Occasionally, I find myself contemplating the big questions. You know—the BIG questions:
- What is my purpose?
- What will my legacy be?
- What is the meaning of life?
Many people find meaning in their religious beliefs, particularly if they have a belief in another life to come after this one. Parents can point to their children as their legacy (and perhaps their purpose). But as an atheist and a non-parent, those questions can be more difficult to answer—and finding answers can feel more critical.
Just out of college and starting my career, it felt like nothing was more important than being able to define my purpose. Of course, I expected to find that purpose within my career. I thought, “I will know that I have led a great life because I will have succeeded at achieving [INSERT CAREER OBJECTIVE].” That, of course, turned out to be total crap. It is certainly possible (and preferable) that your career and your purpose align, but paying the bills and leaving a legacy you can be proud of don’t always come hand in hand.
Just a few years shy of 40 and I’ve built a career that I’m proud of, but it isn’t my legacy. It’s not the reason I exist and it doesn’t provide meaning to my life. On the best days, my career teaches me important skills and provides the financial means to live. On the worst days, it’s a distraction from finding my real purpose.
So what is my purpose?
I don’t know. Is it weird to say – after all of that – that I’m not sure it matters? Of course having a purpose in life matters, but does it really matter that I know exactly what that looks like? Leaving a legacy matters, but does it matter that I know now what that will be when I’m gone? I think what really matters is that I continue to pursue purpose. I continue to be passionate about issues and fired up about injustice and inequality. I continue to lift others up instead of tearing them down. I continue to seek ways to apply my own talents and abilities to improving the world around me.
Maybe one day I’ll hear the proverbial “click” and I’ll know that I’ve found that thing that I am meant to do with my life. Maybe I won’t. But as long as I don’t stop listening for it, I think I’m doing just fine.