I recently encountered a distressed fresh graduate who wanted to pursue something entirely different from her college degree but she wasn’t sure if that’s her purpose.
At that time of our encounter, while I was navigating my post-wedding ‘lostness’, I saw my younger self in her anxiety.
I wanted to tell her to do whatever she wants because it is not going to define the rest of her life!
I wondered why a young graduate expected herself to have a purpose, and why the heck does purpose matter anyway?
Does a purpose really set me up for life, make me happier? Have I found one?
At the brink of turning 30, I’m still unsure.
The numerous self-help materials I’ve consumed mostly conveyed the message that if I know my purpose, everything I do will fall into place and it seems as though a ‘purpose’ is the key to solve the whole puzzle.
Is that true?
Freedom is not free
As I learned more about the history of World War 2 and Vietnam War, I had an enlightening realization that there was an entirely different world in less than 100 years ago! It was a really short period considering how much changes have taken place since then.
I finally understood that the peace and freedom I took as a birthright was not FREE — the price had been paid by men and women who fought the war, by my grandparents who built everything from nothing, my parents who worked hard to move our family from scarcity to abundance.
State of the world v Purpose
Many people referred to the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ when it comes to the importance of having a purpose, where Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how” is the anchor idea.
The thing is, having a purpose during wartime is an entirely different story from finding a purpose in a world of peace and abundance.
When I was told that I can be anything I want as long as it makes me happy, I didn’t know what to choose!
I felt lost. Scared. Paralysed.
Living a protected life without experiencing problems in the world, what am I supposed to fight for?
Having a college certificate with marks and grades, what does that say about who I am?
The war moved from an external battle into my own psyche.
So, what do I do with freedom?
Along the way of pursuing ‘what feels right’, life has been an interesting journey of many things — including hitting the rock bottom and feeling depressed.
I learned that no matter good or bad, everything is changing every moment; every moment is fleeting and precious.
After all, having a purpose is not as important as feeling peace and calmness in every moment. The quality of life is determined in everyday self-care instead of a world-changing endeavour.
Even though life experiences eventually shaped something that feels like a reason for being, I believe that every action that comes from a place of kindness and generosity means more than a big purpose.
I would tell my younger self: “live the best life you can with all the freedom you have, you’re going to be okay.”
Maybe, that’s a purpose.