The Pursuit and Pitfalls of the Purpose-Driven Life

I’ve noticed lately that I’m channeling Princeton from Avenue Q – not only because I’ve maxed out my credit cards, I was two months behind in rent, and I’ve messed up my personal life, but primarily because I don’t know what to do with a BA (or even an MA) in English. And, more importantly, I still haven’t found my purpose. At least, not entirely.

To clear up any misconceptions, as if there are any, I’m an atheist, and I have been one since I was a teenager, and that can mean a fair few things to different people. But the one thing that remains universal is that religion carries the implication that everything is created or occurs for a reason, and being an atheist means that that is taken away – you stop believing in some grand master plan, and you no longer hand your life over to fate. This means that you live life as if it has no purpose – you simply are. Things simply happen because they do. There is no rhyme or reason to chaos. It gives greater meaning to life because our importance as individuals is no longer handed to us – we are charged with seeking it out instead, if we want our lives to be meaningful. Of course, one of the biggest difficulties of transitioning from a theistic life to an atheistic one (I was raised Catholic) is accepting that my life is no different or more special than anyone else’s, and for most people, that’s a really difficult thing to accept. I certainly had some issue with accepting that I would be doomed to a meaningless life if I didn’t determine my purpose, and I still feel that way now, because I’m 29 and I haven’t found it yet.

Most women determine the purpose of their life is to be married and have children, and that’s absolutely fine. That’s a worthwhile choice and a very worthy life, if it’s what you choose to be. It’s just not necessarily what I consider to be my own destiny. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be married (eventually) and I’d love to have children, but I don’t want being a wife and mother to be my only contribution to the world. It’s just that I know that those two things would not be enough to fulfill me (or at least I suspect they wouldn’t. I can’t pretend to know for certain, as I am neither a wife nor a mother).  But the problem is, I have no idea what my purpose is supposed to be, and that is the detriment of those who actively seek to create meaning for their lives. There are no roadsigns or maps to purpose. I can’t type into Google “what is my purpose” and come up with a response that makes sense to me. It quite frankly blows.

I have nothing but envy for those who are so certain of their place in the world, and those who are keenly unaffected by the prospect of a purpose-driven life. There are people who just sit back and let life unfold on its own, and that’s a personal choice that I simply can’t afford myself. I’m not the type to relinquish control of my fate to someone or something else. There are three things in life that I’ve never been able to tolerate: being told how to act, how to feel, or how to think. So you can imagine that I have serious control issues with every aspect of my life, including, and most importantly, what I want to do with it. Finding purpose has become my obsession, because it will dictate the entirety of my life. It will determine whether or not I find a career that is fulfilling and makes me happy. It will determine the richness of my life, and the number of regrets I would have when I shed this mortal coil. And ironically enough, I’m finding myself resenting the fact that people can’t tell me what my purpose is. They can make suggestions, but even if I were the type to be told what to do, the ultimate decision would be based on what I felt in my heart, what seems logical in my mind, and nothing else. This is why I’m so in awe of those who just seem to know what they want to do with their lives right off the get-go – either they know something that I don’t, or they’re battling with their own sense of purpose in ways that I simply don’t see.

Being in England and out of my comfort zone has helped me sort things out as far as what I want for myself, but not as much as I’d hoped it would. I’ve made progress in my ongoing quest for purpose, but I still haven’t any real idea on what it is. I know that I want to create, but I don’t know what. I know that I want to make people laugh. I know that I want to inform others in a way that encourages them to question the world and what they believe in. I know that I want to walk around the world, but I still want to have a home to come back to. And that’s great. But what does that translate to as far as purpose? What does this mean I need to do? What medium can I use to achieve that? This blog is a great start, I guess, but I wonder if it’s really enough. I grew up as a storyteller with a big mouth and a lot of opinions and no motivation to do much with it because I wasn’t sure how to utilize it. Maybe I’m hoping that figuring out my purpose will automatically endow me with the motivation to see it through to the end. Who knows?

It does not help that job-hunting has been sucking the ever-loving joy out of me lately, because I feel utterly inadequate for what the world has available as far as employment. Practicality is sometimes the antithesis of purpose, because what is the point of knowing what you want to do with your life if it doesn’t help you get rid of the thousands of dollars worth of student loans you’ve piled up? Where is the line between the two, and when is it safe to cross? Or am I doomed to have to choose one side over the other?

Reality blows. Amirite?

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