I Don't Want to Find My Purpose Yet: On Going With the Flow


I don't want to find my purpose just yet. Purpose might be something people try seek out, but at this point in my life I am actively trying to resist this aim.

Many wish to find their "calling"; that something which they are destined to do either because they excel at it or it alights within them a sense of inspiration and creativity. I can understand this desire. Life is short and we want desperately to use our time well.

We often think that purpose involves one thing, one occupation, one goal. Purpose, we suppose, must be that one thing that we dedicate our lives to fulfilling.

Even in this prompt the question asks, "have you found your purpose?", and if you have, "how did you find it?", the operative word here being "it". But for me, there is a saying which has become a bit banal but nonetheless more accurately conveys what I am attempting to do with my life instead of finding purpose and that is, to go with the flow.

I was having dinner with my grandmother at my favorite restaurant in NYC, the NoHo Star a couple of nights before I was to fly back to South Africa. I have been teaching in Cape Town for about a year and a half at a small independent school. The school is a place where children are let to roam barefoot and free, wear whatever they like, and address the teachers by their first names.

As we sat over burgers and milkshakes, I asked her about what I might do next, after my time in Cape Town. We talked about possible next steps like graduate school, education policy, or even international affairs.

Yet despite these possibilities, the real feeling I held was that I truly don't know what I want to do next. I don't know what I want my purpose to be.

My grandmother told me that in her career things just happened, either by chance or by luck or by being in the right place at the right time. She ended working for New York Film Festival for over 20 years, not because that was her set purpose from the start or because she believed it was her calling.

Yes, she liked movies but never thought that fondness would turn into a life-long career. Rather, she said to me as we dished ourselves chocolate ice cream with long silver spoons, all she did was simply walk her path. This was a path which had no trail markers or signs, a path that couldn't even be mapped out. All she had to do was walk, and being from New York, she is good at that.

As I flew back across the world this past month away from my home and loved ones, I thought a lot about my own path. Because I had no idea what I wanted to do next in my career or what my destination or purpose was to be, I made a decision to simply continue to walk my path.

Things can change quickly in our lives. One's interests shift as new things become more interesting and old projects no longer hold the same attention and appeal as they once did.

Moreover, external factors are constantly changing. What is happening in the world around us can have a dramatic impact on what we choose to do. If a parent or a child becomes very ill, one's purpose can quickly change from building up a successful advertising firm to making sure that person feels comfortable and cared for.

Flexibility is key in the world we live in today. Oftentimes things don’t work out as we thought they would and when we cling to one vision of our future we can fall a lot harder when it doesn’t happen.

Right now, going with the flow is my purpose, walking my path is my purpose. Taking things day by day can be something you say when things are tough, but I live by it in a way.

I think this changes when one gets older and responsibilities increase, money becomes less about spending now and rather saving for the future. However, for the time being the future isn’t present.

I think our purposes change and become clearer as we move through time. There is little point, in my opinion, in trying to nail down the destination.

I want to journey and through the journey learn what the destination will eventually be.

The book I am currently reading with my 10th grade English class is titled Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. In it, the protagonist goes through life trying to find the point of it all, his own truth and meaning to life and he says something that I think about often, “Where can my way lead now? It is a foolish way, one has to drag oneself along it; maybe it is circular. But let it be as it pleases, I will follow it.”