‘To Be’: Finding Your Personal Eye of the Storm

pink neon handwritten word "breathe' against a background of ivy leaves as a symbol of calm and introspection.
Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash


By LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator

My one tattoo contains the words, To Be.

There’s an extensive story behind the tattoo. Suffice it to say, part of it was an homage to my bygone days of community theatre involvement and a tip of the hat to my favorite Shakespeare play, Hamlet.

The tattoo and its words are also a badge I bestowed upon myself as a reminder of who I am, where I came from, what I’ve been through and the need “to be.”

It contains very deep sentiment at the end of a period in my life very similar to what we are going through now. The idea for my ink came as I stepped through the other side with renewed focus, strength and hope.

It starts with the Great Recession of 2009.

My Twin Cities employer was a victim of the economic downturn and I lived through an extensive period of unemployment.

Months passed as I spent my days job hunting, writing letters of application, tightening and refining my resume, building a personal profile website, creating my own version of this new (to me) thing called Linked In, tapping old friendships and bosses for letters of reference.

If I wasn’t sitting at my computer drilling through a shortlist of job possibilities, I was attending job ministries where hundreds of out-of-work people gathered at area churches to network with each other and the few potential employers.

Of course, there was the weekly report of my activity to qualify for that essential unemployment check that barely met rent and the basic necessities.

What seemed like dark days I now look upon as the time of greatest personal growth in my life. It became a time of endurance, enrichment and enlightenment. I had found my eye of the storm.

What became habit was a morning ritual of reading. I went on my own metaphysical journey accompanying such names as Deepak Chopra and my personal favorite – Eckhart Toole. I discovered peace from spiritual teachings ranging from Jesus to Buddha. I found the deep-seated messages within such books as A Course of Miracles.

I spent time working out to burn off stress, stay fit and remain healthy. I adopted “Joie de vivre” as something of a personal mantra. I found solace in such things as meditation and sleep hypnosis – or today’s more soothing label – sleep stories.

As I look back at that troubling economic time in American history, my personal life mirrors a time when I was the best version of myself.

With the help of one very special person in my life, I was directed to Minnesota State Mankato where an opening was posted for the communications coordinator with the Centennial Student Union.

For the past decade, I have been blessed to love a job that is the culmination of my life’s work as a communicator.

Now, 10 years later, COVID-19 fears go deeper than just sitting at home, working from that spare room or dealing with unemployment and its repercussions. The threat surpasses economic woes.

But the world will get through this. Life will return to normal – or possibly a revised normal.

It is a moment in history. For many, a time to appreciate what we have, who we are and what will be. Shaped memories will remain. How we shape them is up to us.

Time and life have taken me from that immersed period of self-awareness. Some of it now feels a little like déjà vu. It calls me back to that time of personal discovery.

One that is reflected by a tattoo that reminds me “to be.” Surrounding oneself with the positive tools for staying in the moment may again be the lesson and the legacy of this trying time.

FOOTNOTE: For more than three decades I have relied on sleep stories to calm periods of sleeplessness or interrupted sleep. Many sources of sleep meditation exist online. My current favorite is Jason Stephenson. Among his many YouTube posts is my personal favorite, Sleep Talk Down, that takes one on a mental journey that reminds listeners “to simply be.”

Lenny Koupal has been the Communications Coordinator for the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, Mankato since 2010.


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