Universal Home by America Chavez
Did you move around a lot as a kid? You probably didn’t think too much of it at the time, but looking back, your childhood might’ve been a semi-jarring experience. After all, it’s hard to have a stable social, academic and home life when you’re always picking up and leaving for somewhere else.
Like moving, other big life changes can make us feel disoriented. That’s especially true for today’s Character Coaching client, America C. Like many of us, America’s reeling from a childhood full of big moves and major changes. Every time she moves, she thinks hard about how to belong, and even harder about what she wants in a permanent home someday.
These questions have been plaguing her for some time now, which is why she’s finally ended up in our coaching orbit. America needs our help, so we’re going to see if we can strike up a conversation with her and get to the root of how all this constant turmoil makes her feel… more than that, we’ll see if we can help her overcome her fears of not fitting in.
If you’re someone who’s been bombarded by a lot of change in your life, then this episode of Character Coaching is specifically for you. Be sure to read through America’s journals below, and then take a peek at the episode itself, because we get into some… interesting… hijinks throughout it.
America’s first journal entry: Universal Home
“My name is America, and I’ve got a problem. See… this is going to sound strange, but ever since I was a kid I’ve found myself moving between different universes. Jumping from place to place whenever I would get emotional, I never really had a place I would call home. Now I have better control of myself, but I still can’t find one place to belong to. And I’ve tried… oh man, I’ve tried. That universe where everyone was left handed, the universe where you could talk to trees, the universe where pizza was technically a salad. Now I’m here in the journal universe….and I don’t know if it’ll stick, but I really want to try.” — America C.
First impressions: everywhere and nowhere all at once
Hang on a minute. Before we start the coaching… can we just talk about the pizza-as-a-salad universe for a second? Not to rain on America’s parade, but who could be unhappy when they’ve got a universe like that to travel to on a whim? I know I certainly would feel right at home in a place like that… throw a little arugula on the crust of a six-cheese pie and call it a side salad… a man can dream…
Okay, let’s get down to business. While I can’t specifically relate to the concept of leaving my dimension and ending up in another one, there’s definitely parts of my life that mirror America’s situation.
For instance, I know what it’s like to jump from place to place, switching jobs or relationships or schools along the way. It can be a very disorienting experience, so I can see why America’s struggling to find a “home” for herself amid so much change.
I’m sure that’s true of many of you reading, too. You’ve probably had an experience where you felt uprooted and displaced, with very few tools at your disposal to help you find a home for yourself.
Things like these often happen for a few reasons. If it’s a job change, it’s usually because the career path you’re on isn’t a good fit, or else you’ve learned everything you can at a company, and feel ready to “move on.”
As for moving homes or leaving relationships, sometimes those decisions aren’t up to us — sometimes, other people choose for us, leaving us to pick up the pieces of our old lives and cobble them into a new, different life path.
The common thread between all of these experiences is that there’s many reasons people feel displaced. But in America’s case, I don’t actually know what her reason is — why does she feel not at home jumping universes? What’s her unique struggle that’s keeping her from staying in one place too long?
More than that, where does America hope to get to after she’s done hopping? Is there an “ideal” universe she’d like to end up in? And what has she learned from all of the different places she’s been so far?
The reason I ask these questions is because I’m trying to understand a little more about America’s ability to develop and hone her emotional resilience. Emotional resilience is what allows people to achieve great things and overcome adversity without being torn apart by failure, and it’s an important trait to develop — learning to try and try again is a huge part of overcoming that “out of place” feeling, so I’m hoping we can learn more about America’s relationship with persistence in her next journal.
I’m going to formalize these questions and ask America about them. For your part, think about the following questions and come up with your own answers. If you’re constantly feeling out of place, what’s keeping you from putting your roots down? And where do you ultimately hope to be?
- What is getting in the way of you sticking around wherever you land?
- Where are you hoping to get to?
- What have you learned from each new universe (re: emotional resilience)
Next: looking for a landing pad
“When I was younger I lost my moms, and I feel like it affected how well I can connect to others. Now that I’m trying to use my skills to help others… I think I may have developed some trust issues. I have made friends along the way, don’t get me wrong, but they have their own lives and own spaces, their own universe that they belong to. I can’t help but shake the vibe that I’m an outsider… I want somewhere where I can be myself and belong, but also where I’m recognized for being a three-dimensional, well-developed person.”
This is a very interesting follow-up journal! It gives us a lot more information regarding America’s background, and delivers a key piece of the puzzle that was previously missing. It seems as though part of America’s difficulty lies in her inability to reconnect with her parents. That’s tragic, but it’s also understandable.
While this specific scenario might not apply to you, it’s a good crash course in showing you how journaling works up-close. As coaches, we never want to assume too much about our clients, because doing so leads to giving bad, generic advice. Instead, we prefer to ask lots of questions and really dig deep to uncover the unique circumstances that are contributing to someone’s current life challenges. Should you decide to work with us, we’ll give you the same treatment we’re giving America — we’re not going to assume anything at all about you; instead, we’d rather learn about your life through lots of good questions.
With that out of the way, we can start to dissect America’s follow-up entry. In her own words, it seems like she’s having troubles making real, lasting connections with people. Instead of being recognized as a three-dimensional human being, people only see a sliver of who she is, and that makes her feel alienated from the communities she enters.
I’m sure a lot of us can relate to that. Most of us don’t keep in touch with past coworkers or bosses, and as a result, few of our colleagues understand who we really are. When that happens, it can feel isolating to work for those who see a two-dimensional version of yourself.
Here’s the thing: in life, when we job-hop, start a new relationship or move homes, it can often feel like we’re starting from scratch. But I don’t actually see it that way. Instead, we bring with us all the experiences we’ve ever had, and a major sea-change is just a new opportunity to reveal those experiences — and how they’ve impacted us — to others.
So, instead of approaching a big change as starting from scratch, I might suggest that America draws on her favorite aspects of herself, and chooses to present those wherever she goes. Instead of thinking about how to belong (because thinking too much about that is the easiest way to not belong), I’d tell America to focus on other things — namely, the parts of herself she wants new friends and flames to see.
Okay. Time to put those thoughts into question form, and follow up again. Let’s see what America has to say about our musings, shall we?
- What if you make your own space where people can see the full you?
- Is focusing on belonging the thing that’s preventing you from feeling at-home?
- What are the different dimensions you want people to see?
The check-in: a universal approach to healing
“I don’t know if I’ll stay in the journal universe forever. It’s honestly getting a bit crowded for me, but I think it’s a good thing I popped in… this was helpful. I was kind of expecting a sentient notebook based on the name “The Journal that Talks Back,” so I’m glad that was just a name. I’m fairly certain I can’t make my own universe, BUT I do see what you’re getting at. How can I present myself as a fully realized adult if I don’t show off what makes me special and great? I move from universe to universe, and like you pointed out, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing… I’ve seen things folks can’t even dream of, and I could focus on those experiences to make those stronger connections.”
I love this journal entry. Why? Because it shows that America’s still a work in progress. You know, sometimes there’s a tendency for me to present these coaching scenarios as clear-cut, problem-to-solution equations, but the reality is that life’s never that neat and tidy. It’s clear from this journal that America’s still figuring a whole lot of things out, and probably will be for a long time. And that’s okay!
One thing I’m proud of America for doing is shifting away from using her past experiences as a reason to disconnect from others, and turning it into a strength that can be used to improve her future relationships. That’s something we’ve worked hard on together, and I’m happy she’s leaning into it.
Part of the cool and unique thing about The Journal That Talks Back is that it allows both clients and coaches to reconsider someone’s life from a new perspective, and I feel like this has been a perfect example of that. Not only have we learned why America has difficulties connecting to others, but we also learned that her previously perceived weakness — her world-hopping — could be turned into an advantage.
This might be true of you, too. If you’re dealing with a similar problem as America, you might think you need to “fix” your tendency to switch careers, jobs or hometowns. But the truth is, there’s a thousand ways to look at your background that don’t involve lambasting yourself for seeking change. If you know that change will likely always be a part of your life, then it pays to think about how you can use that change to your advantage.
In fact, the only thing I’m sad about is that America isn’t going to hang around in the journaling universe any longer… I was really starting to enjoy our conversations! But with her leaving, there’s always room for another prospective journal-ee to coach…