I graduated from university in July 2015.
The whole experience was quite disorientating.
For the first time since the age of four, I found myself outside of the academic system that had always provided me with a steady stream of goals and a consistent sense of purpose.
I felt quite lost like Nemo in Finding Nemo or the people in that TV show where the plane crashes and the passengers become stranded on an island.
I often experienced difficulty answering certain questions in job interviews.
I do not remember having identity issues as a child.
Back then, I spent a lot of time in the great outdoors and when I say the ‘great outdoors’, I am referring mainly to my parents’ back garden.
My parents’ back garden featured breath-taking geographical features such as a 2×3 metre pond, a multitude of impressive wildlife specimens in the form of worms and the occasional pigeon and some flowers.
Once I was in the wilderness, it was hard to get me out.
Eight months after graduating, I decided to go and work on an outdoor education camp on the west coast of Canada, in what I guess was an attempt to reconnect with a simpler time when I worried less about establishing myself in the ‘real world’ and more about the important things in life, such as whether my mum would get mad if I used her electric whisk to blend together the ingredients of my mud pie.
Western Canada is a land of great natural beauty.
It looks a lot like that place that they used to film Lord of the Rings, except not exactly like that place because that place isn’t Canada; it’s New Zealand.
However, soon after arriving at camp, I discovered that finding a peaceful moment to contemplate nature is kind of difficult when you spend the majority of your time surrounded by kids.
When you are out on a boat with a group of children it is important to concentrate, not on the complexity of human cognition, but on providing some form entertainment for the kids.
Neglecting to do this will encourage them to find ways of entertaining themselves.
At first, I did genuinely believe that it was going to be okay.
The logical part of my brain was aware of the fact that a group of 11 year old girls didn’t possess the vocal capacity to continue singing until the end of time.
However, as the minutes passed and the singing continued, I started to lose my grip on my sanity and with it my ability to think in a rational manner.
As a camp counsellor, you are required to provide 24 hour supervision for the kids in your care.
This means that you have to sleep in the same building as them which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of children don’t understand how to sleep properly.
Some kids, for example, operate under the terrible misconception that the crack of dawn is an acceptable time to be awake.
Children learn at an accelerated rate and as a result have highly imaginative minds.
This heightened curiosity that children possess is an amazing thing.
However, it is significantly less amazing when it manifests itself in a seemingly unstoppable torrent of questions at 4:35am in the morning.
Despite its frustrations, working with children is ultimately a pretty rewarding experience, even if it does entail spending the early hours of the morning explaining how sunscreen works to a 9 year old.
However, during my time at camp, I was not working with kids 100% of the time.
In the spring season, the site was frequently rented out to adult groups for various events, weddings and retreats.
Whilst working with one of these groups, I got talking to a man who told me that stargazing on a regular basis helped him to maintain clarity of thought.
The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.
I figured that what he was saying made sense – if you’re searching for a personal lightbulb moment, why not look to nature’s very own lightbulbs to locate it?
I’m beginning to doubt if staring intensely at a mountain range or the night sky is an effective way to induce a moment of epic self-realisation.
Maybe a solid identity is not something that can be found in a fixed moment because we ourselves are not permanent fixtures.
Our minds are always evolving and the way in which we perceive ourselves and our surroundings is constantly changing.
Maybe the process of reaching self-enlightenment is a bit more like driving down a heavily congested road…