How I found — and am still finding — my purpose
I remember a specific conversation I had with my dad when I was a senior in high school. “I can’t wait to find out what my college major will be,” I said. “I can’t wait to know what I am supposed to do.” Supposed to do. That language perplexes me now.
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Well, I have no recollection of the day I was born, but I have spent much of my life waiting for the second day to come, including the day I had that conversation with my dad. As I thought ahead to college, I remember feeling powerless, like my purpose was pre-determined. There was a correct answer for my own life and I had to find that correct answer.
I think life feels like that to a lot of young people right now. There is so much pressure to compete and to succeed. To get it right, whether it’s a question on a test or a career path. At 22 years old, I certainly have wisdom and life experience yet to gain. I think the most important thing I have learned, though, is that there is more than one way to get it “right.”
In the summer before my senior year of college, I decided to leave the nursing program and to instead graduate with a political science degree. While I loved providing care for patients and their families, I found myself thinking more about bigger picture issues than anatomy or pharmacology. I was thinking about how I could influence patient access to healthcare, or how to combat the opioid crisis. As you can imagine — and as you might be muttering under your breath in this very moment — changing majors that late in a college career is crazy. And it was crazy. I had only a few political science courses under my belt and essentially needed to complete an entirely new major in a year. My schedule was crazy; my homework was crazy. But I was so sure that it was what I was supposed to do that I stayed motivated.
It worked out. I was successful in my classes and I graduated in the spring with my classmates. Certainly, it felt great, but I have since realized that it wasn’t necessarily what I was supposed to do. The best part was not, in fact, my last-second course correction toward my supposed destiny, but instead, finding passion and motivation in a mission.
My experience taught me that I am responsible for creating my own mission, my own purpose. I laugh now because I realize that no matter what I would have majored in, I would have been fine. I’ve decided that my purpose is to make the world better for others, and there are a lot of ways I can do that. With Youth Frontiers, I get to do that every single day on our student retreats.
At the start of this new year, I challenge you to discover your purpose — not in the way that I initially thought I should, but with your eyes wide open. Look in every direction, because you never know when a passion or calling will reveal itself to you.
By Ally Baker, Youth Frontiers YCorps Apprentice
This year, on The Character Movement, we are trying something new. We’ll be delving into one of our retreat values each month, examining it on our blog and in our Character Challenges. This month’s theme is purpose.