Recently, one of my college students scribbled the above question on the backside of one of his quizzes, asking me to provide an answer to this weighty question for him. Yes, I have one of these philosophical students in my class this semester, one who particularly delights in staying after class to simply chat with me and to prod my brain. -.-
His facetious question, though, is reflective of something that I’ve been thinking about…quite a lot actually.
Many of you know that for me, Real Life has been a mercilessly demanding master/mistress recently…even more so than usual…and I debated for a while whether I should write this particular “Musing for Today.” However, a conversation with a good friend made me realize that the contents of this post may be helpful to others, and since I promised her to blog about my thoughts on this…I eventually decided to add this to my list of posts to write. Hopefully, I can articulate my thoughts clearly to you.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably made lists of things to do, plans of what goals to achieve by a certain age, strategies on how best to maximize your opportunities, etc.
For me, back during my college days, John Milton’s “Sonnet VII: On His Being Arrived at the Age of 23” and John Keat’s “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be” were two of my favorite poems, and their messages hauntingly resonated within me. The question of time and the uncertainty of fully fulfilling one’s potential before one’s death always spurred me to remember that time is limited and that I needed to make the most of my opportunities if I wanted to live life fully.
As with most things, though, these moments of inspiration as a young adult soon get forgotten or buried in the hustle and bustle of Real Life, and certain clarion calls, dreams, and visions that were so brilliantly clear back then somehow become obscured by more “adult” responsibilities over the years.
That had happened to me…slowly but surely over the years that I hadn’t even noticed that I had all but forgotten my dream.
So it was with quite a start that I began to hear the echoes of these two poems again. In the past two months or so, they’ve begun to clamor–at times, quite intensely–for my attention.
Carpe diem. Seize the day.
This idea is nothing new. We talk about it often.
However, in the span of busily living life under the constant demands of Real Life, I had lost track of time. Milton’s “23”–I read his poem at age 20–had somehow become a thing of the past. Keat’s “Fears” was something that I had stopped thinking about when I entered medical school.
Fast forward oh so many years, and I found myself taking a hard look at my life and the goals that I had set for myself back in college.
Not what my college self had expected for my future/now self. I had somehow made a detour.
To make a long story short, there were certain things that I had expected to accomplish by this time in my life, and some of those hadn’t been accomplished…and probably won’t ever be accomplished. And with the added stress of an already jammed-packed schedule this past semester, the proverbial camel’s back broke.
Don’t get me wrong. Real Life and my “real life” duties continued, but I could also sense the imminent breaking point and the danger of snapping.
And so I did what I could to staunch the crisis.
I started to have some very serious conversations with my God.
I got back on the treadmill and resumed my daily exercise routine–one that I had pushed off for weeks now due to “no time”–to relieve some of the stress through exercise; the release of the endorphin hormone during exercise is amazingly helpful in combating stress. Truly.
I took a hard look at my life’s goals and expectations and contrasted them to my current responsibilities and life trajectory.
I made a list. I planned something just for myself to bring me inspiration and to pull myself out of the “slumps.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. The central tenet of my faith and life’s purpose hadn’t changed. Thank goodness since that was about the only two things keeping me sane these past few months.
For lack of a better phrase, I just felt at a loss. I didn’t like the direction of my life’s work and wasn’t sure exactly how I should proceed. Does this make sense?
The last time that I had felt like this had been after I had left medical school…a life’s direction that I had diligently worked towards since I was 10 years old. And the decisions that I made back then were unexpected ones but ones that propelled me into a new life direction.
Right now, I find myself at a similar fork in the road. With almost half of my life already lived, I’ve been asking myself how I want to spend the remaining half. Aside from the broad strokes of one’s life’s purpose, what specific thing in Real Life did I want to accomplish in my lifetime?
Already, in the past two months, I’ve come to some conclusions. There are definitely certain things that I plan to continue and other things that I will slowly phase out of my life as I redirect and rediscover my dreams and hopes. That original life’s purpose is slowly, yet surely, starting to sound like a clear clarion call again.
Is the road ahead going to be an easy one?
Is it the road that I had envisioned for myself…ever?
No. At least in some areas, no.
Is it the road that will bring me “fulfillment” mentioned by Milton and Keats?
I hope and pray so.
Rather than spin my mental wheels and regret what I had hoped I would have accomplished by this point in my life, I’m making some very unusual decisions in my life right now…at least for me given my personality.
But I make these decisions with one question in mind: What is my life’s purpose?
For me, that has always been “to glorify God.” The only question for me is in the how. Back during my school days, I thought that I could do so by becoming a medical doctor. After graduate school and my return to California, I thought that I could do so through teaching. However, as much as I enjoy teaching, I’m coming to realize that this is not how I can best achieve my life’s purpose.
So…I continue to pray and gather up the courage to forge a new path for myself, one that I had previously dreamed of but had forgotten in the past decade. *sigh* Time flies so quickly, huh? It’s already been a decade since I last made an effort toward fulfilling this buried dream of mine. *shakes head*
As vaguely discussed as this post may be to some of you, I hope that it offers some solace and comfort to others of you who may be going through a similar situation. You are definitely not alone in your struggle to forge a meaningful life’s path, especially if it’s one that you had never before contemplated for yourself.
Just make sure that you take the time to care for yourself…and to surround yourself with wonderful people who can offer you comfort and wise counsel as you navigate through these uncertain waters.
In the coming weeks, months, and even years, I hope to be able to share with you news of how some of my recent decisions are helping me accomplish my long forgotten dream. 🙂
On this note, Twinkles, I wish you a happy mid-week! I hope that this musing will bring some of you comfort to know that you are not alone in your struggle for direction. Hwaiting! *pumps fist*