I am someone who wants to do that.

“This” and “that” float, as if an adult’s job is to only be a useful tool. No wonder some find it hard to respect elders who demonstrate wisdom and compassion. How someone who knows but can’t do is considered useless as opposed to learned.


Aristotle speaks of the nutritive soul; a number of thinkers talk about growing like a tree, majestically (e.g. Shakespeare, Sonnet 73).

Growth, to some of us, sounds like an excuse as opposed to moral commitment. It can ring hollow as we’ve seen quite a few use the fact they’ve made some small changes to try and make us forget the horrible things they’ve done.

But here’s Maya Angelou with some words for the ages (h/t Diana Elbasha; from The Paris Review):

“Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy.”