What is your life’s purpose?
To move through life with a focus on self-examination and self-discovery, bringing forth onto others what I learn, sharing with them, empowering them, and encouraging them to seek out their own knowledge of self, in order to enhance the overall quality of their lives.
How are you living your purpose?
I strongly believe that living your purpose does not necessarily equate with earning a living. There seems to be this idea that “purpose” is something very specific and is usually conjoined with an occupation. I used to think that, too, and I wondered why this was never the case for me. Even when I was going through college at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I was not focused on a career, but, instead, I was immersed in learning and growing. That is what I truly believed higher education was intended for, however, everyone doesn’t see it that way. I am living my purpose in a variety of different ways, some paid work and some not.
I teach sociology part-time and have been doing so for over 17 years. It’s not something I ever planned on doing as a full-time occupation, and I have managed to keep it that way while interweaving a diversity of second and third jobs to keep me financially afloat. I teach in the classroom, online, and a hybrid of the two, but the last few years have been online only. I integrate life skills into my curriculum. I teach students how to have a voice in order to steer public opinion. I guide them in the use of online digital media tools that are freely available to them but highly underutilized by everyday people to create content – most just consume. As assignments, they create video blogs, public service announcements, GIFs, and memes, and they film on-camera interviews about important topics in the field. Helping them understand social behavior and providing them with ways that they can address social problems actively through digital means are particularly rewarding aspects of this job.
I also create digital content, some of which includes a financial literacy informational series aimed at youth, a web series about yoga’s significant impact on developing self-empowerment, a “Sesame Street meets mid-life crisis” puppet web series, and a documentary about the concerns that middle-aged people have about growing old. I also contribute my voice (and face) on-camera, speaking about subjects that matter to me as well as just being entertaining and always giving a friendly vibe.
I regularly volunteer, sitting on boards including Films By Youth Inside, and contributing to the work of nonprofits like Engage the Vision and Go For Yours that are working for good. There are many ways people can help lend a hand, or provide a voice, and it’s not just about giving money, but also about giving your time. Having led many initiatives that heavily relied on volunteers to carry out their missions I know firsthand just how impactful such acts of kindness are to the many causes out there.
Alas, for many of my friends, I am the person they can share their ideas and anxieties with; knowing I will not judge them and will only offer what I believe to be the truth. I try my best to practice compassionate, non-sugar-coated advice-giving. They appreciate my honesty and I appreciate the fact they come to me and that they trust me in that way. Over time, these dynamics have helped shift my emotional connection to other people in a positive way and have opened me up more, elevating both my consciousness and my self-directed compassion.
I have also been writing a lot more in the last year and have had several articles uploaded to the web for public consumption (and scrutiny). Some were formally published by an online magazine and some have made permanent residence on my personal website. I am in the midst of creating a “culminating written work” which will serve as fulfillment of my purpose long after I am gone.
I am writing a book. I have been working on it for over three years now and I have finally reached a place where I feel that my ideas are fine-tuned and the nature of the book just feels right. I had to find a topic that I could talk endlessly about (well, I mean write). The book is called, Seeking Selfdom in the Age of Selfies. Writing this book has been the most difficult intellectual challenge I have undertaken and probably one of the most emotionally challenging as well. However, the combination has taken things to another level for me creatively, so that has been a welcome by-product of the process.
How did you find your purpose?
I have never taken a straight path in life but have, instead, made decisions along the way that have put me in very challenging situations, as well as situations that were wonderful and life affirming. I made those decisions consciously, never knowing what the outcome might possibly be. I have taken risks that I did not see as risks when I took them, but in reflection, it’s pretty much what they were.
My life experiences have stretched my capacity to adapt, change, and grow, but not without feeling fearful, anxious, and even angry at certain times. I have even felt moments of utter hopelessness. These are not the kind of things that you might expect from someone who claims to be self-actualized (or diligently working towards it), but like Thich Nhat Hanh said in his book No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, ”Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.” Suffering is inevitable, therefore, you have to revise your approach to it, learn from it, and see it as part of the bigger process.
It has only been in the last few months that I have come to realize, or instead accept, what my purpose is. For years, I kept waiting and waiting for my it to arrive, arise, emerge; framed in this culminating opportunity, that occupational title, or this role that I would seize, own, and identify with. As I move closer to age 50, I have concluded my purpose is not something that can be stated in succinct, easily understandable words and I’m okay with that. I am also okay with being who I am without the accolades that a more specific “purpose” might yield. I can only be me – a person with limitless ideas and a drive to share my potential with others.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
When it starts to get comfortable, seek new challenges that really “connect” you with the moment. People have a tendency to want to exist in comfort – which often resides in a past recollection or a future expectation, both of which are unattainable in the here and now. They desire a certain kind of regularity that simply does not exist. They work to achieve a certain expectation-reward cycle that makes them feel as if there is safety in their world. Convincing yourself that you have reached such a point might feel good for a little while, but, just like the bath water that was hot when you got in, it eventually gets cold as your fingers shrivel up like little prunes. You sat in it for far too long. I say, get out of the tub while it is still comfortable instead of waiting for it to get uncomfortable, because it eventually will. Recognize that you are the subject of your life and not a mere object. Be proactive in staying in the rhythm and flow of change. Find equanimity in the chaos.
When someone provides you with a potential opportunity, a recommended process, a connection or an action to take – by all means take it! There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing back from someone for whom you offered some advice or connected to another person by referral. Regardless of the outcome, the fact that you followed someone’s guidance means a lot to them, and your efforts could quite possibly move you closer to your purpose even when you feel, initially, that it was wasted time. Time can never really be wasted and shouldn’t be confused with undirected or misdirected effort.
Finally, I would advise that you do some self-inventory work so you can see all that you have experienced in life thus far and where the gaps may lie. From there you can make some plans to fill in those gaps. For me, it was traveling outside of North America. Up until I took that first trip, it had never been the right time—and I never seemed to have the money when the time was right. Then, life just started moving really fast and so I decided to make a realistic plan to save the date and save money.
For two years, I saved money. I ended up taking a 10-day trip and found myself in Sydney, Australia for two days before taking another plane to Bali, Indonesia and attending a weeklong yoga retreat. This trip was monumental – not only because of the fact that I was able to figure it all out logistically and navigate a foreign country alone (Australia) only to then be immersed in a completely different culture (Bali) in the same week, but because I had filled a huge, self-determined gap in my life. Maybe you have already travelled extensively, but what else do you want to do/experience while you are still here? Figure that out right now and start to put those plans into action.
What resources do you recommend?
Ever since I was in my late teens I’ve been reading self-help/personal development books. Now this doesn’t mean that I was searching for the answers, however, what I was seeking were new ways of thinking and overcoming obstacles that life sets before us. So, for me, it really wasn’t about following a list of the 10 things you need to do for this or that to happen – it was all about decoding the author’s thought processes, how they approached life and how/when they arrived at the point where they saw things differently. I was less concerned about the end result than I was about the actual process undertaken to get “there” (wherever there might be). I am still enthralled with process as opposed to product because the product is never going to be the same for everyone and may not even be realistically achievable.
I recommend that you read a diverse collection of books from a wide variety of perspectives that focus on finding purpose, finding yourself, and tapping into that pool of curiosity that we all have within us. One of the most influential books I have read to date is The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life by Deepak Chopra. This book integrates imagination with quantum physics, the intellectual with the supernatural. It helped open doors to the rooms where my own self-knowledge was locked away. I didn’t have to completely agree with every idea that was posited—Deepak can get deep—but took what was useful for me and moved on. I urge you to take a stroll through your neighborhood bookstore and just take a chance on something new in the self-help section. You may be surprised by how the spark of a new idea can ignite many, many subsequent “thought fires” waiting to burn in your mind.
I find it interesting that when people move into a new house or apartment, they want to immediately furnish it before they have had time to find out how the new space will functionally flow with their everyday lives and how its aesthetic will make them feel. I recommend that people collect items of beauty and usefulness along the way, as they go about their day-to-day life. You’d be surprised how much less we really need when compared with what we think we need. Let your experiences (and your things) accumulate over time and see the magic that will eventually unfold if you do. I recommend that you build your purpose along the way, and not rush the process. It will take far longer for some than it does for others and that’s okay.
The Internet has transformative potential when you consider how much information you can tap into, although many people underutilize its immense potential. Delve into ideas that are new and mind expanding. Watch documentaries on neuroscience and how life evolved on Earth. Listen to a new podcast or read an article from a publication that you’ve never heard of. The information is out there so don’t be afraid to question your own beliefs. The mind is malleable for a lifetime and all beliefs and ideologies that you hold on so tightly to are completely changeable.
Take workshops that push you beyond the boundaries of what feels “comfortable.” Personally, I have taken many improv classes, not because I wanted to be a performer, but because I wanted to be able to navigate social environments in real life with new people without letting myself get in the way. The experience has enhanced the way I move through the world, how effectively I interact with other people, and ultimately how I view myself. I also find it more rewarding to take classes where you are not working toward a grade – believe me, you will get a lot more out of it than you ever expected!
Finally, I recommend finding a greater mind-body-spirit connection by doing such self-care activities as “taking in the waters” and by that I mean soaking in hot springs, minerals baths, mud baths, etc., even if it feels uncomfortably different. You won’t regret it as long as you surrender – and you will surrender. Get a deep tissue, full body massage and you will feel parts of your body you forgot were even there. Try aromatherapy, a sensory deprivation tank, a yoga class, a meditation group – explore the many ways you can connect with your physical body and learn to be present using all of your senses. Again, everyone has different experiences with such activities so don’t focus on expectation, instead, stay open and be present in the experience. It may be something that you will never do again, and that’s okay. Take note of it. By moving outside your personal comfort zone, your box, you will learn something new about yourself each and every time. Perhaps you may even discover that finding yourself is, in fact, the noblest purpose of all.
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More about me…
I am driven towards contributing to the creation of engaging, accessible, relatable, and empowering content in a variety of formats and modalities. I am a content creator, a writer, a photographer, and a video editor, a commercial actor, a live event emcee, and an on-camera host. I am a true multipotentialite, an unequivocal master of none, who seeks ways to converge my interests and purpose into one profoundly rewarding career.
In addition to my creative work, I work in the realm of academia. I am an assistant professor of sociology who teaches college courses. In addition to theory and conceptual content, I instruct students how to be “socially conscious content creators,” with projects ranging from video blogs on societal topics, filmed interviews, and short documentaries to the creation of GIFs, memes and public service announcements. I am currently working on my first book called Seeking Selfdom in the Age of Selfies. This book shares ideas that are universal, reflective and accessible/relatable to the lives of everyday people, many of whom, like me, struggle in their quest to get to know themselves on a deeper level and find meaning and purpose in their own lives.
Great advice here, and articulately delivered. Thank you for these reminders!
I was inspired and motivated!
Thank you for the kind words, Kathy. If we can be inspired by someone else’s movements through the turmoils and insights of life than it is worth every word shared! ~Akello