FOCUS

By: Meredith Baker

As a mid-twenties something, I was recently (and often times, currently) in the headspace of “does everyone else have it figured out except for me?” I am an extroverted person and a yoga instructor and many of my friends have said “I wish I could be as carefree as you,” or “lend me some of your happiness.” While it is in my nature to try to seek happiness in all of my interactions, I still somehow felt like I was fooling everyone, including myself. I was caught in a cycle of self-doubt and unable to find my way out. My song FOCUS is probably the most introspective and vulnerable song I have ever written. I wrote it when I was at my lowest in London, “naked and restless in a dark, empty home,” feeling completely lost and small in a big, unfamiliar city. I wanted FOCUS to serve as a reminder that sometimes you have to face your demons before you can get rid of them, and that we are all battling our own feelings of unworthiness, though it can feel taboo to talk about it.

We can be concerned and weighed down by the opinions of others but what we often times forget is that we don’t have to let opinions of others affect the quality of our lives. Even more, others may be just as concerned with our opinions of them. Social media can be a great connector and educator, but often times, it can flame the fire of self-doubt we might have lurking inside of our shadow selves. Even though I know I am very fortunate, I can beat myself up when I see on instagram how together all of my peers are. I constantly ask myself “what if I had started sooner, focused on this thing more…” instead of turning off my phone and getting work done.

Last year, while living in London after graduating from Oxford with a Master’s degree, while many of my classmates went on to do amazing things, I chose to stay in London, work on my podcast, teach yoga, and play music. While this seemed like a fun thing to do at the time, doing things I love and exploring a new city, the unstructured nature of my schedule and large amounts of time spent working on my own cast a dark haze over my days. There was a disconnect between how unsure of myself I felt on the inside, and how confident I acted on the outside in leading my yoga classes or creating a more joyful vibe on social media which led me to feel “lost in the screens crafting someone I’m not.”

My directionless feeling felt less and less like a small bruise I could hide and more and more like an obvious weight I was carrying with me. My close family was starting to get concerned, wondering when I would find my way again. A way that I thought I knew so clearly when I was in high school and college. Because I lacked a vision, my efforts in each passion were half-baked, and when nothing caught on, I felt like my energy had been wasted. It became more and more apparent that I needed to put down roots and develop a routine; one where I could appreciate the little moments in between the work, one where I could go deeper into myself and how I spend my energy. I started to limit the time I spent on social media. I cleaned out my feed to only see posts of close friends or people that inspire me. I read Marie Kondi’s book The Magical Art of Tidying Up, and in addition to getting rid things I really did not need, I used her tactic of asking oneself “does this spark joy” for every aspect of my life, and most importantly, how I spend my time.

Although learning to focus is dynamic and a constant work in progress, I am trying to bridge the disconnect between who I am and how I feel in real life to my online habits, being more accepting of where I am in my journey and trusting that though my path may have been all over the place, every turn has had a purpose to lead me to now. I hope other people who hear FOCUS and perhaps have been feeling depressed or directionless no longer feel ashamed about feelings of inadequacy, and can talk about it. When I started to open up to some of my close friends and family, I was able to release the shame I felt (“to come out clean, the dirt has to rise”) and they helped me streamline my energy and shift my focus from what everyone else was doing to what I could do to cultivate my energy and build a solid foundation from which to grow. It makes life more bearable — and more beautiful- to share these vulnerabilities, and remind each other that, though we are all paving our own way, we are not alone. FOCUS is my way of reminding myself of this, and of a Gandhi quote I work to embody every day: “happiness is when what you do, what you say, and what you think are in harmony.”