Twenty-six: Finding purpose, releasing purpose, & enjoying life in the simulation
The wait is over! It's been exactly one month since I turned 26, and I know you've all been eagerly — likely impatiently — checking and re-checking your inbox waiting for my annual birthday reflection to arrive. Well, it's here. And it probably won't live up to your expectations. Let's get into it!
Somehow I find myself in a better place than the year before every time my birthday rolls around, and I'm not sure why I'm surprised by that. That's sort of the goal, isn't it? To grow and improve with age? I've spent so much of my life anxiously worrying about the future that when the future arrives and it's actually, you know, good, I'm almost confused. But mostly I'm grateful. Really, super grateful. It's hard to believe that last year at this time I was studying to be a teacher, and it's even harder to believe that I was actually content with that decision at the time (I even have proof). But here I am, now 26, working as a copywriter — a real writer! — and feeling more optimistic than ever about the possibilities for my life. My quarter-century year turned out to be as pivotal as I secretly hoped it would be. I landed my dream job, started my Pilates certification, and have learned to take life just a little bit less seriously. Emphasis on a little bit. Baby steps, y'all.
I became aware that my usually all-consuming quest for purpose had subsided while writing a post at work about, well, purpose (can you believe this is my job?!). Naturally, this led me to reflect on the purpose of my own life. As I started what I thought would be an identity-crisis-inducing contemplation, I was surprised to realize that somewhere along the line I became less concerned with finding purpose and more concerned with simply putting one foot in front of the other. In my work piece, I wrote that purpose doesn’t have to be some grand, monumental thing; it can simply be making people laugh or creating art or supporting your family. And as I was writing, I wanted to add a footnote saying: “Above all, life should be FUN! Life should be ENJOYED!” Yes, we are here to learn our lessons and to share our gifts and to touch the world in some way that leaves it just a little bit better, but if we’re not having a good time while doing it, what’s the damn point?
Adulthood, for me, has been a wavering back and forth between trying to “discover” this elusive sense of purpose I’ve always craved and realizing it doesn’t have to be that deep. Okay... Anyone who knows me knows that IT REALLY DOES HAVE TO BE THAT DEEP AND EVERYTHING MUST HAVE MEANING. But I’m trying to loosen my death grip on this obsession ever so slightly. Not because I don’t still desire some deep sense of fulfillment, but because that fulfillment might… just… not be that deep. (Can you believe these words rolling off my fingers?! Who is she??) See, there will be things I do in my life that will be so profoundly meaningful, things that will run deep. But there will be countless other things that will simply make me happy, make me stop thinking so far ahead, make me want to be present and soak it all in. And those are just as essential to my sense of purpose, even if they don’t feel as significant. I think purpose is the big things and the little things all tied together, and at the end of our lives it’s dropped on our (metaphorical) doorstep with a big shiny bow and a handwritten note saying, “This is it. This was your life. Did you let yourself enjoy it?”
Who is writing this handwritten note, you ask? How should I know?! Maybe it’s future me, maybe it’s God him-herself, maybe it’s a kid playing Sims who has been the mastermind behind all my greatest misfortunes and embarrassments all along… Regardless, I’m slowly releasing the belief that my life must have one overarching purpose. It might just be LIVING. It might just be the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, the monumental and the trivial. If you're always thinking about what's next, you'll never enjoy where you are. And if you never enjoy where you are, your life will pass you by.
I've learned this the hard way in my short 26 years. I've spent much of my life so lost in thoughts of the future that I forgot to appreciate where I was. I would frantically (and unsuccessfully) try to make sense of things that never would have made sense at the time. I never could have imagined the series of events that led me to where I am now, and yet I spent so many years dwelling on it, thinking my excessive worrying would somehow bring me clarity and peace. I find it funny now, knowing that clarity and peace only come when you accept the present moment. The future will always, always be unknown, no matter how much we try to plan it. All we can really do is enjoy where we are and keep moving forward. So if I could tell anything to my 20-year-old self, or even my 25-year-old self (that version of me was sooo one month ago), it would be to have more fun. Life is supposed to be FUN! I really believe that. And as for that big, scary P-word that has haunted me for most of my existence, well, I think it's entirely up to us to create it. I think purpose is whatever you want it to be. And you may stumble upon it when you stop trying so hard to find it. I think that’s how we come across most good things in life.
So if you’re anything like me, maybe it’s time to stop trying so hard to figure everything out and just let yourself be happy. Let yourself enjoy life. Learn to appreciate exactly where you are, right in this moment. The more I let myself be content with where I am, the better life gets. It's really that simple.
And now, a word from Jay-Z. I like to quote rappers who surprise us with inspiring lyrics where we least expect to find them (because no one listens to rap to find life advice, and if you do, umm, have you tried therapy?). So here's a lil something from Young Forever that has stuck with me: "Fear not when, fear not why, fear not much while we're alive / Life is for living, not living uptight." I mean, that just about sums it up. That's what I've been getting at. Sorry for making you read my whole life story when I could have just left you with 19 words of wisdom from the father of Queen Bey's children. Some say I'm a bit of a rambler in my writing. I say it's building narrative! (Looking at you, mom.)