Do you believe that each person has one specific purpose in life?
I used to obsess about it—thinking that something must be wrong with me if I had no idea what my “purpose in life” was. Shouldn’t I at least have an idea? I still remember the agonizing hours I spent trying to choose a major in college. It seemed like a life or death decision, and when I finally settled on an English language and literature degree, many people made certain I realized that it was the “easy” option and a useless degree in today’s economy.
But four years later, when I walked across the stage at graduation to receive my diploma, it didn’t feel like it had been easy. I had accomplished something. I will never be a rocket scientist, and I’m OK with that fact. I won’t bring about world peace, but I’m not sure that is even possible. This fall, I am beginning a graduate degree in American and English literature, and I am prepared to listen to the differing opinions and the never-ending question of “What are you going to do with that degree?” Because I don’t need to have an answer right now.
In the two years since college graduation, it has often felt as though each decision I make will directly impact either my future success or my massive failure. I have struggled to plan everything down to the minutest detail while simultaneously learning that life happens whether you plan for it or not. Six months after starting my first “grown up job,” I was laid-off due to budget cuts. That’s not something I could plan for, but it happened anyway.
It is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and depressed. I look around and compare myself to other people my age, and they seem to be doing so well—flourishing in careers, getting married, starting families. I wonder if I’m messing up, doing something wrong, missing my purpose.
There is a quote I’ve heard many times that goes something like: “The only constant in life is change.” I am learning this the hard way—which is really the only way to learn it—by living it. Most days I don’t know if I have the patience or endurance to get to the next milestone, but this is simply life. And when I step back and look away from myself, I am reminded of how beautiful life can be.
As far as there being one great overarching purpose in life, I’m not so sure it exists. When I was younger and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would always answer, “I don’t know. All I know is that I want to love God and love people.” And as simple as it sounds, I really do believe that loving God and loving others are the only purposes that everyone is called to fulfill. In Matthew 26:37-38, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, He answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Micah 6:8 says: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It seems to me that this is my purpose in life. No matter where I live, where I work, what I do, or whether or not I get married and have a family, I can always do these things. Yes, they are challenging, but in so many ways, it is a freeing realization to know that I am capable of fulfilling this purpose. I don’t have an unrealistically high bar set before me that measures whether I succeed or fail. I have a compassionate Creator God who wants me to love Him first and then share it with the world.