How I Ended the Torture by Giving Up My Purpose
We all grow up hearing about midlife crises. When I was 20 my best friends mom divorced her dad and ran off to Mexico with a 25 year old salsa dancer. Her dad bought a convertible Porsche and rustled up a new girl friend. They were 50 and their daughter was off at college. What could you expect?
I was prepared for that crisis. I would be older and wiser. In theory I’d have money. I’d figure it out.
But no one really prepared me for the quarter life crises. The one I’ll call for short the “holy shit, I’m out of college, what am I going to do with my life, is there a god, why am I on the earth and what does it all mean?” crisis. Yeah that one.
Having been a relatively carefree person most of my life, I was actually pretty horrified when at the age of 24 I was suddenly so obsessed with this question of what I was here to do. I had always loved to sing and dance and so I’d made my way across the US to New York where I thought I would find my dream on Broadway and with any luck, start my pathway to my "happily ever after".
But several years later, not only had auditioning lost some of its glamor, even when I did manage to get cast, I was generally ready to close the show by the 2nd night. The grand dream of landing a long running show sounded, well, morbid, making me question if I did somehow create my dream, would it even be that fulfilling at all?
So if not Broadway, than what!? The question haunted me. Unsure of anything other than this deep burning knowing I was here to do something grand and meaningful, I turned to “the quest.” Books life “A Purpose Driven Life” and “An Artists Way” cluttered by book shelf and dampened my spirit one by one.
Perhaps my calling was to meditate? Or to bring pure health to the planet by teaching others to juice and give colonics? Maybe was I meant to go into teaching Waldorf School in New Zealand? Or should I apply to law school and see if I could bring justice to the planet? Maybe I was meant to be silent on a hilltop and serve others? That’s it, I would join a convent and learn to be at peace with all this nothingness!
In retrospect I can safely say my mid 20s lacked some serious perspective on who I really was. Chatterbox Blossom was put on this earth to be silent and wash shit out of peoples bums? Hmmmm…
But regardless of what particular conclusions I was reaching, the simple point of this story is: it sucked. It sucked to feel so unclear. It sucked to feel useless. Unlike a kid in a candy shop, delighted by the possibilities and all the doors in front of me, instead I was a wreck. Somewhere I had bought the idea that there should only be one. And not just any one. A divine one thing I was put here for. And it was my job to find out what it was. And I was failing.
I prayed harder. I fasted. I journaled.
I read tea leaves and palm lines, opened chakras, read auras, sat in sweat lodges, talked to psychics. I wrote letters to God that I burned them in hopes he would hear my plea and respond to the smoke. And when all else failed… I just cried.
I could probably label that year, the year of sobbing. If everyone was put on this earth for a reason, I was broken and useless. I didn’t know what mine was.
The question that broke the madness is far too simple to write as the very next sentence, and yet here it is. I met a man who asked me simple and point blank:
“What if the purpose of life was to have fun?:
“What if the purpose of life was to have fun?:
But it can’t be. It’s irresponsible. It’s not enough. It has to be bigger.
And yet, I started to watch myself.
When the next thunderstorm struck and I ran into the park laughing while everyone was funneling out, I felt alive. When I took off my heels and skipped down 5th Avenue and tourists took photos of my bare feet , I couldn’t stop giggling. And when I was happy, people changed, the earth smiled, and I was at ease.
“What if the purpose of life is to have fun?” I started to ask myself with actual curiosity, less angry at that question and more willing to let it be so. Fun. Fun. Fun.
I made up a crazy story and left work early to audition for a musical I didn’t really care about, and booked the gig.
I helped a homeless man cross the street in his wheelchair and then stopped to flirt with him and ended up on a wild adventure with Harlem jazz legends.
Fun was not leading me to one big grand epitaph from the sky, but it was leading me to life. And when I lived, I shone. And when I shone, opportunities showed up along side me. And what was more, when I was happy, the earth was alive and grateful.
Without even meaning to, I was somehow creating a living rather than trying to sort out a life. And in all that commotion, I forgot I was tortured and started to thrive.
I am quite clear now of how cruel the concept of purpose is. How unkind it is to throw it around in front of children as though it is something they can discover or find. And then again, I suppose it is no less wicked than “the one” or “happily ever after.” I know friends who have had much more severe quarter life crisis than mine over those shockers of lies.
Would it be so bad if we stopped throwing horrible and impossible idyllic concepts at children and instead asked them questions?
What if you had been asked as a kid “what if the purpose of life was to have fun?”
What choices might that have opened up in your life? And can that door open now?
*Gary Douglas, the man I owe this brilliant tool and question to offered a 3 part series on The Purpose of Life. If you have done foundation/1 I hope you will consider purchasing the series.
The teleseries is now available in the shop: Click here