The road to purpose: exploration and choice

Are we all born with some innate purpose that we are meant to fulfill in this lifetime, or are we simply supposed to create our own purpose?

It seems some are born with some innate direction in life, fixing them internally on a goal or direction without ever wavering. These individuals know from a young age their purpose in life and do everything in their power to pursue, and eventually achieve their goals.

Most of us are not so lucky to have been born with such a powerful sense of duty and drive. In fact, it seems that many of us feel overwhelmed by the fact of having to choose any sort of path in life, and of all of the many directions our life could take. Most of us end up either passively falling into a path, or even arbitrarily choosing a path for the sheer sake of necessity.

Another question comes to mind- are there some who are born simply to explore many different paths in life? To be natural-born explorers, thinkers, adventurers? Those who never settle on just one set path, but who travel down many different roads instead?

And is it more fulfilling to find a path, stick with it, fully master a profession or skill and make that your life’s work, or is it instead more fulfilling to explore many different trades, occupations and lifestyles instead of settling on something more concrete?

Of course, the question of fulfillment and satisfaction is probably totally up to the individual and what they feel fulfills them personally, but these are questions that I am mulling over in my own mind.

I fall into the latter category- I have spent my young adulthood exploring several different professions, travelling, and overall trying to figure out my own path in life. So far, I have discovered a lot of things that I do like, and don’t like, but I haven’t found the illuminating answers or sense of direction that I had hoped to stumble upon.

So, am I just supposed to pick a path and hope that it turns into something I truly enjoy? Or should I wait for some sort of sign, some sort of inner-direction or light bulb to go off?

What are your experiences?

Frank and Sky: Chapter 1

The old man relished time spent with his friends. Yes, maybe his relationship with them wasn’t very healthy, and he knew this. Maybe, they were even killing him. They probably weren’t very good friends after all, however, the familiar comfort of their presence against his lips made him swear to a life of loyalty. Cigarettes, after all, couldn’t speak- which was a quality the old man greatly treasured.

He kicked a pebble to the side of the cement sidewalk with his dusty, leather boots and stubbed out one of his old friends on a cement bench. He took in a deep breath of chilly air as he looked out upon the street before him, wet from the rain. He liked to stand under the awning of his favorite neighborhood bar and smoke a cigarette, especially while it was raining. He found something oddly consoling about the rain.

The door was either heavier today or he was just getting older, he thought, as he struggled to let himself back into that reassuring world of dim lighting and the scent of cheap beer. The only bad thing about this place, he thought, was that they no longer allowed cigarette smoking indoors anymore. Other than that: the sports channel was always on the television, the bartender wasn’t too pushy, there were never many young people or annoying patrons around who spoke or laughed too loudly; and generally, people left him alone there. He did have one or two other regulars at the pub that he had become somewhat friendly with; however, by his standards, this meant they said hello and goodbye to each other and exchanged a few sentences on occasion.

As he headed back to his usual stool, he noticed a young lady now at the neighboring stool. She wasn’t there prior to him stepping out for a cigarette, and he was sure he had never seen her there before, because he certainly would have noticed her. For one, she was wearing the most colorful clothing he had seen since the seventies, and secondly, this wasn’t the type of happening place that you’d frequently encounter young ladies. She looked to be in her early twenties, maybe twenty-one or two, he guessed. She was wearing a multi-colored, flowered scarf around her neck and a long flowing, vibrantly patterned dress beneath a bright yellow cable-knit sweater. Her thick, dark hair cascaded down her back and around her shoulders, damp from the rain, as she rested her face in the palm of her right hand, her elbow planted before a glass of whiskey on the dark, wooden bar.

Despite the unusual change in scenery, and even though the old man wasn’t particularly fond of change, especially if it was involving young people, he continued to take a seat at his favorite stool and planned to mind his own business as usual: watching the sports channel and listening to the other men around him make jokes about their bosses and complain about their wives- though he rarely joined in the fun. He’d sometimes smile quietly if a joke was particularly funny or silently think of how grateful he was to no longer be married when he heard an account of a nagging wife; but overall, he preferred to just observe.

After about fifteen minutes he successfully had forgotten the young lady was even still there next to him, until she began to weep. It was a quiet, apologetic weep- it wasn’t the kind of weep which sounded as if she was seeking attention or wanted to be heard, but the kind where you could tell she just couldn’t hold it in any longer. He turned his eyes to examine her but she kept her head sunken low and her gaze resolutely on the drink in front of her. He assumed she didn’t want any attention and he wasn’t so sure he would give her any even if she did, but then the weeping seemed to become deeper and more tragic.

“Here,” he said as he handed her a neatly folded tissue from his pocket.

She looked at him curiously.

“I’m at least ninety-five percent sure that it is unused,” he joked.

She face perked up a bit and a tiny light went on in her eyes, which was gleaming from the tears, as she broke into a weak smile and allowed herself to let out a tiny, defeated chuckle. She reached out for the tissue and replied, “thank you” before she blew her red nose into it.

She had a very warm smile and face, he noticed. Her eyes were a dark bluish-green and seemed different from most of the eyes he came across on a daily basis. They appeared to have some sort of understanding in them, despite the youthful face which contained them. Her skin was pale and smooth like fresh milk and her lips petite with a natural red-wine tint. Her teeth were white and small, and she had a tiny gap in between her two front teeth. Her cheeks were pink and flushed, probably a little from the drinking and her apparent emotional turmoil, but the blush also seemed to be natural to her complexion. Wavy bangs framed her forehead and hung just above her dark, bold eyebrows. A thick strand of hair was tucked behind her left ear, revealing a small studded earring which appeared to be in the shape of a flying bird. A large tan backpack sat on the floor beside her bar stool.

The old man smiled shyly, feeling good to have been able to momentarily pause her expression of grief.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, while returning his eyes to the T.V. screen mounted to the wall opposite to them.

“I’m sorry-I- I don’t mean to disturb you. I’m just not having the best day and I, uh, am having a bit of trouble keeping myself together right now. I apologize you have to be the one sitting next to me.” She returned her gaze to her drink and hung her head in embarrassment.

He wouldn’t typically continue to engage in this type of conversation, but he was unusually curious about this young girl for a reason unknown to him.

“Is some Don Juan to blame for those tears?” He asked her somewhat playfully, trying to lighten the mood.

She smiled weakly, “No. Just life is to blame, that’s all.”

“Ah, I see.” He responded uncomfortably, unsure of how to reply to that statement.

They continued to sit next to each other for the next few minutes, without carrying on any more conversation. The old man didn’t want to be rude by intruding in the young woman’s business, and the young woman didn’t want to be rude by bothering the old man with her sob stories; he clearly seemed the type to enjoy his solitude and silence. After maybe five or six more slightly awkward minutes passed by, the girl stood up, bid the old man a good night and walked out through the front bar door.

That surely was strange, he thought to himself, but tried quickly to forget about the young woman and the pity he strangely felt for those gloomy, tired eyes. He was uncomfortable with these new feelings, as he didn’t often feel sympathy for people. The old man finished his beer and decided it was time to call it a night. He closed his tab and tipped the bartender and headed outside for one last cigarette before his drive home.

As he stepped out into the evening, to his surprise, he noticed that the young woman was standing at the payphone, and seemed to be having a heated conversation with someone.

“Please, I just need to stay for one night. Yes, I heard you say you’re full, and ma’am I do understand that, but please, could you please make one exception just this once? I can sleep on the floor if I need to, I don’t mind.” After a moment, and clearly after receiving an answer she didn’t like, the girl slammed down the receiver angrily and sunk to the ground sobbing. This was no longer a subtle weeping, but a full-blown, heart-wrenching wail of misery and defeat.

The old man watched this unusual display of events as he nervously sucked on his cigarette, his mind racing with thoughts as to how he should properly respond. On one hand, he thought, this girl is clearly in a heap’s worth of trouble of some sort. She was probably caught up in a whole mess of dysfunctions- drugs, abusive partner or family, crime, the whole smorgasbord, he assumed. He probably shouldn’t get himself involved in such a terrible dysfunctional mess. On the other hand though, she seemed so polite and kind in their brief exchange of words. Not to mention, if he just ignored this girl’s obviously desperate need for help, he wondered, what kind of man that would make him? If this girl ended up on the six o’clock news the following day, dead in some ditch, all because his grumpy behind couldn’t be bothered, he surely couldn’t live with the guilt. The old man also considered calling the police to help her, but finally decided it against it, on account of the fact that he didn’t trust the police much anyways- most seemed to be crooked as far as he was concerned. So, he came to an extremely dubious decision.

He threw his cigarette to the ground and extinguished it by scraping it against the pavement with the bottom of his boot. He stuck his hands in his jean pockets and hesitantly approached her sobbing mass just ahead of him.

“Look young lady, uh, well, it seems to me you are in a bit of a trouble—least that’s what I can deduct from the phone call I overheard, and all the crying and such. Well, uh, look, I don’t usually do anything like this, and uh, in fact, I’m thinking myself kind of crazy to even be saying or thinking such a thing, with you being a complete stranger and all. But I, uh, wanted to offer you, I mean if you really need it, well, I’ve got a spare empty guest room in my house and you could sleep there for the night. Just to get out of the rainy, cold weather and all.” he stammered ineloquently.

The young girl choked back a few tears and wiped her eyes, looking up at him. Though her eyes looked to be deeply lined with sadness, there was now a trace of hope in them, along with a small dab of suspicion, as she scanned him over and replied “You would be so kind?”

“Well, err, it’s really nothing. I mean, the room is empty and all. Look, I mean I’m not some halfway house or anything, but I can’t just stand back and watch you sleep on this here filthy pavement tonight. You could get killed out here, people are lunatics.”

Her eyes continued to search him for reassurance that he was trustworthy. His eyes did seem kind and his demeanor appeared to lack any kind of agenda. She knew she could not be fully sure as to whether or not this decision would be one that she would regret- but what choice did she really have? It was either sleeping in his guest room tonight, or in some back alleyway.

She nodded her head slowly and uttered solemnly, “Thank you sir, I’d appreciate that very much.”

“Well, alright then. You can just follow me. I’m parked right over there.”

She lifted herself off of the damp, hard concrete and hoisted her large back pack over her shoulder as she began to follow the old man. In the dim light of the street lamps that lined the sidewalk, she noticed the old man’s round potbelly protruding over his faded jeans, hidden underneath an equally faded navy blue t-shirt. He also donned a pair of black suspenders which seemed to only accentuate the belly in which it contained. He wasn’t very tall- maybe five foot six at the most. The hair he had remaining on his head was completely grey with a large bald patch running through the center of his skull, revealing a shiny patch of skin in the middle. The shallow, beard across his chin was reasonably well manicured. A pack of Marlboro Reds stuck out his front right jean pocket.

His car was a dark green, older Honda that looked as though it had seen better days. She shivered a little as she shut the car door, mostly from the emotions of the evening, but also because of the weather. She wondered as to how he could be comfortable only wearing a t-shirt in the late October temperatures. He noticed her shivering as he started the engine and turned up the heat. The ride back was silent as they both swam through an ocean of thought, wondering what the future had in store for them, and guessing imaginatively as to who the person was sitting beside them.

The void.

I keep trying to fill the void you left in my life.
No, things weren’t perfect- but you gave me a purpose.
You made me special.
You made me seen.
You gave me an outlet to reveal myself, and express myself and you made me feel like my words were important to another human being.
Now, here I am… In many ways, happier… healthier, better off.
But still, with this void, with this hole, and trying to discover how to fill it with parts of myself that I already have.
The conflict is wanting to share my life with another (and don’t tell me this feeling is wrong, because it’s so inherent to the human psyche) and wanting to be complete without the influence of another.
I have forgotten how to be alone. When will I come to the place where I feel at peace once again? There was once a time that I thought I had captured that state for good, but alas, life has a different plan for me.
What has changed though is a greater feeling of acceptance for being lost, possibly due to my new environment, where figuring it out is totally okay, and in fact, the norm.
But still, each day I struggle to be at ease and enjoy the moment. I struggle to enjoy the moments of solitude even when I truly want to be alone. I struggle to feel like I mean something without being something important to someone else. I hope this struggle is the key to my own liberation, but only time will tell.

Live unapologetically according to the beat of your own drum= truly growing up

I am not willing to be miserable in exchange for security. That’s one of the main reasons I love Portland- it is filled with free thinkers who would rather be broke than to settle for a life of conformity and security in exchange for selling their soul.

The more I observe people and myself, I’m realizing that most of the societally-deemed “successful” people in this world got to where they are now because they try unabatedly to make others around them proud of them…. they so fervently seek to fit in.

I believe it begins with the complex as a child whereby our parents often reaffirm the notion that “good” behavior warrants love and approval and “bad” behavior leads to admonishment and disapproval. Thus, most of us go forward into our adult lives continuing this unhealthy cycle of believing they if we play by the rules and make everyone believe we are making the “smart” decisions, then we will receive love, respect and admiration in return.

On some levels, this is true. However, the thing is, the type of love and respect we receive from this kind of process is conditional. It is based on conditions, and if those conditions aren’t being met, namely you aren’t producing the types of behaviors that others approve of, the other side of the cycle will switch into gear: the side of admonishment.

Sometimes I will look into the eyes of people I know whom I watch recounting their anecdotes of success, while those around them coo in approval, and I see in their eyes that same little child who tugged on their mother or father’s sleeve, begging them to look at the pretty drawing they just made, or the mess they just cleaned up; I see them unconsciously reaching out and asking for approval and love from their peers or their family, as much as or perhaps more so than they did as a child, when they just wanted mommy and daddy to be proud of them.

The recognition of this unconscious process in others helps me to be more compassionate and less disdainful towards individuals who live in this way, but it also makes me sad. It seems like such a wasted life to live according to the desires of others and what others deem as best for your life.

I look again and see the quietly desperate unhappiness and the confused longing for something more reflected in the eyes of those people who do not follow in their own unique footsteps but instead follow in the path of what others tell them is right. I see the fruitless of attempt of these individuals to drown out their dissatisfaction with the attainment of material comforts and possessions.

I know for certain that I do not want to live in this way. I have lived like that in the past: making decisions based on the advice of others or desires of others- seeking their approval and wanting them to be proud of my choices. But now, I am beginning to see things differently and live differently. I am beginning to live unapologetically according to the beat of my own drum.

You see, others may give you what seems to be very sound and logical advice. However, I have found for myself that it is more important to choose the path that you deem as right in your heart, because what others view as “mistakes” could be your greatest and most important teachers.

If we all lived our whole lives trying to avoid “mistakes” and hardships like so many advise us to do, we would miss out on SO many important lessons!

This brings to mind another point I’ve been contemplating: just because something is more difficult doesn’t make it the wrong choice, and just because something is easier, doesn’t make it the right choice either.

Many people advised me not to bring my former boyfriend on my road trip with me to Portland, because they said it would be emotionally much more difficult to part after sharing those significant memories together. Well, you know what- they were right! It was much harder to say goodbye to him after sharing such wonderful and irreplaceable memories together on our journey. But, you know something else- I wouldn’t take back the decision of bringing him along for one minute! Even though it was more difficult emotionally to include him, I feel so blessed to have shared that life-changing experience with someone I care deeply about, and I know for certain that the experience affected him in a very positive, deep and profound way. I am so happy I was able to contribute to him having the opportunity to grow more as an individual and learn more about what the world has to offer.

Furthermore, when you make choices based off of your own volition, there is less regret you are likely to experience because you are less likely to years later wonder, “what if I had followed my heart on that decision? Where would I be today if I did? Would I be a happier or more fulfilled person? Would I have learned more?” You also resent people more whose advise you take when you aren’t pleased with the outcome.

I guess what I’m saying is, generally speaking, fuck what others say and think and do what you feel is best in your heart (with some input from your head to provide balance). This is your life and you are going to have to make and learn from your own fumbles. You are also going to get to bask in the joy of reaping the rewards of making your own positive decisions for yourself.

No matter if the road you are led down by your choices is difficult or very pleasant, your journey will be so much more fulfilling and rich if each moment is experienced while knowing you were brought to that point in time by your own free will, the sweat of your own brow, and that you moulded your life by your own two hands.

A House Built Upon Rock

And she said

“It’s amazing how when you change one thing,

Everything else changes.”

You and I both know this to be true.

That faded quilt blanket which hangs inconspicuously upon your wooden chair,

Appeared to have the same old familiar pattern for years;

Until suddenly, one day, that same blanket seemed to possess a whole new array

Of shades, shapes and complexity stitched throughout,

Because you changed one important thing,

And thereby grew yourself a new pair of eyes.

People sometimes tell me, “You have so much potential;

You could be this, or that, or this, or that.”

I am not sure what they mean anymore, or what I mean anymore,

When we speak about becoming this or that,

Or fulfilling some sort of unlocked potential.

Perhaps it is the pressure to be something more than what we already are at this moment,

Which only adds to our discontentment.

I am learning and trying to trust the journey, as well as the notion that,

“It is written.”

It is surely a sad thing- no, a seemingly tragic thing,

When a dream that made the heart hopeful for years,

Proves itself to be part of the path, but not the path.

This is when we must learn to trust the path the most,

And rely on our own inner strength.

It is certainly pleasant to surround ourselves with loved ones,

And those with whom we can share our joy.

Yet, it is even nicer when you can enjoy the company of others,

While you are always invisibly resting within a house built upon solid rock,

When most others rest visibly in their houses built upon sand.

Moving to Portland: Selling + Donating All of my Possessions

So, since it is too expensive for me to hire movers and a moving truck to transport all of my possessions across the country from Pennsylvania to Oregon, I’ve decided to both donate and sell almost all of my possessions and only bring to Portland what I can fit in my little 4 door sedan.

All week I’ve been donating bags and boxes full of possessions to Goodwill that I have been accumulating my entire life. The bigger stuff, like furniture or more expensive belongings, I’ve been selling on Craigslist. I have very mixed feelings about the whole process. This has been an extremely liberating and purging process- things that I have always thought I ‘needed’ either to make me happy, or because one day I just might need them… I’ve been discovering I DON’T ACTUALLY need them after all! What a revelation! Looking at an object that I have an emotional or sentimental attachment to and then throwing it in the box to take to Goodwill feels like looking my fears and insecurities in the face and saying, “I will not be held back by you; I am stronger than you!”

On the other hand, I have had some difficulties selling some things, for instance, selling my guitar. My stepdad gave me this guitar when I was 12 years old and I’ve had it for over 10 years now. I don’t play it often, but when I do, I enjoy it. I knew I could probably manage stuffing it in my sedan, but for me, it really was a practice in letting go of emotional attachment to objects by selling it. I know that one day I will buy my own guitar for myself, and when I invest my own money in something like that, I will have much more incentive to actually play it more often.

So yes, it is a little hard and sad to see some of my prized possessions either sit on the shelf at Goodwill or to be handed over to the palms of strangers from Craigslist. But of course, in line with the whole mixed emotions thing, it actually kinda makes me feel all warm and fuzzy at the same time thinking about how my possessions will make their new owners happy and imagining how they will use them well, perhaps better and more often than I.

Since I am starting fresh by moving to a city where I know absolutely no one, it is very fitting for me to actually start completely fresh by letting go of all of my belongings and getting new ones in my new home. Wow- that felt weird to type… “home.” Is Portland actually going to be my home? It seems hard to imagine.

This whole process is still very surreal, but is starting to sink in more, and overall, I’d say it’s very empowering. This is the kind of decision in life that most of us think we don’t actually have the strength for, but I am learning that at least for myself, I am much stronger than I ever realized. Okay, maybe I am not climbing Mount Everest or anything and to some of you, you’re thinking “Pfff, all this chick is doing is moving across the country- what’s the big deal?” But to me, moving to Portland alone, where I will be completely anonymous at first, means letting go of ALL of my comfort zones, all of my security blankets, all of my emotional, social and geographic ties (even though I can sustain long-distance friendships/relationships, it just won’t be the same) and facing my fears of being completely alone and making it on my own.

I am going to Portland in a few weeks to look for housing and I am actually staying in an international hostel there, which I’m really excited about! I will get to meet travelers from around the world- the setup in this hostel seems really unique and awesome- they are super environmentally conscious and it looks so clean and cozy there!

…I know this is a stretch, but if any of you readers live in the Portland area, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me- I could certainly use some new friends in my new city!

I will post again soon with updates! 🙂