Bam! You are born. What now? What are you going to do? Well, for the first couple of years, it is pretty clear what you will do: listen to your parents, go to school, play with your friends, and do all those other things “children just happen to do”. You don’t even think about what might be the purpose behind all of it. The only purpose you think about is training your Pokémons to level 100 and ruling the Pokémon League.
After this period, you start attending high school and are forced to deal with all the insecurities that arise: what do I have to do to be popular? What do the cool guys do? How can I be more like that great – but not so nice – guy in my soccer team? You’ve got child-like purposes driving you forward; purposes that make you know what you have to do.
Then you start attending college. The first two years or so are as usual. You get your points, work on your social life and do all sorts of stuff you like. And then disaster strikes: suddenly you don’t know it anymore. You start reflecting upon your life and ask yourself: what the fuck am I doing? Is this who I am? Is this truly what I want to do for the rest of my life, just becoming another brick in the wall? And it is at this point that your life starts.
Living someone else’s life is easy. You just follow the rules and you will get by. You might not even be consciously aware of the rules, like when you were a kid. You just live your life, not even thinking about what it was that you’re doing. But at some point in your life, whether it is in your “mid-life crisis” or in your twenties, you become aware of the rat-race you’re a part of. You become aware of the goals that society has imprinted on you, “Get a good job”, “Get married” and “Think about the career possibilities”. And you are slowly but steadily approaching the point of destruction; you’re slowing reaching the why-phase.
When you’ve reached the why-phase, all social conditioning you have been put through in your life will be reconsidered, “Why do I need to get a ‘good’ job?”, “Why do I need to get married” and “Why do I have to think about my career possibilities?”. And while the why-phase you had as a child was innocent and happened without you even being aware of it (“Daddy, why do we celebrate Christmas?”), this why-phase you’re involved in happens fully consciously. Maybe even a little too consciously.
Like I said, everyone experiences this “second why-phase” in life. However, the point at which it kicks in is likely to differ from person to person. You might know those those 50-somethings that get divorced, move to France and start a Bed and Breakfast? That’s the why-phase too. Or do you know students that quit their study after a year or two? That’s the why-phase as well. But it is not only the way you live your life that gets reconsidered – and revised – in the why-phase, it is the entire notion of life itself. What is life? Or more importantly: what is my life?
When you start asking these existential questions, you encounter a whole range of different answers, each one being just as much – or even more – dissatisfying as the one before. You keep coming up with answers that have been imprinted in your head, the indoctrinations that I mentioned before. But when you start asking yourself why it is that none of these answers satisfies you, you stumble upon an eye-opening but scary conclusion: maybe your life doesn’t have a purpose.
That is: maybe there is no purpose in life besides the one you’ve created for yourself. Maybe there is no inherent meaning of life, or goal you should strive for in order to be able to live happily ever after. But then – suddenly – the answer shows its face: if I want to live happily ever after, I better create a purpose myself. And if I don’t, I will be dead soon enough.
You’ll always have to create a purpose in your life, no matter how mundane this might be. Thus although there might not be an inherent purpose of – or meaning in – life, there is always an underlying drive present in your life, and that is the drive forcing you to create a purpose in life. That is not to say that there is one static purpose you should live your entire life according to. No, your purpose might be changing. But still, there must always be a purpose, and its yours to find out. That’s the one and only true purpose of life.
But what do you think?