We are surrounded by choices and possibilities. We can travel just about anywhere we want with relative ease. We can study abroad. We can read at our discretion inspirational books that assure us that we are full of potential, that we can become anything we want to become. More than at any other time in history, we seem to be free to choose our personal missions, free to choose the meaning that we give to our life. But do we really get to choose? Viktor Frankl, a neurologist, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor who authored the bestseller Man’s Search For Meaning, said that we detect rather than invent our missions in life.
I believe my mission in life is to be a writer, to touch other people’s minds with my writing. It’s a mission that evolved out of my experiences as well as out of my own understanding of who I am as an individual, of my personality, of my strong points and my weak ones. It comforts me, the thought that wherever life will take me, whatever lows or highs will come, the pen and paper will always be close at hand, ready to help me make sense of my life, to rewrite it even, and in the process create something that other people will find, I hope, worth reading.
At the same time, however, I have doubts, as any wanderer, any artist, any creative mind who strays off the beaten track and seeks a different, more enchanting path through the woods. There are many uncertainties about being a writer, and there’s the solitude that writing usually requires, a solitude which I enjoy now but which I know I may come to question later, and the financial instability of this profession compared to other, more “sensible” jobs. Worst of all is the quiet fear that, by trying too hard to write about life, one can end up, without even realizing, avoiding life, missing out on it.
Sometimes, I think to myself, “If I had stayed at school and became a doctor or pursued some other career, perhaps I would have a more immediate positive effect on the people around me.” I smile at this thought, because I know deep down that if I became a doctor, I would then probably yearn to be a writer, in that way peculiar to humans, who always believe that there is something better somewhere out there, where they are not. Let’s face it, one thing the world absolutely does not need is another distracted doctor.
We can always improve, always better ourselves, but in the end, many of our choices are already made for us by our own inner system of preferences, by the likes and dislikes embedded into our genes, by the things that make us tick, by our adaptable yet changeless personality. We may have different missions at different times in our lives, but they are never simple choices, never easy wishes. Our lifelong search for meaning, and our personal missions, are never nouns, but rather verbs. They begin when we begin, and they don’t end until we end.
Do you have a personal mission in life? Is it perhaps synonymous with your job? Or is there something you really hope to achieve in your life?