Musing for Today: What Is the Meaning of Life?

Operation Proposal

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.

The result?

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?

No.

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*

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Snoopy's Twinkie

Created Musings back in 2010 when viewers were frantically searching for SungKyunKwan Scandal recaps. She currently blogs and comments from the US. You can also find her on FB (@SnoopysTwinkie), twitter (@twinkiedramas), and YouTube (Twinkiedramas).

5 thoughts on “Musing for Today: What Is the Meaning of Life?”

  1. Good luck unni! Life, responsibilities and dreams have always been the top priorities for me. However, I have often realized that responsibilities and life in general often creates barriers to follow my dreams 🙁
    And to achieve those dreams and the possible unknown paths I would have to take in order to walk down that path scares me. It’s amazing in high school I was just your normal angsty teen who was sure of what she wanted in life, in college I was the hard working student and now after grad school I also ponder on the decisions I have made and the overwhelming responsibilities I have somehow acquired.
    Good luck unni, hopefully I will be able to follow your steps 😀

  2. I know how tough it is to give up dreams. I talked for YEARS about completing my masters here at George Mason Univ. and now it has been 18 years and STILL I have not done so. So I’ve realistically re-thought that dream as being an impossibility! Another dream was to move back west. I’ve come to the decision, after living here in the South for 25 years, I am not a southern; I hate it here! I also cannot afford nor have a desire to move back to the Northeast. My fondest memories are when I lived in the Northwest; however, even that dream is getting further and further away from me. So, with each life crisis that I face, I am again accepting that a major dream might not happen. Stay strong! You never know when that dream might turn around again.

    1. Life often times forces us to make decisions that takes us further away from our dreams. But like Langston Hughes said-
      Hold fast to dreams
      For if dreams die
      Life is a broken-winged bird
      That cannot fly.
      Hold fast to dreams
      For when dreams go
      Life is a barren field
      Frozen with snow.

  3. Hi, ST! Thanks for sharing this musing with us, it really struck a chord with me; I’ve been re-evaluating my life for a while, too.

    I guess it happens each time I reach a milestone of some kind (getting married, first kid, turning 40) and the last bout of reflection was set off by Hannah’s birth last year. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘Is this all God wants me to be? A stay-at-home mother to 4 kids? Is that how He wants me to glorify Him?’ No offense meant at all to SAH mums – my mother was one and I love her for it – but I had all those hopes and dreams about what I’d be doing in my 40s which were nothing like real life 😀

    I don’t think one should ever give up on hopes and dreams, and I’m glad you’re making decisions to put yourself in alignment with yours! However, to share something i realised – that maybe what I dreamed of wasn’t what God wanted me to be/ have. And then also the realisation that He, in His sovereign power, has put me where I am, in my current situation, for a purpose. Am I doing what He wants of me currently, and how am I doing it? Hah! The answer to that would be, not very well! (Just ask any of my kids about the screaming mummy days). I do think that there are definitely areas we should work towards like better health and learning more, but I am sure you won’t forget the ‘big picture’ too 🙂 I am sure God will honour your desire to glorify Him by showing you how!

    Apologies for the long-windedness! And jiayou (literally ‘add oil’ in Chinese, meaning ‘more power! Keep going! You can do it! Hwaiting!’) to your current efforts! We all look forward to your sharing more on how things are going.

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