Please Stop Telling Me to Find My PurposeWanting a roof over my head should be enough.
It feels like there are an infinite amount of things you’re supposed to do to have a meaningful, purpose-driven life. You know, like finding your people, collecting interesting hobbies, adopting a daily routine that starts at the butt crack of dawn, and—the one that haunts me the most—having a purpose.
Lately, everyone is telling me I need to find my ultimate purpose in life (like in addition to your 9-5, BTW). From dating app profiles demanding I swipe left if I’m not passionate about something (does avoiding Ted Lasso spoilers count?) to Instagram lifestyle “experts” telling me to do what I love and never work a day in my life. (Turns out, I love living with a roof over my head, which requires many days of work.)
I can’t escape the passion and purpose preachers. Even my therapist said I seem a little too directionless and that not knowing WTF I want to be doing 10 years from now is causing me anxiety. And yet, her suggestion that finding a purpose will make my life feel like a beautiful, breezy spring day triggers even more anxiety. So thanks a lot, Carol.
To be honest though, I can see how being passionate about something is beneficial in theory. Setting out to educate the masses, helping people get jacked, saving the bees, building wells, connecting with fans via vague Instagram captions that are just emojis, etc., etc. might give you a reason to get up every day, help you connect with like-minded friends, foster community, and make you feel fulfilled. So I’ve heard.
But the closest I’ve ever come to finding a purpose was when I volunteered with environmental organizations on the weekends as a teenager. Unfortunately, all that came to a halt when I realized talking about the earth that often wasn’t great for my climate anxiety. And it honestly felt like I’d be doing that field a disservice to not be all in all the time. So, goodbye to you, environmental activism.
I also dreamed of becoming a writer. Then, when I finally became one, I quickly realized the industry can be absolute chaos. I decided that, most of the time, this industry is more stressful than it’s worth, thanks to the corporate giants that underpay and overwork the staffers who keep those businesses afloat. Since being taken advantage of by greedy bosses is certainly not my life’s purpose, that dream went poof as well.
Since then, I’ve been waiting for something or someone to convince me that “having a purpose” is “life-changing.” But, as far as I can tell, you can be content and/or successful by just getting a paycheck, traveling every once in a while, having friends and fam (or a pet!) you love, being in healthy relationships, and making time to pursue whatever fleeting hobby that feels right. And you can do all that without having an overarching theme dictating the direction of your life.
It’s great that activists and entrepreneurs exist and are all about chasing their passions, but my life isn’t any less important or valid because I’m content prioritizing values like safety! financial security! And, like, realizing stuff! IMO, that’s a way more reliable and less intimidating way to exist than a vague guiding light.
Not gonna lie though, even with all of those very valid points (if I do say so myself), the reality of not having a purpose sometimes inspires full-on freakouts. For example, waiting for that I-found-my-passion! lightbulb moment can get in the way of deciding whether a career move is right or not. And when people share their news about starting a family, owning a home, or getting their dream job, I’m sitting there like, Will I ever feel true happiness—also what does that even mean!?
But I’ve realized that panic has more to do with societal pressures making me feel like a lazy failure blob of human essence than being purpose-less. So, on behalf of those living passion-free, I’d like to kindly request that we quiet down about the powers of having a purpose or how “passionate people are the best kind of people” or how if I take this quiz, the reason for my existence will finally be revealed to me. (I’m still waiting for the big reveal.)
Instead, let’s accept that figuring things out or just aiming to get through the day in one semi-sane piece—something that’s difficult for a lot of us to manage most times—is enough.
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