“Finding Purpose” Is Overrated. Indulge in Conflict Instead.
Ways to not poison your own story.
I try a lot of things that don’t have foreseeable purposes. I dressed as a giant banana and went crowdsurfing at an opera house one summer as a side gig. I took up corporate jobs while simultaneously being hypercritical (…on the weekends) of the system. I launched a dropshipping business selling ideas of sexy when in reality I eat tuna over my sink (by choice, thanks). I attend casting calls when I have no formal training in the art of acting.
None of these individually define me as a person. Collectively, they are who I am. The common denominator is that each of these experiences have led to accidental growth in some way or another.
Why do all these things?
Aside from time, nothing is truly lost. Arguably, time is a pretty valuable commodity to be spending on tasks with no clear purpose. I disagree. Lack of initial purpose doesn’t mean zero end value. I’ll take it one step further. Not having a clear picture of the outcome generally yields more surprising(ly rewarding) results.
If I could predict the outcome of all future tasks in hopes of purposefully crafting the “life I want” overtime then a) I would be miserable b) this would be impossible. I would be miserable because I’d be tackling on the impossible.
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s remarkably difficult to make accurate predictions of the future. We don’t actually know ourselves as well as we think we do. It’s not that we don’t try, it’s that we are constantly changing. If you are a fortune teller, then you are different. You probably don’t need to finish reading this for you already know how it ends.
One of the first things we do when we wake up is decide on what to wear. It’s not solely based on preference. External climate factors in. We choose what we do not solely out of interest, but to adapt. We don’t always get to choose what we have to adapt to.
I love roses. Periodically I’ll buy a single rose and give it life for as long as I can. It doesn’t keep very long. Each time it wilts, I still keep it around as a memory of what was. I know it’s gone. Its end becomes a reminder that it’s time to move on. To tend to the next rose. To take on the next pursuit.
Every new endeavour is a combination of adapting to changing life situations — either willed by choice, or as a result of factors external to oneself.
Every new endeavour also has a period of life and death. In their death, they are not to be forgotten.
Memories are powerful. They are what give us our histories. They form the narrative of who we are. The collection of them make up our life story. Embedded in memories are lessons that guide our evolution. If you are not embracing newness, you are not making new memories. Your story will have a beginning, middle and end, but it will lack depth. Stories are meant to captivate. If your own story doesn’t captivate you enough to make you want to share it then add in some colour.
Sincere artists don’t stick to a normal palette. They take what they’ve acquired then mix and blend a collection of shades together to create newness. Or, they take a couple wilted roses, blend in some old cranberries, crushed Crayolas, squeeze in a couple drops of food dye and go from there. There is no blueprint for a painting. Its shape emerges based on fleeting urges brought on by gut feelings interlaced with unexplainable moments of gripping intent. This is a process that can be replicated in a wider context.
Occasionally, new experiences come as an offer. Take it a step further. Seek them out. Look where you usually wouldn’t. Go further. From that new viewpoint, take another leap in the direction of the unknown. If you don’t like where you end up, scrap the painting altogether. If you do, keeping going. Watch how your story unfolds.
Branches of a tree rarely grow linearly. Twigs split. A tree symbolically represents a collection of intentional choices. Each choices dictates which direction each branch is to grow in. The path is guided by external factors (the sun), but also guided in a way to achieve internal sustenance. Even unseen roots grow in this way. Sometimes a tree’s growth needs to be managed. In times when it obstructs and distracts. Your own end points should be guided by nature — natural temperaments and preferences. Use maps to help with management if necessary but acknowledge that even maps change overtime.
Any good story needs conflicts. A little bit of dramatic suspense that seizes you in the moment then releases and begs you for a compelling resolution.
Do things that don’t have foreseeable purposes. Then find a way to make it purposeful and give your story unpredictable intent.
If you don’t hang on to your every word, then no one else will.