Do you remember when your cool friend made you watch Lost in Translation for the first time? Was it pretty late on a school night and were you were like “this is a weird Bill Murray movie.” If you were like me you were hoping it would be like a Japanese What About Bob? or maybe a Japanese Caddyshack, but instead it was just an older, depressed, married man and a younger, depressed, married young woman going out to Japanese karaoke bars. This was not the Bill Murray you were looking for, but it was cool–and weird, you thought.
Remember the scene where Bill and Scarlett are are lying in bed just talking because they needed to bare their souls to another human being? Remember their pillowed heart-to-heart conversation before they eventually said goodbye and nothing really happened and the movie was over?
It’s a great scene:
Scarlett: “I’m stuck.
Scarlett: “Does it get easier?”
Bill: “It gets easier.”
Scarlett: “Oh yeah? Look at you.”
Bill: “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”
Scarlett: “Yeah. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be, you know. I tried being a writer, but I hate what I write. I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. You know, every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses… taking dumb pictures of your feet.”
Bill: “You’ll figure that out. I’m not worried about you.”
Bill: “Keep writing.”
Scarlett: “But I’m so mean.”
Bill: “Mean’s okay.”
Scarlett asks some good questions here
“What am I supposed to be?” and “why DOES every girl through a photography phase?!?”
I’ve asked these questions. Have you?
In her book, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams, sociologist Sharon Daloz-Parks tries to map the purpose-searching life of young adults. Through interviews and analysis of hard data she found that the question that depressed Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation is THE question the almost all young adults are struggling to answer. According to Parks, figuring out “what I am supposed to be?” is a is a difficult process that takes most people their entire twenties, or longer, to complete.
As I cross over into my thirties, I can relate more to Bill Murray’s side of the bed than I did at 20, but I have spent most of the last ten years on Scarlett’s pillow. I have been in the void of not knowing where I was going and worried that I was spending too much time worrying about it. If you are still trying to answer the question “what am I supposed to do with my life?” know that at least according to sociologists, this is normal and it should dominate your thinking and worrying and wondering. As a wise friend of mine has said, “this time of searching for identity is a full-time job.”
For me that meant quitting my paying full time job so that I could make space for the work of rest, reflection, and encouragement I needed to move forward. After four years in a career I didn’t want to stay in, I decided to move across the country to a place and a community that would help me ask the deeper questions I had about my purpose and desires. I needed to sleep, think, process my past, learn from people I respected, and try new things that scared me. At the end of that year in reflection, my questions weren’t exactly answered, but I at least had an idea of what I wanted to do next. And the energy to actually go for it.
I hope that you will take steps towards becoming who you really want to be, even if you’re not sure exactly who that is. It might mean taking steps away from where you are currently stuck or giving yourself permission to explore a new path. In the ever-reassuring words of Bill, remember that whatever happens “you’ll figure that out, I’m not worried about you.”