When I was 11 and Emily was sick, I’d pray fervently in the confines of my bedroom each night that I could trade places with my sister. “Please, God,” I’d plead. “Let me be sick and let her be OK.” I’d close my eyes tight and wait patiently, hoping to hear soft jingling fairy bells like I’d heard in movies right before something wonderful happened and find everything transformed, just as I had prayed.
But it never happened. I’d open my eyes again to see that nothing had changed. The room was still as it had been. I didn’t feel any different. No bells. No magical music.
I’d go to sleep then, resentful, alone and ignored – God wasn’t listening to me or my prayers. Maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough? Maybe Heaven didn’t believe me when I said I wished I were sick instead. But I spoke and prayed truthfully. I meant it.
All these years later, I’ve never forgotten that 11-year old’s prayer. I realize that it was unrealistic and such a switch was never in the realm of possibility or probability. It doesn’t matter, though. Wishing, praying and wanting it to happen was real and life-altering. I am still here…so now what? If I’m still here, it must be that I have a purpose and a reason to be here. It became my life’s motto and my personal mission to discover that purpose.
Yet, what is that reason, that purpose?
I’m certain I’m not alone in this journey of discovery; there must be others who ask themselves the same questions I do. Self-help books are plentiful on this topic, so it’s further proof that I’m not the only one.
A few weeks ago as I browsed through the aisles at Barnes & Nobles, I picked up a copy of Martha Beck’s “Finding Your Own North Star” in the bargain books section. I’d made a mental note that it was one I should read when it first came out and now it sits on my bookshelf waiting and teasing: “Claim the life you were meant to live.”
What does that look like? I’m not entirely sure. I hope it doesn’t look like this, though.
At this moment, I’m still searching for the insights and the answers. I’m all at sea, set adrift, merely tackling daily drudgeries without any meaning. I secretly worry and grow fearful: What if I’m all that I’m ever going to be?
What I am now is not the dream I had for myself at 15 or even 18. Those dreams seem like they were from another lifetime ago, when I was younger and more hopeful, when I truly believed that I could do anything and everything…until the rest of life got in the way. Why did I ever think I was somebody special, that I’d be scouted and act in movies or have published a few novels by this age? I haven’t found any new dreams since I abandoned those teenage ones and have truthfully been scared to dream ever since. Is it worthwhile to evolve those into something new and to try again? Reconnect with that youthful hopefulness?
With over seven billion souls on this world, I understand that not everyone can discover the cure for cancer, be a movie star, a top athlete, or Nobel Peace Prize winner…nor does everyone want that for themselves. Being a parent, having a family, owning a business, traveling, or just having enough food on the table may be purpose enough for some. That’s the funny thing about purpose. It’s personal. It’s what you make of it for yourself.
I am guided by the desire to live my life on purpose and with purpose. If I don’t do something great or meaningful with my life, I feel like I’m letting myself or my sister down.
I am still here…so now what?