Today’s song is “Sea of Dreams” by Oberhofer on their album, Chronovision.
It feels like years since I have written you.
So little, yet so much has happened in the past month.
My life’s purpose has been laughing in my face for quite a while.
My ex contacted me recently to “get back together” (see “Loser”). Clearly, I said, “no” (that’s putting it delicately). However, it made me think about all of the shitty things that happened over the past two years: how I “wasted time” with this person and with myself, how I felt alone even when I was with him, and how I sacrificed my needs for someone, who didn’t appreciate a damn thing.
This past weekend, I discussed life goals with someone that eerily resonated mine. We are the same age, though I felt like he is light years ahead. He teaches Psychology courses full-time and is finishing his PhD. We talked about how we want to write some sort of novel or film. We both haven’t achieved this goal yet, but who knows?
However, I felt embarrassed that I am the one sitting on my hands with two part-time jobs that aren’t really going anywhere, because I don’t have a doctorate or am working on one. I’m not working on anything now or sometimes it feels that way. I need to make this change.
Then, I recalled a recent conversation I had with one of my college students about how it would be amazing to live in Colorado—to live among mountains that make us feel small, yet a part of something bigger. On that note, she talked about how she could have been there now, how she should have made different choices like how she transferred schools, and how she felt she has been “wasting her time.”
In response, I played on a spinet of wisdom: “We are always wasting time.”
She laughed and said something like, “That’s true,” in affirmation.
I reassured her that she would find her place and get to where she needs to be—it isn’t about when you make something happen, but that you make it happen, at all.
Consequently, as a friend said, I have to find a way to fulfill my Ikigai.
No, Ikigai isn’t a hipster term for “happiness”—it is a Japanese term, “iki” meaning “life” and “gai” meaning “value or worth.” Basically, it is your life’s purpose.
I know my Ikigai is writing and teaching, but it involves much more. How do I accomplish these goals? How do I afford them or make a living from them?
I thought about this principle and how we can achieve our Ikigai in a few steps:
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
This step is crucial in our journey to find our Ikigai. I was so tempted to continuously compare myself with this person, who seemingly has accomplished much more than I have. In these moments, I run away with the thoughts that I will never accomplish my goals, because “I haven’t achieved them yet,” or “I am not trying hard enough.” Honestly, when you think these things, it is probably bullshit because it’s not accurate or even worth thinking about. Comparing ourselves only gives us a reason to hold ourselves back from achieving what we truly want.
2. It’s okay to “waste time.”
Some people may think it’s a waste of time to go out drinking with friends, meet new people, or binge watch Netflix for hours on end, but these experiences can be refreshing or even inspiring. Did you ever get drunk and think of the most amazing idea for a novel, because you overheard someone say something crazy? It may just be a drunken idea or infinite wisdom? Either way, write it down. Worst case scenario, it can provide a good story. And if you feel like you’re really wasting time with your life: Do something about it, even if it means opening that GRE study guide and re-learning Algebra. It will be worth it in the end or another waste of time. Regardless, move onward.
3. Don’t look back in anger.
It is so easy to dwell on our past mistakes, what people have done to us, and what we have yet to do, that we forget our purpose. We drown in a sea of anger and resentment, that we lose our sense of balance. We can’t stop our thoughts, but we can circumvent negative thoughts sort of speak. The principles of Aikido, a defensive approach to martial arts, teach us about redirecting attacks or negative energy per se, thus defending ourselves without harming others. My Sensei joked that I was like “Gumby,” so I translated this as I am freely moving and cannot be caught, spiritually or otherwise. Consequently, I learned how to fall down stairs without killing myself and how to redirect my negative feelings somewhere else in a positive way. Find it in your heart to forgive others and more importantly, yourself.
4. Most importantly, be kind to others.
“Life is chaos; be kind,”-Michelle Eileen McNamara
As the late wife of Patton Oswalt said, we need to be kind to others. We need to forget about ourselves for a little while and focus on sharing our kindness with others, even if they don’t appreciate it. I refuse to let myself give up on others, even though I had so many negative experiences being kind towards others. I realize I don’t need anyone to complete my happiness, but it’s okay to want someone. It’s okay to want someone to join you on your journey in achieving Ikigai or maybe sharing your love with others is your Ikigai. When we communicate with others, especially with dating, we can tend to simply take “pieces” of others to fill a void without any intention in returning affection—”ghosting,” particularly. We tend to forget that there are other people on the other side of an unanswered text. Sometimes we don’t have the energy or it might be the lesser of evils to avoid people, but try to be kind as possible. Psychotherapist, Esther Perel explains this phenomenon of “ghosting” and other related concepts succinctly in her video: https://www.facebook.com/Jezebel/videos/10154831710036356/
I will leave you with these thoughts. We may not know what our Ikigai is or how to achieve it, but don’t forget that we are all looking for our purpose in some way. We are not alone and don’t have to be. Until we find our purpose, we can enjoy our paper sailboat ride downstream. Remember in the words of the fictional character, Bojack Horseman, “In this terrifying world, all we have is the connections that we make.”
If you would like to listen to our playlist, you can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel