2015 has been the worst year of my life. My mother stopped speaking to me. I had thrown her high expectations of me going to a big reputable school out the window. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do anymore.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to do anymore.
One time she turned to me “what are you doing with your life?” Then I turned inside, at myself “what am I doing with my life?”
All this time throughout high school, I was pursuing my dreams. I took every AP science test, I studied for the SATs, I was the president of an active club. I was lining up the dots, I was pursuing my dreams! Even though it was tough at times, I knew exactly what I was supposed to do.
After high school, I thrust myself into a world of unknown. Not the unknowns of science, not the unknowns of somebody else’s world – but the unknowns of my own world. And it was empty. I looked around, and I only saw other people. Billionaires glorified in the Silicon Valley. Doctors my parents wanted me to become. I couldn’t even see my own reflection in my own body. Four years ago, this would have been great, even comforting. I just had to follow what other people told me to do, continue to meet the expectations other had for me, then I would be successful.
But now, it was scary. It was scary because I decided to make my own path. I couldn’t find a set tutorial on Google. I couldn’t figure out what to do next like how I followed YouTube tutorials to solve the Rubik’s cube. Even on Quora, I would read stories of all these successful people, but none of them would exactly match mine. In high school, I thought I was making myself stand out and be unique, but in the bigger picture, I was just doing what everybody else was doing. So it was time to buckle down and really figure out why I’m doing things.
Don’t pursue your dreams, pursue your purpose.
Dreams derive from the successful people around you. Purpose derives from self reflection. Pursuing a purpose means that even when shit hits the fan, when you lose everything, when nobody is around to watch, you keep going because that’s the only thing you truly have. The way we teach goals and dreams are wrong. Dreams are tied to professions, salaries, fames. We teach and motivate kids to become doctors, lawyers, when that can result in them mindlessly working for the rest of their lives. Since purposes are not domain specific they can permeate to any profession, daily routines, relationships with other people, attitude towards life – ultimately every aspect of life. The people whose purposes are so strong you can feel it in every interaction with them are the ones that are interesting. And I’m starting to understand what it means to become interesting (it’s the title of my blog!)
Understand the underlying patterns in the things you actually do
I enjoy putting myself through challenges: physical, mental, philosophical, and this has become extremely evident in the types of books I’ve been reading, the kinds of people I follow on Quora, and the things I like to talk about. I enjoy learning new things, especially when I can not currently see myself able to do those things. So my purpose is mastering the hard challenges I see in myself now, and also those that I have yet to encounter. For me, realizing this purpose feels like there is no other way for me to live. The purpose of my life, of my humanity is to master the hard things. Get defeated, maybe even discouraged by the new challenges that arise, then do it again.
So 2015 has been the worst year of my life. 2016, 2017, 2018, … will also be the worst years of my life. They will suck so much because every new day, every new year, I will be questioning what I’m doing. They will suck because I won’t always have the answers. The coming years will suck and be hard because that’s exactly how I want to live.
Now I encourage you to self reflect, you will have to for the rest of your life. Ask why you are doing things, then what you are going to do now. When you can’t find the answers, create your own answers, then share them.
I feel my poem The Cave is especially relevant to this, so feel free to read:
It’s the world’s most comfortable place
Comfort zones suck they say, we have to get out
It’s not as simple as it sounds though
It’s not as simple as “stepping out”
It’s so engrained into our brains
It’s engrained in the very essence of our society
Meritocracy, bureaucracy, even our beloved democracy
Each world has a cave of its own
With prizes, titles, time slots to play in a Carnegie Hall recital
To become the president, get tenure, become Silicon Valley’s next billionaire
To enter the elite bubble, stay up there in the untouchable haven
Finding a job will be easy, I’ll have money, It’s so great to be at the top
It’s every high schoolers dream to penetrate those bubbles into Cambridge and New Haven
I know that’s when I’ll have everything on lock
I had to step out my comfort zone to get there
What’s wrong with that?
Nothing is. After all, all we really can see are those dancing shadows
We choose our cave, climb to the top, fight our uphill battles
There really isn’t anything wrong with that though,
People live such happy lives basing it on that
But maybe it’s the comfort of climbing that has made those caves so damn binding