I came across an article in my Facebook feed not too long ago, http://markmanson.net/life-purpose/. It may help to read that 14-minute piece before you read this post, as it will provide context to both the original questions and how I’ve answered them. But don’t let me tell you how to read my blog posts.
The piece intrigued me. Since I’m facing the very root of what the 7 questions he proposes get at, a life’s purpose, I decided to “take the quiz”. Some people reason things out by writing, some by speaking to someone about it. Here’s a hybrid of the two, since I find I have epiphanies when I share with you, dear reader.
1. What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?
On the whole, I’m not a huge fan of shit sandwiches. But, in theory, I totally agree with what this question is trying to get at. Everything sucks sometimes, no matter if you’re living your dream. You will have bad days even when you do what you love. There will always be aspects of your dream job that you may find to be tedious or straight up cruel and unusual punishment. What would I put up with, and what could I do that would be worth having to tolerate that sucky crap?
If I answer this question honestly for myself, I’d actually be willing to put up with quite a bit, provided my non-negotiables are covered. I want to add value, and have someone appreciate the work do, have that work make a difference to someone. I want to create, have something tangible to show for my time, even if it’s a freshly mowed lawn with all its perfect rows and a wifebeater sunburn on my shoulders from being out in the sunshine. Some kids will play on that grass, with their dog. Someone will come home from a long day of work to walk their dog, and take him to the park I mowed. Simple. I want to create art, stories, documents, thoughts, ideas, and inspire other people to do the same. I want to contribute to society in some meaningful way.
I don’t want to work late nights, as I want a work/life balance that allows me to go to the gym daily, and step out for a healthy lunch. I’d like to have a pet, so insane hours isn’t right for me at this point in my life. I hate commuting with a passion, with the exception of riding on a Google bus situation with wi-fi and not having to drive. More often than not though, I prefer to be home asap after I’m done with my workday.
I want my shit sandwich to have extra pickles and pepperoncinis, no onions, thanks. If you could make it vegetarian as well, that’d be great…
2. What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?
I don’t have a treehouse, with a surfboard ride along a water channel to take me from room to room. I don’t have a ranch and nacho cheese dispenser in my kitchen. I don’t have a giant library of books with a ladder and comfy reading chairs surrounded by lots of wood and leather. I don’t play sports; I barely make it to the gym. My 8-year-old self liked to be outside, be active, and keep my mind active. I loved to read, watch movies, and my favorite TV shows.
I used to draw and paint, and try my hand at music and other artistic media. I sang and made up stories in my head with plot lines for my dolls. I decorated Barbie bedrooms, and drew floor plans. I always wanted to design a custom home, be it tree house, boat, or some other industrial building built for another purpose. I guess I thought about what my own home would be like.
My 8-year-old self was outgoing, didn’t care what she said to whom, and didn’t hold back. She didn’t have to. She wasn’t making life or death decisions, or decisions that would cost someone millions of dollars. I’d hate to be punished for speaking my mind, but very often I find I hold my tongue in certain situations.
Also, I always pictured myself with a life partner – I think my 8-year-old self would be disappointed that I couldn’t find a stable partner in my life who is a good, kind person, by this point in my life. But it’s not like I’m not trying…
3. What makes you forget to eat and poop?
Nothing. I thoroughly enjoy both, and when the urge arises for either, it’s immediate.
I guess I lose track of time when I’m talking to people. I could binge watch television series and go to the gym every day, if I could get paid for that.
In starting this blog, I’ve found I lose track of time when I write. Also when I read, for that matter. When I have an opinion, or am pontificating, I can easily lose 2 hours. I have a certain capacity for problem solving, organizing things efficiently and so they make sense, and teaching someone something.
4. How can you better embarrass yourself?
I do a pretty good job of this on a daily basis. I don’t know how I can embarrass myself more, somedays. Usually embarrassing myself means sticking my foot in my mouth and saying something inappropriate, in most cases.
I think I’d feel like a huge embarrassment to my family and friends if I lost all the money I’d worked so hard to save up over the years, and have to go back to being financially dependent on someone. I’ve only ever been dependent on my parents, but I got a job at 15 to start earning some cash, so I wouldn’t be entirely. I am fiercely independent, financially and otherwise today, so loss of that independence would be mortifying.
5. How are you going to save the world?
I have no idea what problem I can solve on a global scale. When I graduated from college, I studied and had planned to become a financial advisor and certified financial planner. I wanted to help people wrangle their finances and come up with a plan that let them sleep at night to help them save to reach their financial goals. I wanted to serve a particular niche – gay people. At the time, navigating civil domestic partnerships, and the estate planning documents, as well as taxes, were quite murky. Most people don’t have a secure plan in place to let them sleep at night, and the market reactions to the GFC were a prime example that most people have no idea what they’re doing, when it comes to their money.
I guess if I wanted to save the world, I would help individual people, get more money and retain more money, so the bare minimum goes to the IRS, Franchise Tax Boards of each state, corporations, and the government. I’m for the people. But if I’m to truly save the world, first I need to finish my drinks.
6. Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?
It is true. The couch is comfortable and the champagne is bubbly. I don’t think I could do the same thing all day every day. My interests and activities would be varied. Bike rides, walks, gym sessions (cardio and weights), restaurants, reading, writing, watching films, doing yoga, studying astronomy, take an existential physics/religion of science course, landscaping/gardening in my backyard (assuming I’m settled down in a home of some sort), taking photographs, and listening to people. I don’t think I’d do a lot of talking, but I wouldn’t mind listening and asking questions.
Basically, if you tell me there are nachos and pizza at the end of the rainbow that is my life’s purpose, you best believe I’ll walk across hot coals to get them.Food stop!!!
7. If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
As the odds stand now, I likely won’t leave a legacy of adorable lesbian prodigy progeny as a legacy of my time on this earth. I have no written works (save for the published posts on this blog), no art pieces made and sold.
I want to be known for my generosity, of money, time, and spirit. I want have a legacy of great family and friends who benefitted somehow from my existence, and remember some snorting laughing moments with me.
What is my obituary going to say? Besides, “For rent” (see blog here), I want to be remembered for my individuality, personality, humor, bravery, and compassion. I was a pretty good person, I tried to be anyway.
If I imagine a world without myself, it would be full of people who only say what you want to hear. It would be full of people who merely mumble “fine” when you ask how they are. It would be a world of conformity and doing what is expected. It would be full of super motivated people who never stopped to take time to smell the roses and question what’s important in life before those things are gone. This world would be full of people who don’t travel, who don’t learn constantly, and who are comfortable in their little bubbles, not questioning the things they don’t know they don’t know. It would be full of people who never notice the beauty of the stars, the touch of a hand, or the scent of a flower.
A world with me in it hears it from me like it is. I give a somewhat educated view where and when I can. I’m supportive with just about anything someone I’m teaching wants to do; I’ve given them point B – wow me with how you choose to get from Point A to Point B. I take up space. I imagine my eulogy will be very much like words said about Joan Rivers, if my friends have any guts to tell me like I am. I take the world in, I observe, I learn, I share, I elbow for room, I explore, I cross the caution tape (without getting caught), and I try to inspire others to learn for themselves and cross their own predisposed boundaries.
So where did this exercise get me? I must admit – I’m nowhere closer to finding what it is I want to do that is important while I take up time on this earth. I know this much is true (wonderful Wally Lamb novel by this same name, but I digress): while my absence or presence may not have a material impact on this world, my absence or presence does make a difference in a few important people’s lives. My mother, my aunt, and my extended family. My best friend. Some of my present and past coworkers. My wider circle of friends. And maybe one of them knows their purpose wholeheartedly. I indirectly make a difference, at least for now. One day, I may find my inspiration for my artistic piece with a shaved head or mowed lawn featured with a written piece, covered in paint, that walks puppies and provides financial advice to gay people. Until then… just focus on the small stuff, live day to day doing the best I can. In aggregate, the way I spend my days will be the way I spend my life (indirectly paraphrasing a more famous Annie Dillard quote there, on purpose.)