When we are young, our purpose is to learn rules, obey the rules, get educated, make friends, grow up, find our true love, have families of our own and raise them. If we are career people, we juggle career responsibilities along with parenting. Some of us did all that, and a few of us woke up around 38-42 asking ourselves, “Is this all there is?” If you aren’t or weren’t one of those, consider yourself fortunate. I was, however, and the answer to the question created many challenges and crises in my life. The mid-life crisis doesn’t have to happen at the age I mentioned; it can happen anytime, as we really don’t know how long we’re going to live, so mid-life for some could be 50.
Just because our purpose as described above is spelled out for us doesn’t mean that we necessarily embrace it. Some just go through the motions; others find excitement and passion in every stage. Once we become “empty nesters,” however, the word “purpose” takes on a whole new meaning. Is our purpose to just coast until our kids finish school so we can lose ourselves in their lives and those of our grandchildren? Maybe. Is our purpose to travel and see the world we never had time to explore? Perhaps. Is our purpose to keep working until we can’t? For some, yes. For those of us who took the plunge and retired, leaving behind our identity, our colleagues, our salaries, our demanding routines, purpose is now a choice for the first time in our lives.
A dear friend in her early 50s said to me yesterday at dinner, “I haven’t found my purpose yet. I know I will, but so far, I’m not sure what it is.” Fortunately, some have the luxury of financial security and physical stamina to travel, move, begin a new career or pursue a hobby. Any of these can provide purpose. For some, however, those are not options; they are temporary fixes to filling our time with enjoyable activities until we can discover our real purpose.
Some might say to the question of purpose, “Oh, that ship has already sailed.” Has your ship already sailed, or are you trying new things to test the waters? Is purpose just for young people? Can you operate without a true sense of purpose and find happiness and peace of mind? What’s your purpose? I found mine at age 72. It’s my purpose for now, but it doesn’t have to be forever. To me, purpose means finding something you enjoy doing that you can lose yourself in and feel refreshed and energized. It doesn’t have to consume your day, but it gives you a feeling of self-worth and perhaps, accomplishment. What do you do that offers you that reward? What would you like to do that would get you there, but maybe something is holding you back? Hmm. Food for thought. Bon Appétit.