A simple trick to find your purpose in life

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Photo by Dimitri Houtteman on Unsplash

“I don’t know,” she says to her teacher. “Okay, Melina what do you want to do after high school?” The teacher asks another kid. “I think I want to become a lawyer!” The girl replies excitedly. “Oh, that’s a great one, Melina. Anyone else wanting to become a lawyer?” The teacher says, and a few kids raise their hands. The girl looks around the classroom with her eyes wide open. Her classmates all know what they want to do. At least most of them knew what they wanted to do. Lawyers, creative businesses, some wanted to become designers or program coders. But she didn’t know what she wanted to do. It was all so overwhelming to her. Hundreds of college degree choices were divided over multiple colleges, so she both had to choose what degree she wanted to get, and then she had to choose which college. The choices were overwhelming let alone the opinions of others. This wasn’t the first class in which they were asked about their future jobs. Almost every teacher would ask it, at least once a week. But each time her answer stayed the same. “I don’t know.” But deep down she did know, she just knew that if she said it people would try to talk her out of it. After all, it wasn’t a safe job and a consistent job.

The bell makes a loud ring followed by an outburst of joy, energy, and excitement. Each kid quickly packing up their pens, notebooks, and school books. Pushing all of it in their bag and leaving the classroom in groups. It was Friday, so she felt excited. That meant that there was only one day left for her 17th birthday! She too quickly packed her bag and left the classroom with a few of her friends. They talked about their plans for the weekend as they made their way to their bicycles ready to go home. But before leaving they would get everything out of their locker. Especially the food they had bought during the week. Leaving this in there would be a complete waste of amazing sweets, chips, and soda drinks.

There was a rough wind outside blowing in the opposite direction of where the girl needed to go. Oh, she hated the wind, she thought to herself. It’s just absolutely horrific to have to cycle for miles which at a normal speed would already take her 30 minutes, but with this wind, it would take her maybe an hour. “What a horrible start of the weekend.” Her excitement had quickly been blown away by the wind. On her way back home she was thinking about her upcoming year. She was in her final year of high school and there was no way she wouldn’t graduate. So she didn’t worry about any of it, but she did worry about what she wanted to do afterward. In class she never spoke about her true dreams, they were there but the opinions of others overshadowed her feeling. “I have to do something I both like and that brings in a lot of money.” Was an opinion she now thought often, but that wasn’t hers. All she cared about was being happy, whether she made a lot of money or not wasn’t important to her. But this opinion had been pushed to her by her family and friends often. Even school teachers said this in class, influencing not only her but all the other kids as well.

She found it a horrible thing to say, considering that this choice in most cases would be the job you hold for your entire life. But the thing she found most obnoxious was the fact that not choosing a college degree at all was even worse. It was as if you had no future and you might as well instantly sell all your stuff and grab a cardboard box to live in the streets. This made her furious. Yet she didn’t say any of it out loud. She was almost home and hadn’t noticed much of the strong wind. She was too caught up in her thoughts.

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Her birthday

Slowly but surely the guests came in. Grandma and grandpa were already there, as well as some of the uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews. The girl lived with her parents in a decent-sized house, but it most certainly was too tight for all the guests to sit in one big circle. So they broke the group into two. Some people stayed in the kitchen, others in the living room. They could just walk around and speak to whomever they wanted to talk to. The girl stayed in her seat, receiving all her presents, opening them immediately. She ripped off the paper and threw it all around. The ground was covered with red, blue, green, yellow-colored wrapping paper filled with flowers, stripes, squares, and dots to make it look even messier. It must have been a beautiful sight to see a girl on a wooden chair, in the middle of a room. Surrounded by wrapping paper, gifts, and people waiting to give her their gift. These days she was both lucky to have such a large family as well as unlucky.

Wait unlucky? Yes, unlucky. As her birthday continued she had no opportunity to go and play. She didn’t mind that. She loved sitting with older people and just listen to them. But again, college… It was always about college. Never about what she liked doing. Which hobbies she had, memories, or just joy. It was always about that stupid college. “What do you want to do next? What college degree would you like to do?” She answered these questions the entire night, but she didn’t even think of this as the worst part. The worst part was that she had to say “I don’t know.” To each one of her family members. She knew how they would react. They all reacted in the same way after all. “I think you would be a great designer!” Some would say, or “I think you are suited for a job as a doctor don’t you think?” She just said yes to each one of these questions and submissions. If she said no, they would be upset. She had tried this with her parents and her teachers but it didn’t work out in her favor. “WHAT! These are amazing jobs! I think you shouldn’t be so picky about what to do next.” Was a response she had heard many times.

The wrapping paper had been cleaned up by her mom and everyone was served a piece of cake. She backed it herself. She loved baking. She had always liked it. As a kid, she remembers to bake cookies with her mom. Large chocolate chip cookies, filled with all kinds of candy. Her favorite was marshmallow chocolate chip cookies. Especially if she would create an ice cream sandwich with these. It was as if she had found the perfect combination of roasted marshmallows above the barbecue, soft and crunchy chocolate chip cookies, and slowly melting ice cream that covered her face as she tried to take a bite of it. This was heaven to her. And as she grew older she started to bake more of these things. Trying out new recipes, new cookie ideas. Sharing them with friends and family. She truly loved baking. Everyone in the room seemed to like the cake. She was glad about that, it had taken her two entire days to bake this amount of cake, to feed both her family and her friends. But with a little help from her mom, she had done it. She scanned across the room looking for her mom. ‘Where was she?” She thought to herself. Just around the corner of the hallway entrance, a head popped up, as if her mom had heard her thoughts and wanted to check on her. They looked at each other and smiled.

Luckily the night didn’t last that long. After talking to most of the people there she went upstairs playing with her friends. She was done talking about school and what she liked to do.

Loads of options

The weekend passed by quickly. She had played and tried most of her new gifts late into each night and was exhausted for the new week. Luckily she didn’t have to go to school on Monday. It was time to check out one of the colleges she would like to go to and see what options she had. She got the suggestion to do this from one of her teachers. The only one that didn’t give her any recommendations on what to become. “There was nothing to lose here, so why not try it right?” She thought to herself cycling towards the train station. She put her bike away into one of the bicycle stands and made her way up to the platform. The barriers starting closing as soon as she crossed the train track. She looked into the distance and saw the train entering the station. She pulled out her phone and looked at the time. It was right on time. It was she that was almost too late. She hurried her way up the last stairs and pushed her way through the crowd of people wanting to enter the first cabin. She speed-walked her way towards the third or fourth cabin, she didn’t quite know which one it was anymore and entered. It was jam-packed with people but there was just one spot left. On the other side of the cabin, a man entered, looking at her and then at the chair. He quickly rushed towards it and sat down. He didn’t look at her afterward and stared out of the window. “What a prick!” She thought to herself and then walked by in search of a quieter cabin. She walked through three or for cabins and then found one with a seat for her. She sat down and looked through the window. Seeing the grasslands, trees and houses pass by.

A few hours later she arrived at a large building. A white building filled with a lot of windows, that was covered in post-its and written text on them. But it wasn’t the kind of text you would see as graffiti on walls, it looked like markdowns for assignments like you would use to do on whiteboards. She entered the college building and looked around, she felt a mix of fear and discomfort, as if it were her first day at school again. On the other end of the hallway was a large poster that said “follow the orange arrows on the ground for your tryout day!” And one of the students wore a similar orange t-shirt with the text “Welcome” on it. She cringed at the sight of it and wanted to turn back and leave the building. She decided not to do that and continued her way through the hallways and found her way to a large auditorium where loads of other boys and girls were waiting and talking to one another. Although a large portion of them seemed to look at their phone, feeling the same as she felt. She made way to one of the empty seats at the front row and sat down. The rest of the day rushed by. She had a lot of fun talking to other boys and girls, as well as trying out different kinds of educations. Yet none of them seemed to stick. She liked the people but not the things they did. “It was all so…“ she didn’t know how to explain it. But it felt like everything was based on performing, learning facts, and being the best. None of these things aligned with her.

There were simply too many options for her to try, but the once she tried seemed to not work out for her. Discouraged and exhausted from a long day talking to a large array of people and not finding what she was looking for, she started to make her way back to the train station. It was about 4 pm now and most of the teens and young adults were making their way home just like she did.

A stranger, that didn’t know anything

She made her way into her train and sat down on one of the seats next to the aisle. The cabin was surprisingly empty and stayed that way. There were some people on the other side of the cabin and one man just entered, sitting down on the chair across the aisle from her. They looked at each other and smiled. The man wore large black glasses with thick glasses in them. His eyes had this lightness in them, this feeling of kindness and generosity. His shaved head started to get grey hairs on them and his beard was haggard, but it all suited him very well. The girl looked away from him, noticing that she had been watching him for a few minutes. The man just simply smiled and noticed that the girl was wearing a ring with a small red stone in it. He also noticed that she was wearing more jewelry that had a bohemian style to it. He liked it and wished to have to guts to wear it himself too. The girl was now watching backing videos on her phone with her headphones on as the train took off. The two of them minded their own business again. But after some time the man looked at the girl again.

“Sorry… Sorry, can I ask you something?” The man asked her gently touching her arm to get her attention. “What are you watching?” He asked. “Kind of a strange question.” The girl thought to herself but answered anyway. “I am watching a video on baking red velvet and cookie dough muffins.” “Ohh that sounds delicious!” The man said putting his right hand on his belly. “I noticed you were wearing some amazing jewelry” he added. “Yes,” the girl replied looking back at her phone. “Is there any reason for doing that?” The man asked, again very politely, normally she would have been annoyed by someone interrupting her video but this time she liked the man. He felt genuine and kind. “Well I love the look of them and most of these I got from family or friends, they carry a special meaning for me.” She then replied. “Wow what an amazing purpose for jewelry!” The man said excitedly and he kindly laughed at the girl. “So how’s your day been?” The man continued and the girl decided to put her phone away and moved her headphones around her neck. “Not so great actually.” The man looked at her with compassion but stayed silent. “Well actually I liked it, but… I just don’t know.” The girl felt stupid for even answering the man, set aside that she said she wasn’t doing alright. What a stupid thing to do. “No, no it’s fine” the man continued. As if he had overheard her thoughts. “I didn’t just ask that to be polite, I wanna know how your day has been.”

“Well it has been great, but I just don’t know what to do next. With college and everything.” She then answered. A feeling of peace came over her, feeling as if there was finally someone that listened to her without giving his opinion. “Oh I see, are you about to finish high school?” He asked. “Yes I am, and I have to choose a college education, but I just simply don’t know what to do. And everyone seems to know better than me what I should be doing.” She almost burst out into tears but managed to resist them. She didn’t want to show them to this strange man. “What a weird thing. Never have I ever spoken to someone and felt this… This relaxed and accepted.” She thought to her. “Wow I see, it’s quite a struggle isn’t it to figure out what you want to do. Especially if you know that this is what you will do for the rest of your life, isn’t it?” On the other side of the cabin, a conductor entered and they both looked at him. They interrupted their talk and grabbed their ticket. Once the conductor passed away the man continued.

“I understand your struggle. It’s a tough decision to make, I’ve gone through it myself many years ago. Not after high school but after college. But for the same reason as you have right now. I choose the wrong education, and I only felt this was wrong when I finished it. So what now? I thought to myself.” The man said looking up to the ceiling. “I had to completely rethink my life plan, and come up with a different way of making a living. But now, I have created I life that I enjoy living. It took me some extra years, but in the end, most people come around and find what they love to do most.” He looked at her and smiled. This stranger didn’t know her, they had just met and he couldn’t know what she would like to do. So for the first time, someone shared their struggle with her, without suggesting what she should do. He just left her with that. He just shared that he struggled as well, but that he got out fine in the end. Nothing more. She was confused. Why didn’t the man continue and speak about the solution? Why didn’t he help her? He doesn’t know anything! She thought to herself.

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A silver engraved notebook

The man simply looked outside and she was almost at her destination. “Why wouldn’t he say anything?” She thought, but too afraid to ask him for advice. But then the man reached into his bag. Fumbling around in there, pulling his lunchbox out and putting it on the empty seat next to him. “Ah, here it is.” He then said, pulling out a black notebook with a red page marker dangling out of it. On the side, it said, “Your purpose is hidden within the cracks of your life” engraved in silver handwritten letters. On the front, the words “Experience the beauty of living” were engraved in that same style. The man opened it and quickly flipped through the pages. Checking it, but for what. “Here you go.” The man said handing the notebook to her. “It’s empty, you can have it.” He smiled at her. “Wh.. why?” She stumbled. “I carry the same notebook with me everywhere I go, but I always take a spare one, may the day come someone needs it as much as I do.” He laughed. “And that day is today. You need it he said.”

“Why do I need it?” The girl asked confused, knowing that her destination was only a few minutes away. “You want to know your passion right? That one thing you want to do for the rest of your life?” He asked her. “Yes, that’s what I’ve been struggling with.” “Well, this is gonna help you find that. In there you’ll find hundreds of blank pages. Ready to be scribbled, written, drawn, and torn by you. Ready to be filled with your life, with your memories and experiences. Each line can carry a precious memory somewhere stored in your brain. Each line can carry an experience that brings you joy, or a dream you want to fulfill. This little notebook is your way to find your purpose, your passion, your education.” In just a minute the man had handed her a random notebook and told her to write out her life in it. “What a random thing to say” she again thought to herself.

“You see I had struggled with the same dilemma as you have right now. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a sense of purpose for my existence, yet I did know that it wasn’t to just get a job and work. I wanted to do something meaningful, something that would bring me and the people around me joy. This little notebook has entirely changed my life. Each day, for almost 5 years now have I written in it. All of my thoughts, all of my ideas. Everything, in what now are hundreds of notebooks. But it all started with one similar to what you hold right now. In it, I figured out my purpose in life. And now I wanted to give you that gift too. Of figuring that out, it isn’t that hard.” “Hurry,” the girl thought to herself. Her stop was only minutes away.

“Write down, every memory, every memory that brings you intense joy, and every memory that brings you sadness. Write them down. As many as you can remember. Write down what you liked doing as a kid, what vacations you remember, what parties or books. Write them all down. Until you think you have written down most of them. Now go through them. Grab a different colored pen and mark the words, sentences, paragraphs that are key to your joy. Turn it to the side for me would you?” The man asked. “Your purpose is hidden within the cracks of your life. It says it right there. If you want to know that to do, you shouldn’t look ahead. Rather look back. At everything that brought you intense joy. Like baking right?” “Wait what? How the hell did he know she liked that?” The girl was flabbergasted. The conductor spoke through the intercom. This was her stop, she had to get off. In a hurry, she put the notebook in her back. “I am so sorry, so so sorry,” She said to the man. “But this is my stop I have to get out now.” The man reached out to her and gave her a hand. “It’s okay, you know everything you need to know.” Pointing to her heart. And then he let go of her hand and she flew off to the exit.

A little note

The girl often thought of this moment in the upcoming days and weeks. She had told her mom and dad, who didn’t care about it. “Who cares? A stranger that gives you a notebook, that can’t be any special right? Must have been some kind of lunatic!” They said. She was amazed by her calm response because she knew that it mattered. It didn’t matter what her parents thought of what happened, nor her friends, which she of course told about the man as well. They do didn’t believe her, they even thought she just bought the notebook somewhere in a bookshop and just wanted to brag about it. It was sad that the people the girl thought were most important to her, were not at all. They didn’t care about her, they only cared about their fears. Her parents didn’t truly want her to be happy, they wanted her to be safe. Which, she figured out from the man, wasn’t all that happy after all.

The girl was sad that she would never see the man again. Or at least so she thought, she wanted to ask him what she should do precisely in the notebook. She hadn’t touched it in a few days. She wasn’t certain whether or not to write in it. After a few days and being confronted with the fact that nobody cared about her happiness she grabbed the silver engraved notebook from her bookshelf. She grabbed a basic pen that wrote like butter. Soft on the pages and perfectly sharp. She opened the notebook and something dropped out. “What was that?” She thought to herself, and bend down to grab it off the rug underneath her. It was a small folded note. That said. “Follow these steps and you’ll find your purpose, your experience of life awaits my dear one.” It must have been the man who put this in there. He was the only one she knew that talked like this.

She then laid down the notebook on the first page and the note right above it. She folded the note open and started reading. I want to ask you, each day, to write down your memories. Make them as lively and vibrant as possible. Relive them in your mind and feel the joy, sadness, anger, or any other emotion you felt. When you are done with writing down your memories read them again and see if you can get a reason for the way you felt. Write that reason down in just a few lines and continue with the next memory. Up until you think you have done enough and then go back. Go through all the memories you wrote down and see if you can spot a pattern of the things that make you come alive. The things that spark energy in you. Write that down and see if you feel excitement and joy for it. If you do, great! You might have just found your purpose my dear one. Now put your notebook away if you have found it. Don’t look at it for at least 7 days, let it rest and settle within you. Then get back to it and read it again. See if you still feel the same as you did before. If you did, congratulations, you have just found your purpose. Or at least I think you have. But it might just take you a few tries to get to it. That’s okay. It’s a fun and highly rewarding exercise so keep doing it.

In a few years, you’ll find the benefits of doing this. You will see that you will make choices more clearly and they bring you more joy. You will be more joyous of the moments happening right in front of you because you now know the power of memories. And most importantly by finding out your reason for experiencing the beauty of living you will be able to help others more than you ever could. So my dear one, go write, go live your life, and experience it. For in the cracks of life your purpose will be found.

Those were the last words on the note and the girl felt an intense sense of joy within her. She put away the note and started writing. Day after day. Week after week, until she had almost filled her journal. But her purpose, her purpose was for her alone. She didn’t want to influence anyone by thinking they should do the same as she did. She wanted others to think and search for themselves. So all she did was pass on her practice, so everyone can do it.

Journalling for your purpose practice:

  1. Write down each day a memory, something joyful, sad, or angry. Just write it down as lively and vibrantly as possible.
  2. Read the memory again and find out why it was you felt the way you felt. Most of the time this isn’t the obvious answer like “I was happy at Christmas because of the presents.” It will be more like “I was happy at Christmas because I love receiving and giving to people and spending time with loved ones, as well as the romance behind it all.” The reasons why you love something are often more detailed, more precise and they are your key to your purpose.
  3. Now write that reason down in just a few lines, just as I did in the step above.
  4. And last, after some time go through all these short lines and see if you can figure out a pattern. Do you see a pattern of something you loved doing or like me find out you loved building things, whether it was legos, stories, or worlds on my pc I loved the process of building something and being a leader?
  5. If you find out what that thing is, write it down on the very last page of your notebook.
  6. Now put it away. Leave it there for a few days, maybe weeks, and then get back to it. See if you still feel the same about it. If you do, you know you have found your purpose, your passion.

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