Give yourself permission to find your own drumbeat | Whale’s Tales

The summer before I graduated from college, an unasked-for “bolt from the blue” changed my life.

Look around at the next party and you may spot them.

The awkward lumps who often arrive with an invited guest, but then like fledgling actors who don’t know what to do with their hands, they are flummoxed. Try as they might to look like they belong, it’s tough to join in conversations in progress when you are shy, don’t know anyone there and flunked Small Talk 101.

Oh, there’ll be fitful stabs at striking up conversations, but they’ll notice the eyeballs that roll up in the sockets of the people opposite when they start talking about the stuff that gets them going, or the subtle glances at wristwatches.

That’s how it was for me, anyway. I talked about things most people weren’t interested in. I never felt like I fit in, so I concluded I had to be a mental defect.

But the summer before I graduated from college, an unasked-for “bolt from the blue” changed my life.

I worked for the University of Washington’s paint crew. Our job was to go into recently-vacated university housing and prep the apartments and domiciles for painters.

In the University Book Store on a free afternoon, I chanced on a book that described the experience of a first-year student at Harvard. What caught my attention was not the woman’s account, but an incidental reference to the biography of a Swiss psychiatrist named CG Jung.

“Jung, hmmph, never heard of him,” I said. “Guess I’ll give him a try, couldn’t hurt.”

So, it was at an oak table in the hallowed, monastic-like reading room at Suzzallo Library on the UW campus where I first cracked open “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” and other books about that dude. My heart began to race. I had to hide my face because my eyes had filled with tears. What was happening?

Turned out that circumstance, providence, blind luck, destiny, whatever you want to call it, had guided me, in a book I’ve largely forgotten, to a key piece of a puzzle I didn’t know I’d been puzzling. It’s the mystery most of us ask ourselves at some point: who, or what, am I?

Turned out that this Jung character was speaking a language I didn’t realize I knew, but which turned out to be as natural to me as water to a fish. It opened up the world of mythology and psychology to me, and gave me a framework to consider them.

Jung might have referred to what happened that day as “synchronicity,” but that chance encounter with his world changed everything. I hadn’t realized how lonely I’d been until I felt I no longer felt alone. And of key importance, I soon learned that there was a world of people out there I could talk to who grooved on that guy’s ideas.

I realized that I’d merely been out of place at those parties. This is not to say that my peeps are smarter than anyone else. We’re just into other things that only weirdos like us care about. And I am at home, at ease, among them.

I also learned that when you feel a surge of energy or are moved like I was, pay attention. When your face gets hot talking about something, pay attention. You may have hit upon a profound marker on the endless road to learning about yourself.

I learned that day that it’s okay to be “weird,” to move to a different beat. That is, as long as it’s your authentic beat.

Robert Whale can be reached at