I have been feeling very directionless lately, which is difficult for me because I am all about direction. My main coping mechanism is to work hard and I’m struggling to find good balance between my desire to put aside all concerns in order to simply work and recognizing that I need to take it easy on myself during what is probably one of the most difficult situations of my life.
Despite all of my preparations, last week was both a great week and a terrible week. I had a schedule, a to-do list, plenty of projects to work on, books all lined up for reading, some new games to play, and a new exercise regimen that would allow me to get a close to full workout in at home. Yet I made it through only two days before I started to fall apart.
I often wish that life had some kind of external meaning. I wish there were fixed points in existence that we could derive our purpose from, things we knew to be incontrovertibly true about why we are alive. Things we knew we would find as points with which to plot the course of our lives. A soul mate. A purpose. A reason. Things that, added up, told us the potential value of our lives.
It would make my life easier if I had those things. I wouldn’t spend so much time wondering, so much time groping about in the dark, if I knew where I was or what I was reaching for. I’d never worry that I was wasting my time on my current path because I’d know I was at least headed in the right direction. I’d know why I’m here.
But fixed points don’t exist. We have many points to pick from and we’re never sure where they are or if they’ll stay. The concept of “soul mate” might exist, but I doubt it exists in the form of a single person. Perhaps an incredibly strong rapport with one person in particular, but there are too many humans for it to be statistically likely for anyone to find their one particular soul mate during their short span alive. Plus, if souls truly are immortal, then you’re opening it up to all humans who ever existed and will ever exist. The likelihood of finding your one soul mate is so low as to be laughable. Yet that’s still a comment idea because people claim to have found theirs all the time. If it truly exists as it is often expressed, I think a soul mate is someone you build a relationship with and connect with, not some pre-determined person. Sure, you found someone and immediately felt a profound connection, but we only apply the term “soul mate” when the connection stays and the relationship works out. If you didn’t work at keeping the relationship strong, they wouldn’t be your soul mate.
That means it isn’t a fixed point. If you could form that strong of a bond with anyone (or almost anyone, since there are prerequisites to even trying to form that bond), then it isn’t so much as finding a fixed point in existence as it is fixing a point in existence. The same is true of “meaning” and “purpose.” You may feel particularly called to doing something and your life might have a very strong pattern or theme to it, but you always have to work at maintaining it. Saying you’ve found your meaning and then pointing to your life from then on as evidence of it being your meaning is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You found something that you decided was meaningful and then dedicated your life to it. Just because your life was full of it doesn’t change the fact that you picked it.
I struggle with this sometimes. Because of my affinity for writing, the joy I get from writing, and the dedication I feel to writing, it is very tempting to say that I was given meaning and purpose. The same is true of storytelling. I want to say something outside myself determined that I was to be a storyteller and finding ways to be a storyteller is just me trying to live the life that was set out for me. It is very easy to forget that I haven’t always felt this way. Before high school, I didn’t write much at all. I read a lot and enjoyed stories, but I didn’t write them. Writing began as a coping mechanism and giving myself meaning because of my writing was a part of that.
One of the “Obsessive” bits of my OCD is a preoccupation with self-destructive ideas. I’ve never acted on them, thankfully, but my OCD makes sure they’re pretty much always there. Back when I first started confronting the reality that these thoughts were here to stay, I decided that giving myself reasons to want to wake up tomorrow was going to make it easier to push past those thoughts if they ever went from what was, at that point, just a burble in the back of my mind. I picked a meaning and a purpose for myself and believed in it so firmly that now, over a decade later, I almost forget that I didn’t always believe my purpose was to write and tell stories. I almost forget that this was something I chose.
Fixing your points in existence is important. Not because they’re going to lead you somewhere, but because they can give you a sense of direction. You know where something is and you can always find your way back so long as you never let them go. Without them, you’re just drifting. Some people like to drift and that’s fine, but that becomes a fixed point of sorts as well. Your purpose is to drift and to exist.
Ultimately, I can’t really fault anyone for what they choose. Even the people who want to believe that something else gave them fixed points and a direction. I believe they’re fixing the points themselves and even adding a couple more as a result of their beliefs. Religion, philosophy, ethics… They can all become fixed points if you want. I think some of those things are best left at least moderately adjustable.
This metaphor is getting away from me a bit and is probably a step or two further into the “mumbo-jumbo” department than I like to go, but I really think it is important to find our own meaning, our own purpose, and whatever else we want to fix in our lives. More fixed points isn’t necessarily better, but more points definitely helps you feel like you’ve got a direction to head in. Right now, all I’ve really got is my writing. The use of words and the goal for which I use them. These are my fixed points in existence and every decision on what to do and where to go is based around them in some way or another.
I’d like some more, but that’s not something I’m willing to just do haphazardly. It takes time and a lot of work to fix a point. It takes a lot less to lose one. Trusting my instincts and understanding myself used to be my two strongest fixed points, but I’ve lost track of them. I think I’m working on getting them back, but its hard to tell sometimes. At least I know I’m making progress, even if it does feel incredibly slow.