Remembering how to fly
If you haven’t seen Kiki’s Delivery Service from Studio Ghibli, put it on your list! Like all Miyazaki movies, it’s a chill, beautiful, makes-you-feel-human film. It’s about a witchling who leaves home when she turns 13, as all witches do, to “train” by living out in the world for a year.
Meet Kiki! She’s 13, she flies on a broomstick, and her best friend is a talking black cat named Jiji.
Curious, cheerful, and adventurous, Kiki’s excited to start her year in the world. Kiki flies around throughout the night until she spots a glittering city by the seaside and falls in love. There, she ends up making deliveries on her broomstick and winning people’s hearts.
But being out in a big world has its surprises. Now that it’s her job, flying loses its fun. She reluctantly starts to befriend a curious boy, Tombo, but being invited to meet his friends scares her away. Facedown in bed (forever relatable), Kiki says,
I think something’s wrong with me. I make friends, then suddenly I can’t bear to be with any of them. Seems like that other me, the cheerful and honest one, went away somewhere.
Kiki keeps on until one day, seemingly out of nowhere, she wakes up to realize she’s lost flying altogether and can’t understand Jiji, no matter how hard she tries to get her abilities back. Her friend Ursula, an artist living in the woods, whisks her away for a break. And Kiki finds some answers there (transcript thanks to Whims from Valadae)…
Ursula: When I was your age, I’d already decided to become an artist. I loved to paint so much. I’d paint all day until I fell asleep right at my easel. And then one day, for some reason, I just couldn’t paint anymore. I tried and tried, but nothing I did seemed any good. They were copies of paintings I’d seen somewhere before … and not very good copies either. I just felt like I’d lost my ability.
Kiki: That sounds like me.
Ursula: It’s exactly the same, but then I found the answer. You see, I hadn’t figured out what or why I wanted to paint. I had to discover my own style. When you fly, you rely on what’s inside of you, don’t you?
Kiki: Uh huh. We fly with our spirit.
Ursula: Trusting your spirit! Yes, yes! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. That same spirit is what makes me paint and makes your friend bake. But we each need to find our own inspiration, Kiki. Sometimes it’s not easy.
Kiki: I guess I never gave much thought to why I wanted to do this. I got so caught up in all the training and stuff. Maybe I have to find my own inspiration.
Sometimes we’re all Kiki, minus the cool cat and the flying broomstick
We all lose our mojo. Our confidence, our talent, our inspiration, our direction… the thing that guides us, sets us apart, gives us our spark.
Let’s be honest. We all feel lost as fuck sometimes.
It would be nice to just have a playbook for life. Kiki set out with a broomstick, a black cat, and no instructions, free to go anywhere, “A Whole New World” style. Growing up and living life can feel like that. There’s so much we can do, could become, should accomplish, it’s hard to figure out where the hell you want to go.
A lot of us grow up with a little playbook that we get from the people around us… a bunch of ideas, opinions, or examples we pick up about what we should do in life. How we should live it. Who we should be. But while it’s good to have a model, there’s only so far it can take us, and so much left for us to discover. After all, all witches have a power, but Kiki’s not sure what hers is yet.
This is where I can say I’ve got something Kiki didn’t: answers. See, I used to have my own playbook on life all laid out for me, simple as tomorrow’s outfit for school at the foot of my bed. As a born again Christian, I had the answer to everything: a big, fat, juicy “Jesus.” Foolproof!
I knew what life was about and who I was. I was a precious daughter of the designer of the universe, and my purpose on Earth was to convert people to The Truth before Jesus came back (no pressure). Harry Potter was a no and Friday nights were for memorizing Bible verses and hanging out with the kids from our church family that I grew up with.
There was so much security in Knowing Things — to have shit so figured out, from who I was to what we did on Friday nights, that we were convinced nothing else could be right. But this little playbook was actually holding me back.
I didn’t belong to myself, I belonged to God, because I was “bought with a price”… so I was meant to let go of my own selfish goals and desires, to act modestly, to “die to myself,” and to let God mold me into whoever he liked. This was where I’d find all my joy, confidence, peace, freedom, everything that mattered. Actually, it was supposed to be the only place I could find it.
Those guidelines were suffocating — not because they were rules, but because at heart, they allowed no room to be who I really was.
So, broomstick-less and cat-less (the real tragedy), I left.
It can be easier to live by what you should do when you don’t know what you want to do
When I was 19, I left the world I knew for a wild new one, ripe with adventure and opportunity and fresh hot freedom. Losing my faith, my sense of belonging in my church family, and my relationship with my parents was catastrophic, but soon I saw that it freed me to reimagine what life, love, and family could really mean.
I’d always been taught that secular culture was (fill in the blank with unnecessarily negative word), but now I thought it could be liberating. I got to decide for myself who I wanted to be and where my life went. At the same time, I was financially independent, so I was deciding where to live, what classes to take, what to wear, how to cut my hair, what to eat — a million everyday choices. It was scandalous! Life-giving! Thrilling!
Also fucking terrifying!
And I don’t think I’m alone. Whether you grew up with your own set of answers or not, there are so many voices out there nowadays offering opinions and advice and options that your own voice can get lost in the confusion. It can be easier to turn to what we should do to guide us, or what other people are doing… but that can get us more lost than anything.
Most days, just like Kiki, I think the license to create my own life makes life one big adventure. For the first time, I get to learn about what I want and who I am in my own right, guilt-free. The problems crept in when I started worrying about who I should be and what I should do instead of what I really wanted for myself.
I heaped so much pressure on myself to thrive now that I had the authority over my life that even the smallest things, like having a conversation or writing, felt too scary to face. But all this did was forfeit my confidence to my doubts, my fears, and my imagined obligations.
My worries about which choices I should make even contaminated my writing. I’ve been following my heart into shaping Max Goes Godless into something new: not a blog to analyze Christian doctrine, but a source of encouragement and practical advice on finding freedom, whatever it means to you. I added a Facebook and Instagram, started making graphics and logo, brainstormed a new mission, etc etc etc.
I’ve even been wondering if I could do a little public speaking one day! But every blogger I come across offering advice has something to sell or push, a strategy, a profit goal, and they keep saying, if you want to grow your blog or springboard a career from it, you have to commit to this, that and the other thing. Like, now.
The industry started feeling artificial, and it clouded up the reason I started writing in the first place. To let my heart breathe. To speak the truth. Above all, to make hope.
So many voices. So many doubts. In a world where there’s so much I might be and so much I can do, listening to other people’s advice can drown out the one person who can guide me and knows me best: myself.
Then, last night, I settled down to watch Kiki’s Delivery Service with a couple friends. And something clicked.
3 affirmations on finding your center
Feeling like you’ve lost your spark is scary. I know. And I bet you do too; it’s a human thing (everyone has those days! Everyone makes mistakes!) Sometimes shit happens.
We never find out why Kiki loses her ability to fly. Maybe her confidence wobbles, maybe in a big city she feels small, maybe she can’t fly if it’s not fun. We never find out what her power is either — that’s a journey she’ll have to take past the story we get to hear. But whatever the reason is, I think Kiki and Ursula still have the right idea.
“We fly with our spirit.”
That scene between Kiki and Ursula reminded me of an old truth: getting caught up in the details can take the fun out of what we love. It can take the fun out of just living your life. And, until you come back to what matters most, it can even take you off the very thing that keeps you centered… whether it’s magic, art, your work flow, your swing, or just plain feeling like yourself.
Looking to other people for advice and inspiration can be just what we need in a world where so much is possible. But it’s easy to end up feeling swamped if you spend too much time listening to every voice but your own. Too focused on the destination and not the reason for the journey.
So come back to your heart and listen to yourself for a bit. Learn why you love what you do, that’s your center. And remember, you have permission to not know shit.
These are 3 affirmations I’m keeping in mind for the next few weeks. I need to take a vacation from everyone else’s voices so I can, for the first time in a while, hear my own. Shake the dust off my broomstick. And remember what brought me to love life, and write, from the very beginning.
I wanted to share them with you. We all get lost. We all gotta heal. I hope they strike a chord. I hope you remember: this shit happens to everyone. (I hope Kiki’s Delivery Service is the next thing you watch.) And I hope you find your center. There’s joy there, I know. Peace. And maybe just a little magic.
- I take a vacation from what other people are doing and listen to just myself. If life is a journey and other people help us map it out, then what’s inside us is our compass. No matter how good the directions or examples other people set for us, without a compass, we’ll just get lost. So, I devote time to getting to know myself. In understanding who I am and what I like, there is power, joy, and the wisdom I need to live a more centered life. My heart knows what it wants, even if shame or guilt or fear have kept me from hearing it. Today is never too late to begin.
- I learn what I like and learn what’s important to me. I take a break from training or strategizing or comparing and come back to the reason I started. I know now that I blog because it gives me hope… so when I feel confident enough to return to blogging tips and techniques, I can remember that to keep me centered. Find your center.
- I have permission to not know shit. I don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, I don’t think we’re supposed to have all the answers about what life is about or where we wanna go. I stop making life a competition and a measurement of what I’m worth and let it be an experiment, a golden opportunity to flow with what comes.
What do you do to find your center?