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Do you ever get that uncomfortable nagging feeling that there’s more to explore? Like a small tickle or gentle nudge deep within? I do, and have for the past year. Unfortunately for me, I’m not sure what it is yet. But as my recurring morning “Oh, shit! What the hell am I doing with my life?!” moments jolt me awake, I needed to seek answers.
7 years ago, a college roommate of mine ventured into the world of self-help books. Back then, I scoffed at the idea, ”What am I supposed to do, let a book tell me how to live?” Now, short on ideas and behind a nearly 10-year train, I turn to the gurus for advice.
Amazingly, self-help has become a culture. Youtube videos. Lifestyle blogs. Happiness podcasts. Life coaches. From fitness, dating, and meditation to productivity, career, and finance, the internet has got you covered! Clearly, we all crave something that resembles happiness. But after a year of passively consuming internet success stories, motivational podcasts, and library audiobooks, I continued to wonder about my journey, “Why aren’t these working for me?”
Last month, I overheard a coworker joking with a new hire, “Hey, what are you still doing here so late?” It was 7:15PM. “You’re young. You have no responsibilities. Leave early.” This fresh college-graduate, recently promoted from intern to entry-level, responded, “I’ve got a baby on the way… And it wasn’t planned.” “Oh, well, congratulations! More reason to leave early, you’re to be a family man. Think of it this way: You now have a purpose,” the older gentleman replied. That last statement gutted me. Little did they know, I sat 3 cubicles away. Also, still at work. Also, young. And apparently now, without a purpose.
As a result, this idea bothered me. Like many others, I struggle for my career, in the universal form of deprived sleep, missed meals, cancelled plans, and sadly sometimes even dwindled friendships. While I remain grateful for the spoon that feeds me, and often willingly oblige to the impromptu trips and firefighting mode that my company prefers, I slowly started to question “What am I fighting for?” Was it success? Probably. Was it money? Probably. Was it to please my parents? Definitely. But what about 40 years from now, why would these matter?
Although it hadn’t escaped me that this was a very privileged problem, since many people merely survive in this world, I still yearned to know the drive that keeps people going. So I googled: What is our purpose in life? One answer read something like this: You can contemplate it, but in the end, you either find it or commit suicide. Talk about bleak and unappealing.
On the way to the airport after a weekend at my parents’, I asked my Dad, “I tried searching for a year, yet still confused as ever. Why do we struggle in life? What are we all fighting for?” Dad responded, “A better life.”
risinglaughter: What are we all fighting for?
Dad: A better life.
Then I realized, my Dad’s analysis of me had always been correct: I still proved immature. Suddenly, I flashed back to a girl from my freshmen dorm floor, who would use her signature phrase whenever any of us complained about anything. “Yeah, you need to get over it,” she’d say before rushing away to her next task or changing the subject to our latest assignment. Again, 10 years behind.
Yes, time to grow up. Because life is about progress and growth.