Finding Meaning in Your Life Seasons

Kaitlin CurticeJanuary 31, 2024Finding MeaningPerSpectives

In my book Living Resistance, I wrote this line, as much for myself as for the reader:

I am a human being. I am always arriving.

I think that sometimes in our society, we talk about how we “earn” wisdom through experience, and in a lot of ways, that’s true. But I don’t know that it’s true that our life isn’t really meaningful until we have enough experience under our belt to make it so.

In many Indigenous cultures, we believe in the deep wisdom that both young people and elders provide. Our life has meaning because, as human beings, we are meant to journey this earth in community and kinship with others, and that means that every season of life matters, and we should be paying attention to what we are learning along the way.

I remember when I was a sophomore or junior in high school, we started the whole let’s find a college conversation with my teachers and school counselors. My entire future was summed up in what college I’d choose and how I’d get there, and I felt a lot of pressure and anxiety about making such a monumental decision.

Our society often has a linear way of thinking. Get through high school, go to college, get a job in the “real world” and then become successful, at some point deciding on other things, like what hobbies to have, whether to get married and have a family, what pets to own and where to live, etc.

There are so many questions! There are so many ways to consider making life meaningful.

But I want us to think of things in a cyclical way instead of a linear one. We are human beings, always arriving, which means we live in seasons and cycles. Instead of thinking of your life as a timeline or a list to be ticked off one by one, think of your life in seasons, and create meaning from those seasons.

So, let’s ask a few questions:

What season are you in right now? What kinds of things are you learning about? What makes you excited to get up in the morning? What makes you feel at home with yourself? Where or who do you hope to be in the coming months?

What I know for sure is that we never stop learning about ourselves. There is never a season in life in which we don’t discover something about ourselves that we’d forgotten or hadn’t realized before. Every single season matters, so let’s find meaning there.

I began to find meaning in a new way when I realized that I am a storyteller, so I want to tell you a story.

One cold, January day about eight years ago, our family of four went on a hike near where we lived in Atlanta.

If you hike at various places throughout Georgia, you’ll see tiny signs along the trails pointing to the original peoples who spent generations on the land. And in the grace that only land can give, she has held me, a Potawatomi woman, and has reminded me of who I am. After living there for a few years, our family went hiking at Sweetwater Creek, a spot of land with a long, steady stream of water surrounded by rocks and the ruins of an old cotton mill that was burned down by Union soldiers in 1864. Before that, before a history of African enslavement and years of white supremacy encroaching on this sacred land, Southeastern tribes inhabited the space, living along the shores of the creek before they were forcibly removed from Georgia during the Trail of Tears.

While hiking with my partner, Travis, and our two sons on that cold January day, I had an epiphany, a moment when the lens of my life zoomed out and I saw, truly, for the first time, what Potawatomi people, my ancestors, once experienced — a history of forced removal from Indiana into Kansas with the Trail of Death. In that moment I was reminded of the women who walked, nursing their babies along the way (some 660 miles), just as I stood there nursing my one-year-old son in the middle of a wooded area, the trees breathing over and around us.

There, standing over crinkled, wet leaves, I suddenly understood what it meant to be Potawatomi. Growing up we said, “We are Potawatomi,” but these words did not carry weight in our lives. We didn’t name ourselves as Indigenous people or as citizens of a nation, living into our resilience. But that changed as I got older, and I have more fully come to understand that I am Indigenous. I belong to the land, as others belong to the land. I felt the weight of my entire body center down in my feet, as if my steps were in slow motion, engaging the pulse of the earth with every movement. I suddenly understood that ancestors sometimes come to us in the oddest ways, and Mystery speaks to us when we are least expecting it. I knew then that the journey ahead of me would be different from the one behind me, that I’d found a new season of meaning in my life.

This story is about finding meaning in my identity, in parts of myself, learning to celebrate all parts of who I am, and finding a way through my own journey along the way. Finding meaning, remembering that we are human beings who follow the season and cycles of Mother Earth, gives us space to take a deep breath and trust ourselves.

And that’s just what I want you to do in the season you find yourself in:

Take a few deep breaths.

Say to yourself I am a human being, I am always arriving.

Think about the stories in your own life, and write them down if you need to honor them.

Trust that the journey is a cyclical one.

Know that you’re going to learn so much along the way.

And when you are unsure, go back to the stories you’re making, and ask them what they have to teach you today, because every single second, you are learning, you are creating a beautiful life, and you are making meaning with that life, in a never-ending, sacred cycle.

Part of this article has been adapted from Native by Kaitlin B. Curtice.

Kaitlin Curtice is an award-winning author, poet-storyteller, and public speaker. As an enrolled citizen of the Potawatomi nation, Kaitlin writes on the intersections of spirituality and identity and how that shifts throughout our lives. She also speaks on these topics to diverse audiences who are interested in truth-telling and healing. As an inter-spiritual advocate, Kaitlin participates in conversations on topics such as colonialism in faith communities, and she has spoken at many conferences on the importance of inter-faith relationships. Her new book, Living Resistance: An Indigenous Vision for Seeking Wholeness Every Day, examines the journey of resisting the status quo of hate by caring for ourselves, one another, and Mother Earth. Besides her books, Kaitlin has written online for Sojourners, Religion News Service, Apartment Therapy, On Being, SELF Magazine, Oprah Daily, and more. Her work has been featured on CBS and in USA Today. She also writes at The Liminality Journal. Kaitlin lives in Philadelphia with her family.