A Year-Long Search For Purpose

During the last one year I have questioned and pondered my life purpose again and again.

I have asked myself hundreds of times what my impact is on this world and how I contribute to it. I have examined my actions, my inactions, my desires, and my aspirations. I have journaled about them and meditated on them. I have looked within and out in search of that illusive feeling – purpose.

For most of my life, I have been an empathic person. I was never blind to the pain and suffering in the world (well, apart from my time of depression and personal struggle), and my heart has broken many times seeing the lives of others less fortunate than myself. Mostly, I have viewed this sensitivity as a weakness and how could I not – when was the last time you congratulated someone on their vast array of emotions?

Even with a lifetime of empathy, my search for a more meaningful purpose began after the meditation retreat I attended in September 2019. I felt as if my heart was cracked wide open and up to this day, there is a level of sensitivity to my soul that was not there prior to this experience. I feel weaker and stronger at the same time. I have more compassion and more resilience. I am grateful for what I have but also more aware of my actions and their consequences.

All of this brought a new sense of responsibility to do more good.

It was this meditation retreat that first introduced me to the concept of giving more than I take. It made so much sense but it was also revolutionary. I grew up in a time when people wanted to make money and the more the better. When I was a child no one ever told me that the world would be a better place if I also give back some of what I have. Everyone was mainly concerned with themselves and the wellbeing of those around them. No one was talking about the world and its wellbeing.

This being said, the soul-searching, purpose-uncovering journey that I had set off on is not fun sometimes. And it feels truly lonely on occasions. When you choose to look outside of your own bubble, what you see out there in the world – the whole world, not only our western countries, is not so pretty. And once you look, there is no turning back. You cannot un-know and you cannot un-see. And at the same time, you still live with a lot of people who do not know and have not seen. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with other people. I just miss having a community sometimes.

So as you can imagine, it has been a fun year with all of these new thoughts and the culmination came this weekend when I got to digitally attend the One Young World summit. Each year this event brings together more than 1500 young leaders to inspire them, educate them, shake them to their core, connect them and join them in creating a better, more inclusive future for all of us.

Whatever soul/chakras/heart layers the meditation retreat did not open up, One Young World did. These three days of listening to world leaders, movement leaders, movements makers and most of all – just normal people who have been through the most un-normal things, took my tiny little bubble and burst it so badly. I suddenly felt more connected to the world than ever before. The issues of people in the Philippines started feeling like my issues. The stories of refugees fighting for their lives started feeling like my responsibility. The incredible successes of young leaders started feeling impactful on my life, even if they live a thousand miles away. Towards the end of the summit, I started feeling at home, surrounded by others who are asking themselves the same questions and going through the same journey. I am ahead of some, behind many but the fire burning in all of us is made of the same stuff. This is the community I was missing.

Once you are exposed to such an experience, you cannot pretend that climate change is not real and not raging around the globe.

You cannot pretend that there isn’t massive inequality in terms of wealth, opportunities and human rights.

You cannot pretend you do not know what people of colour, different sexual orientation, disability or, simply those born a woman, go through in some parts of the world (including yours and mine). And you cannot pretend that you are not privileged as f@#$ if you have a normal life (you know, access to food, shelter, education, healthcare, a job, internet, the device you are reading this on – these sorts of β€œnormal” things). And when you cannot pretend anymore, you also cannot lie to yourself that your life is just about you.

I have never perceived myself as a leader or imagined being one (thank you, social anxiety). However, listening to people telling me that I am a leader for three days straight gave birth to a tiny sparkle of belief that I, too, have what it takes to set a better example and to do better. For the first time in my life, I feel empowered to be a leader. And, mind you, I am not saying this with a lot of confidence. Remember, it is a tiny sparkle, but if nurtured – who knows what fire could start to burn.

A speaker during one of the sessions said that you cannot be successful in a world that is failing. I thought about this a lot. Success is a term that should expand beyond the personal, beyond the bubble.

We should start recognizing people who are net positive – who give more than they take, as the successful ones.

In this sense, I want to be a successful leader and I want to do it on my own terms. I want to do well and to give back more than I take. I want to be a person that can create value and wealth and split it with others. I want to do all of that without compromising my wellbeing and mental health. How? I might have a tiny idea-sparkle and there is a lot of work to do.

This is where a year-long search for purpose has led me. It hasn’t been easy and it is not over. It is taking longer than I wished it would, but I am happy I am on this journey. Honestly, I can’t wait to see where I will be in another year.

And you? Where can you be in one year if you start today?

Because if not you, then who? And if not now, then when?

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