This is the true joy in life. The being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
~George Bernard Shaw
I had a boyfriend in college who knew from his first breath that he wanted to be a lawyer. I was hugely envious of this: he was so directed, his course so clear. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or who I was. This boyfriend used to say that I had a lot of stars in my heaven, a poetic way of expressing what he saw as my many possibilities.
The trouble with having a heaven full of stars is that it’s hard to know which way you ought to go. The field of pure potentiality is huge. Lacking a clear vision I traveled from one star to the next, seeking I didn’t know what. For years I searched, along the way gathering a number of lovely stars–motherhood and a psychology degree chief among them–but something was still missing.
I spent years searching. I wrote thousands of journal pages pondering my purpose. (You will, dear reader, undoubtedly see the obvious but, alas, I did not.) I was frustrated and wondered how someone so diligent and with so much psychological awareness could be so lost. A few times I gave up and tried to be content with what was, by all accounts, a very nice life. But as wonderful as being a mother and psychotherapist were, there was something more and I knew it.
Then one fall day I went to place an ad in the paper and the editor, whom I’d never met, spontaneously asked if I’d like to write a column. It bears mentioning that I did not consider myself a writer, nor did I offer myself as one, and yet without even thinking about it I said “Yes!” The excitement I felt as I walked home told me that I’d stumbled into something important. And as I wrote I experienced something that I’d heard about but never felt: the sense of losing track of time, of slipping into a powerful stream, of being caught up and carried by something bigger than myself, something numinous.
Purpose can be right in front of you, but you must be ready for it. Conditions must be right. In fact, the process of searching for your star is itself part of the preparation: the tempering of time and circumstance readies us to receive and inhabit our purpose. The patience and faith this requires is great and unavoidable. Timing is everything.
Your life has a purpose, perhaps several. There are things you were born to do, things beyond base necessities and egotistical desires. Your purpose is a higher calling. It may or may not be connected to career. It may or may not make money or be considered grand by worldly standards but it will, most assuredly, take you out of your small, selfish concerns and use you in the service of something larger. The journey to purpose is not an easy one: if it were, everyone would do it. But as a long-time seeker I can tell you this: being used never felt so good.
Kate Ingram, M.A. is a therapist, life coach and writer. Her first book, Washing the Bones: A Memoir, will be published later this year. If you would like help finding your purpose, please go to www.katherineingram.com