my frienemy, purpose

You guys, I’m about to be really honest and it makes me super uncomfortable. The part of me that knows I want to write this post is the part of me that knows I should be honest in this space. I’ve been avoiding you all because this is the only thing I can think about but it feels so raw to share. So I’m going to Like ripping off a Band-Aid.

My whole life, I’ve wrestled with this voice inside of me. Sometimes it goes beyond just being a voice and is an actual feeeeeling; something that makes me want to act even though I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing yet. If I had to pinpoint the voice’s residence, I’d say it’s somewhere behind my breastbone (as that’s where I usually feel its urgency or disappointment or elation). This voice is what pushes me to continue moving in life; it keeps one foot in front of the other, and aims for bigger and better things. It was the calm that moved me to Des Moines, the nervousness in a job interview for a position I wanted more than anything, the peace that found me at home in my first apartment, the longing for Ohio/family after it’s been too long since I visited. In a nutshell: this voice feels like my purpose. I’ve always had a really complicated relationship with purpose. It’s like it knows this secret that I don’t yet know… that I have to choose the right path but it gives me no hints about what’s right.

I’m going through this season in my life where purpose is particularly relentless in trying to get my attention. I’ve tried, in the past, to squash it down but it always comes back. I was telling Dave about it this past weekend and he said the obvious “well, what if it’s part of your character”. After considering that, the truth is, it’s the part of my character that I prize because it makes me fearless and risky and calm and it’s the seat of my faith. What do I do when it doesn’t want to be quieted? How am I supposed to find direction with it clanging around inside me?

That’s where I am now. I’m trying to marry my gratefulness with this ever-reaching purpose. Trying to figure out what it means for me.

I don’t want to just blindly follow purpose for the sake of it but it suddenly feels as though purpose has betrayed me. I’m older now than I was when purpose started coming around and I’m not any closer to finding the meaning. I have never, ever known what I wanted to do when I “grow up”. Purpose isn’t helping me narrow it down at all.

I guess the point of this “rant” is really more to find out that I’m not alone and for other people who are constantly nagged by purpose to know that they’re not alone either. Most days it’s easy to see the trees for the forest and find happiness in the moments but purpose is powerful. I’m trying to harness and embrace it; to figure out how it can maintain a presence in my life but not crush me if I don’t concede to its demands. This is definitely bound to be a learning for me, so I’m going to leave us both with this poem by the great Walt Whitman (who is much more well-spoken than myself).



Not in Another Place

But in this Place…

Not for another Hour

But This Hour.


8 thoughts on “my frienemy, purpose

  1. It’s called life. Even those with a clearly defined ‘purpose’ can be derailed and are usually the ones secretly questioning there own exsistence. If something feels like it’s calling to you, you had better answer. Even Just to find out what it is. We often don’t know what the hell we want, until we have it. And sometimes, it’s something we didn’t know we wanted. And if it feels like madness, I’m reminded of a old saying. “If you feel yourself falling into madness….dive.”

  2. Cheerio Ryan! Alas, I sadly had but a small paragraph in a short chapter of your life but I feel blessed to have made it into your novel. As I read your blog I must first commend you on being open and raw. It’s a difficult thing to open up our feelings but this is also when we find more meaningful responses. I too have felt this desire for knowing my purpose and I often felt like I had satisfied my purpose. Sadly, I was only finding short term solutions that were superficial and materialistic. I could go days, weeks, months, and even years on end feeling as if I was on par to fulfill my purpose. Then, without warning purpose came nawing at me again and again. I soon realized that this world is finite and no could never bring me the joy and fulfillment that a relationship with the Lord can. I’m not talking religion, people often forget that Jesus came to abolish religion. I pray you find your search for answers fulfilled by starting/continuing your relationship with Christ!

    • Is that you, T-rev? I feel so honored to read your response. You speak a lot of truth and putting my faith in the finite will only result in emptiness. You are a good egg and I’m the blessed one to know you.

  3. Perhaps the “secret” that purpose knows, is that it is never fulfilled? Purpose requires “just one more” of everything… Just one more thing volunteered, Just one more place to see, just one more person to help, just one more job to try, just one more skill to master. Be joyous in the clanging of purpose in the veins of your youth, for now is your time to do just one more…. There may be a time that you feel your purpose is to volunteer in Haiti after an earthquake, or help refugees in the Sudan, or staff a clinic in Iraq – but it will be in conflict with another purpose, perhaps that of a mother or wife….

  4. There is a strong connection between purpose and passion, although in my opinion they are not quite the same. It’s been written: “If your job is not fulfilling your passion, then let it be the fundraiser for that passion”. I can’t speak to your purpose; that is a highly personal resonance found only along the hardest trails of life. But to passions, those things which get us up every morning, we can see those coming to the surface in how we spend our time, our money, our energy….or how we WISHED we would.

    In our few brief years as friends, I’ve observed someone with a firm grip on likes and loves. She loves that band, that food, that writer…and she’ll shout it from the mountaintops until her voice fails. Your friends love that about you. You’re also a person that finds tremendous joy in the connection with someone of similar likes and loves. You experience those loves more deeply when shared and want to converse about it to feel that love even more. You are person of great passion, Ryan. The question is, how will you act on, spend towards, and risk for those emerging things you care about?

    Yes, that was a completely shameless plug to get you and Dave to Eaux Claires. And scene.

  5. I agree with Tracy that to live is to always seek purpose. If we had but one purpose over the course of our lifetimes, it’d be quite boring, I think! Be grateful for your inclination to always seek it out. I feel sorry for people who feel they have no purpose and don’t even have the insight to know that they should!

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