The sensation I am trying to describe has no determinate definition. You notice when it is missing or when you see it evolve in other people. It weighs on you, making an already uncertain future even more uncertain.
Not having an answer when asked, what’s your ‘thing,’ or your ‘passion’ brings up this horrible feeling in me. Or even worse, being asked: what do you want to be ‘when you grow up?’ I did not have an answer for that question at six years old and I do not have an answer now, concluding my third year of university. Feeling as if you don’t have a plan or ‘destiny’ is something young adults have always struggled with and this no doubt has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of my friends would speak of these formative experiences they had that led them to a passion that they wanted to pursue in adulthood. A friend of mine was so touched and inspired by a teacher they had in high-school that she knew she wanted to do exactly that. Another friend of mine was telling me the reason he wants to go into politics is because he saw the homelessness crisis in Seattle at a young age and asked his father “why has nobody helped them?” He saw himself one day being the one who could.
Earlier this year, I sought after this experience for myself. I decided that I would try various pursuits and see if one ‘stuck.’ I tried writing poetry; I couldn’t get my thoughts on the page. I tried being hyper academic; well that was just unrealistic. Mediocracy haunted me as I tried creative outlets. I read and read, debating changing my major about three times, and had many meltdowns while on this hunt for a purpose. While I would not consider myself a person without passions, I have many things I enjoy and feel fulfilled in my day-to-day life, an absolute ‘thing’ that I viewed as purposeful was not present. I was so envious of seeing my peers find their ‘thing’ and formulate plans or goals for the future.
While I was getting progressively deeper into this dark-pit of lacklustre self-pity, I decided to watch Disney Pixar’s Soul, released at the end of 2020. The animated film follows Joe, voiced by Jamie Foxx, who has an infectious passion for jazz music. He ends up on a crazy metaphysical journey where he lands in a limbo space where souls exist before becoming humans on earth. In this space called the ‘Great Before’, he must help a soul named 22, voiced by Tina Fey, find a passion, or else she won’t be dropped down to reality. 22 has time and time again tried various activities but nothing interests her enough to formulate a ‘spark’ to get her ticket to earth.
Though this movie is not perfect, it ends up refuting the statement that every human has a singular purpose. 22 realizes her passion is just existing on earth. She falls in love with the small nuances that fill daily life. Wind blowing the leaves, walking through New York City and even watching the sky she considers to be her passion. The movie leaves us realizing that ‘dream jobs’ and one’s ‘purpose’ isn’t all there is to life, rather enjoy living as best we can.
Reflecting on the vagueness of this ‘thing’ I was looking for to complete my sense of purpose seems almost ridiculous to be anxious about at age 20. Yet I know I am not alone in these worries. Corporate ideologies perpetuate competitive, individualist discourses for the benefit of capitalist society, plaguing young adults trying to find their place in an ever-evolving, uncertain world. The reality is that nobody has one true purpose and wasting your time stressing out about finding it takes away from discovering what life truly has to offer.