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Read This Next Time You’re Freaking Out About Finding Your Purpose

Purpose. Purpose. Purpose. The word in nearly every self-help book and with a talent for creeping up on us in our 20s. Will we find our purpose before having to choose a major? What if we choose a major that we thought we loved but later find our purpose to not align with? Did we just throw away four years of our life? How do we fulfill our purpose after graduation? Will finding this purpose pay off our student loans?

Our productive culture has taught us that our purpose is associated with something we do; something we choose to dedicate our lives to beyond ourselves- usually, some sort of job. This can be anxiety and pressure inducing, as most “jobs” can be, especially when most of us don’t even know what we’re having for lunch tomorrow. How are we expected to automatically know, in our early 20s, what we want to do for the rest of our lives? And why does it always feel as if we can only choose one option as if there can only be this one giant life-consuming purpose? 

If the movie Soul has taught us anything, it’s a little something about this little big thing called purpose. Our purpose is not, as the movie puts it our “spark.” What society has made us think our purpose is- usually something you’re good at doing (which can be monetized) that someone then tells you you’re meant to be doing because you’re such a genius at it- is really just a “spark.” It is not necessarily, nor does it have to be our purpose. Isn’t that a relief? Our purpose in life isn’t to be plugging in data at a computer for eight hours a day! Even if we’re good at it and might even enjoy it.  

 So, what is our “purpose?” Try your best to not go into a deep deep hole of existentialist thought right now, but here’s the answer, according to the very wise Pixar: the purpose of life is to live. No no, not just to be a breathing thing. To live. 

It’s smelling the roses (not just when we stop to do so), feeling the breeze, listening to the birds, having genuine and fulfilling connections, doing things that bring us joy. Thankfully, all of these are possible at essentially any tax bracket. It’s by virtue of being alive that we can. 

Does this mean you now have to throw away all of your manifestation lists that involve your preconceived notions of “purpose”? Definitely not. Smaller purposes (sparks, if you will))  like inspiring others to believe in themselves through your writing or to advocate for mental health awareness serve as sources of inspiration and fulfillment. They only contribute, however, to the bigger purpose.

So, next time you’re thinking of a career change, or freaking out about not knowing which one to choose in the first place, remember that the pressure isn’t as high as the world might have you thinking. Your purpose to live can be fulfilled at any moment- regardless of whether you decide to be an artist or an accountant, or both.  Keep in mind to experience life, as joyfully as possible, and odds are you’ll be more than okay. 

If you think all of this is bananas, I challenge you to at least watch the movie Soul before coming to your conclusion. (Warning: it can trigger you into an existential hole again, but you’ll most likely come out of it towards the end.)

Daniela is a senior majoring in English Literature and Criminal Justice at Florida International University.
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