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The Vendetta Lost

ZoeHlmn's picture

Who am I? I have yet to figure that out. My role in the world, the universe, the environment, is still a question mark. Life is constantly changing, people die every day, and rarely do we think our family members will be the ones dying. Life adjustments need to be made as our lives plug further and further along. Rebecca Solnit proposes an answer to this question. In order to find oneself one needs to become lost. Where? When? And how does one go about doing this? Does a structured system such as a college allow us to openly search as Solnit suggests that one must do? Does Bryn Mawr College’s concrete, structured education provide room for what Solnit proposes in her Field Guide to Getting Lost. Which way is the best way to explore the self and can Solnit’s ideas coexist in a fixed college environment?

 “To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away” (Solnit 6). Here Solnit states that people need to give into the world and its surroundings and become lost physically and emotionally. She proposes that this is the best way to become close with nature and oneself to find one’s true identity. Through the process of physically getting lost one’s individual comes into question. The question “Who am I?” becomes easier to solve because of the isolation from the outside world. This allows for deep contemplation and the ability to let go of the uncontrollable because they are out of one’s reach. Solnit also suggests that “there’s another art of being at home in the unknown” (Solnit 10). This comfort in the unknown is something that Solnit urges throughout her work. This comfort in being lost leads to other realizations about one’s self. These steps are necessary to lose one’s identity in order to find one’s true self.

Solnit addresses “the how to” find ones self. However, she does not say when is the right time to get lost. Is it as a child, young adult, adult or as an old adult? There are different stages in life that everyone goes through at different times in their life. These stages are not addressed in Solnit’s Field Guide to Getting Lost. There are institutions such as high schools, colleges, and companies that provide a structured system that does not promote “getting lost” and escaping from a certain path that leads to a career and salary down the road. While Solnit suggests one be fully present and detach from material things a scheduled workday or day in college does not support this option.

Bryn Mawr College class of 2016 has a total of 8 semester requirements that need to be fulfilled by the end of senior year, with an additional 6 P.E. credits. Then added to that there are the requirements necessary for graduating with a specific major and/or minor. This institution has been established since 1885 and has graduated many strong independent women. However, is this college a place in which women can find themselves? Is a strong independent woman someone who is psychologically stable and knows how to lose themselves as Solnit suggests or are these women so goal oriented that they push emotion aside and fight for a career or fight for a place in society? The structure of Bryn Mawr College provides a broad expanse of knowledge from Histories to Sciences providing its women with a wide range of knowledge covering certain topics the College finds important and will help women in the “real” world. Is college the place that one needs to become lost, according to Solnit, in order to find them before they graduate? It may be for specific people but it is not for everyone.

Midlife crisis’ are prominent in most families as people begin to question what they are doing with their lives and are they happy or unhappy. My father is one example. All he has ever known is how to be a doctor. Now in his early 50’s he questions himself and whom he is while he debates whether or not to continue to be and orthopedic surgeon. As a Brown graduate, would he have had time in college to figure everything out about himself such as he is doing now? His life would have been very different if he had decided a different profession directly out of college. He is trying at a much later time to find himself, a time when he has made money and can afford to take time off and become lost. He keeps trying to be fully present is to detach from material things and be comfortable with that fact.  Now that he has a stable situation he can devote time to “getting lost” such as Solnit suggests.

Solnit proposes that people need to go off the path that they need to find themselves by removing themselves from society for a time.  That way one can feel what it is like to surrender to nature and be lost in the moment.  College institutions do not permit students to get lost for a time because student’s studies would suffer and cause them to hurry to make up for lost time. Students that have certain goals such as becoming a doctor, lawyer or a CEO of a company cannot afford to lose themselves in the way Solnit suggests because they fear losing precious time or are afraid of unsatisfactory grades. Students even take gap years to find out more about themselves and mature but the drawbacks include wasting a year of life when they could be in college or risk never going back to college. The fear of becoming lost and never returning is something Solnit does not provide a solution to.  According to Solnit “plans go astray and the one certain thing about the weather is that is changes” (Solnit 12). All this searching and trying to have a certain expectation of how life should be is useless because it causes unnecessary distress. The “dissolution of identity” as Solnit put it, allows us to become lost in order to find out who we really are (Solnit 16).  Students fear losing their identity as Solnit advises because they are at an unstable point in their life where they cannot afford to risk their grades or future.

Each person needs to eventually become lost and search for who they really are. However, one must understand that it will come in its own time. Whether it is during one’s college years or 30 years after, getting lost is necessary for self-reflection. College and Solnit’s proposition to get lost can coexist with one another, it is just a process and that needs to happen to everyone individually. 


Works Cited

Solnit, Rebecca. "Open Door" and "The Blue of Distance." A Field Guide to Getting Lost. New York. Penguin, 2005. 3-25, 161-168.

"Bryn Mawr College." Bryn Mawr Deans. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2012. 




CMJ's picture

Lost in regards to what?

I have a different perspective on getting lost.. I feel that at this moment in my life right now I am the most lost I have ever been. Lost, but each day I get closer to who I'm going to be in the future. It also does not worry me that I am lost, because I know that eventually everything is going to work itself out. 

Sarah Cunningham's picture

maybe the earth needs us to get lost

What comes up for me as I read this paper is wondering about the relationship of all those goal-oriented people so set on being doctors or lawyers or CEOs that they do not have time to lose themselves, with the getting-used-up state of our environment... Maybe you (and Solnit) are onto something here.