Without a purpose in life I feel like I’m floating in the open ocean with no destination.
– by Anonymous Talkspace User
I have a wonderful career, plenty of interests, lovely friends, and a partner I can only thank my lucky stars for, but I often feel incomplete – as if something that I require to be whole is missing. Don’t get me wrong, I still practice gratitude and mindfulness (to the best of my ability anyway), going so far as occasionally engaging in meditation, but whatever that missing part is, it has eluded me thus far. It’s hard to explain to others that I am often unhappy, especially because of the life that I appear to be living. And I think it has a lot to do with lacking a long-term vision for my life.
What do I want? What would make me happy? What do I think is missing? In other words, what is my purpose in life?
These are incredibly difficult questions because the fact is, I simply don’t know. The problem with therapy for people like me is that it’s not the therapist’s job to do an emotion and personality audit, so as to come back with a life plan for me. But that’s what I want. Therapists, for the most part, are not in the business of giving advice; rather, they’re in the business of providing us with life tools. While these generally tend to be pretty great, it’s still not enough for me to understand what I want to get out of my own existence.
This uncertainty hangs over me like a dark cloud on the most sunny of days; although everything seems great, I am always preparing for a storm.
Going to my friends or parents for advice doesn’t really work either. What do they know, right? The fact is, no one knows me better than me, and if I don’t know what would make me feel complete, more likely than not, neither do they. This is particularly distressing, since I’ve hit a wall a few years back and have no idea how to take it down. So, I recently did what most people in my situation seem to do – I consulted the great and powerful Google. I know. I do that a lot.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”- Hunter S. Thompson
Perhaps realizing that I was going through a “thing”, the wonderful search engine pulled up something completely amazing and highly relevant to my particular case. It was a letter written by author Hunter S. Thompson, one of my all time favorite people, to Hume Logan, one of his friends, about “Finding Your Purpose in Life”. My seeing this couldn’t have happened at a better time. Although the now deceased writer was only 22 at the time he wrote this letter, it already showcased his unique perspective on life and his already impressive wisdom. I suggest reading it in full for the full effect of wonder. It starts as follows:
You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.
I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind…
So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”
And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice…”
Strangely enough this letter, independent of how elated it made me feel, is not dissimilar in essence to the “advice” given to me by my therapist. Perhaps the reason for it simple – outlined in the first sentence of the second paragraph – my therapist is not a fool, and is therefore incapable of giving me a life plan.
The purpose in life, it seems, is to figure out what that subjectively means to me and then aligning my life with it accordingly, and the first step to doing so, is deciding where to look; isn’t that right, my dearest therapist?
Dear Therapist is an ongoing series of articles. Check out the other posts here!
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