Rainer Maria Rilke said, “The only journey is the journey within.” Or what he meant was the discovery of self, something that we, as a society, put much emphasis on. It could be through having a passion, a purpose. But here’s the catch: it is not easy having a purpose. And I learned it the hard way.
What defines you is often defined by the passion or purpose you have in your life. Dr Bill Damon determined the purpose as “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something meaningful to the self and consequential to the world.”
So, what was my purpose?
Some people told me that a purpose could be something I am deeply interested in. I was interested in virtual reality. I was deeply fascinated by ancient Egyptian history. I loved Celtic mythology. But were any of these propelling me forward enough? Were they inspiring enough for me that I could make my life all about them?
There were many other things I loved doing, and among these things, I really loved teaching. I had worked on and off as a tutor during my school life, so when I was in college, I decided to pursue a degree in pedagogy. I thought that I have finally found my purpose. I wanted to help teachers and students all over. I wanted to approach learning in such a way that it conveniently helps others, so teachers can teach better and students can learn more efficiently.
Four years of college had passed, and before every exam, my stress levels were at an all-time high. Each time, as I struggled to finish my syllabus, I would question myself if I made the right choice. And after every exam, if I didn’t score as much as I aimed for, I would feel awful. I started to question myself if this is what I truly wanted. But this was my purpose; this is what I wanted to do. It shouldn’t matter if I had to sacrifice sleep and hunger to score well in exams. And it shouldn’t matter if I had to allow others to run me down because I wanted this life to be my everything.
The field of pedagogy has many problems, and among those, the rampant sexism in my university was a problem. As if my own mind wasn’t enough, I had senior teaching associates of the opposite gender who were awful to the women in the department. I dreaded the summer I had to work within the university premises for the last semester.
The men were never helpful, made derogatory remarks that they rubbed off as “just jokes”, and more often than not took away opportunities from me. But I kept quiet, thinking that if I do or say anything, I will be left alone. After all, this was my life’s purpose; I would have to deal with hardships. I would need to struggle because, in the end, I would emerge victorious like all the stars in movies and books.
Instead, I was mentally worn down. Besides the sexism, I was dealing with crippling self-doubt. I couldn’t keep a class focused for long, and I started to feel like no one respected me. I slowly started to lose my focus and started to lose myself in this job. I thought I would find myself here, instead the opposite happened. I didn’t notice it at first though. I would finish a class and come back home, my hands and knees shaking, and I’m on the verge of tears, breaking down.
My last year was spent in a depressive state where I just went to work and returned home, running on gasoline fumes. I thought this was how I was going to find myself and my purpose in life because we are all here on this planet for some reason, right? Then what was mine? Why was I feeling like this? Why did I feel like I was losing more of myself than gaining anything in return? This was not how this was supposed to work. Self-help books don’t teach you that.
It has been a year since my teaching associate job ended, and I have been wondering ever since. I don’t know what direction my life would take, especially when this academic life is all I have known.
I felt like being an academic is how I would find myself. But I was falling out of touch with myself. This was happening because I had bought into the ideas of others of what I was supposed to be. My parents thought I’d be a great teacher; my friends thought my nerdy style had made me appropriate for this life. I have collected their thoughts and made them my own as well, so here I am. And I was to be blamed.
I started following what I thought I was supposed to be doing rather than what I should have been doing. This was my path to lose myself. I lost myself, and only what I truly wanted could lead me back to the path of independence, passion, happiness, and validation. But that is easier said than done.
Have you heard of the saying, “you made your bed, so now you have to lie in it”? I know I made my bed when I took the decision to pursue this course of life. But I know this was not right for me. So, what if I suddenly want to take this bed out and throw it to the curb? Will that be a lot of work? I know it will be. That bed is now my past, and I want to make a new one, and I know it can be anything I want.
I know most people in my life won’t understand it, they might even ask what is wrong with my old bed but this mentality is what causes people to lose their sense of self. I can’t let this hold me back. I am tired. I can’t lose myself anymore in the quest to find myself, my passion.
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