Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Living with Purpose

As a naturally introspective and analytic mind, I do a lot of self-assessment. I typically feel pretty in tune with my emotions, my actions, and the causes of them. However, I recently had a conversation with a friend that made me do a little extra self-evaluation and looking into the purpose of one's life. 

The conversation went something like this:


Friend:  "I just don't know that there's a purpose for being here. I feel like most of the time I don't make a difference."
Me:  "That's not true. Everyone has a purpose. I'm a firm believer in the fact that, as long as you're on this earth, you have a purpose."
Friend:  "That's pretty idealistic, don't you think? I mean, what's your purpose? Is it the writing thing?"
Me:  
(Taken somewhat aback by the questioning of my purpose in this whole thing and of the fact of calling my writing a THING, but determined to give an answer anyway) "It's not necessarily the writing thing, or even my job. It's more about living with purpose and impacting others."

Needless to say, my friend was somewhat unimpressed by my answer, as am I every time I reflect upon the conversation. The fact of the matter is that no one has ever questioned me so blatantly on my optimistic outlook. I've always been a "glass half full" kind of girl, and most of the time, I get to kind of slide by on that without being pushed too hard as to why I view things through such a standpoint. 

As a result, I've taken some more time to contemplate the answer and to discover what I believe to be my "purpose." The facts remain true that I'm pretty sure it's not the writing thing or even what I do for a living. Sure, I love to write, I write continually, and I hope to write full time one day. 

But, that's my dream, not necessarily my purpose in life. Additionally, I work in politics, and I do so out of a drive to help elect those who I feel have the most positive vision for the future of our state and nation. Still, this is not my purpose. 

I believe purpose is a little deeper (although I don't believe it's always a truly intense or even serious matter). It's about what you bring to the table in terms of helping other people. It's about the impact you make on others. So, while my original answer was somewhat lacking, my drawn out answer stems from the same idea. As a person of faith, I've always held onto the belief that God has a purpose for each of us and that we all bring something unique to life. We are to be the salt and the light and to help others in the things that we do. 



For some, this is a clear-cut and obvious purpose. We have missionaries, doctors, teachers, and so on. Some people in certain fields may genuinely be working in the area of their purpose every single day. For some of us, though, the clarity isn't always there. 

Since I fall into one of the categories where I'm pretty positive my daily job is not my life's purpose, I've spent a lot of time thinking about what my purpose is. Like I said, it's not always deep, but here's what I've come up with:


  • I'm a sister. For my big sister, that means that I'm a confidante, a lifelong friend, a willing ear to listen, and a neck to hug. For my little brother, I have the opportunity to be an example, to be a friend, to share in joys, and to offer advice in things I've been through that he may also experience. In both cases, I feel as though I often get far more back from these two than I could ever give them, and I do not have a bloated sense of self importance in either role. Still, that is part of my purpose.
  • In many situations, I can be counted upon to offer a bit of comic relief. Seriously, in many cases, this is all I can do. I can't fix your problems, I can't (and most likely won't) even attempt to, but I can make you laugh. 
  • I've already convinced three separate girls to switch from super expensive eyeliner to the 99 cent pencil kind. It works better, it's easier to control, and it stays on longer. Aside from all of that, who actually needs to spend more money than they have to for desired results? Maybe, part of one's purpose can be helping friends make better decisions (even if it's eyeliner based). Who knows?
  • Having always been a lover of the way people light up when you genuinely compliment them, I'm a natural encourager. Telling someone that you love their hair, that they have gorgeous eyes, that they're hilarious, that they make your day, that they are smart, etc. is not hard, and it goes a long way when it comes from a position of honesty. I think that can legitimately be considered purpose.
  • I'm honest, making me a good shopping buddy. Much as I will tell you when you look fantastic, I'll help you decide on a sweater that looks a little better than the one you just tried on. Purpose...I don't know. It's a little iffy, but we're going to go with it. 
  • I love my family and friends intensely. Therefore, I'll gladly be a friend and take on all that may entail. If it means listening, offering positive thoughts, grabbing a drink, having a blast, taking part in a spontaneous adventure, or just participating in a Netflix and gummy bear binge, I'm in. 
  • I have hair that would have been perfect for 1985, but is not so impressive in this day and age. (And, yes, I am going to find a way to spin this into glorious purpose with which I have been burdened. Sit back and enjoy). While I've come to terms with the fact that it has a mind of its own and never cooperates with what I want, I know that there have to be people who look at it (whether it's curly and out-of-control or straightened and starting to frizz) and feel gratefulness for their less crazy mane of hair. I provide a sense of schadenfreude for those who might not have felt great about their hair until they have seen mine. 

This totally fits, but I have to say I'm trying to contain the laughter that resulted after I googled 1985 hair pictures and this came up as one of the top results. 

  • Though I don't count it as part of the grand and ever pressing purpose, I do have a job that I care about. As a result, it's one that I pour myself into, and I work with passion and purpose. I help to inform the public about what is happening and keep them up to date. It may seem simple, but it's part of my desire to help educate people on things that matter. 
  • In my previous bullet point, I just attempted to use the word "resultingly," and was informed that no such word exists apparently. This makes me realize that I still have the tools for creating my own words that were taught to me as a Communications major (seriously, pick up a Comm Theory book, and you'll find words that have never existed on almost every page, and it's AWESOME). This brings me to my final point of "major" purposes. I'm a creative mind, and that allows me to find new ways to look at problems, new ways to express myself, and new ways to communicate positive thoughts to others. 
These are the things that came to mind when I started thinking about purpose. For each of us, it varies. But, we each have unique attributes that allow us to impact others, even if they are not blatant and overwhelmingly amazing. 

Not all of us are going to cure cancer, become president, walk on the moon, or even head up a non-profit organization that touches thousands of lives. Some of us are day-to-day people, who make a difference a little at a time by being present and being in the lives of others. Maybe that's a hard concept to grasp for most of us who were brought up in the "you can be anything you want to be" generation, but it does not change the fact that each of us does, in fact, have purpose. 

Whatever it may be, own it, rock it, embrace it! Live with purpose, and don't ever lose sight of the things that make you unique. 




AND...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You Can't Stop the Trainwreck

I said I wouldn’t jump on the resolution bandwagon this new year, and I didn’t. However, 2014 has already brought with it some important life changes. Although we’re only a week into this glorious new beginning, I have noticed big differences in my daily routine, my outlook on life, and my view of the people around me.

It sounds cliché, I’ll admit. And, no, it’s not a change caused by the wheatgrass drinks that I have been drinking every morning since Christmas—although those are awesome, and I highly recommend them. Seriously, drink it…but, I digress…

This new outlook is simply caused by the fact that I have removed some toxic people from my life.

This was not a resolution—or even a conscious decision really. Instead, as if by fate, a highly toxic friendship ended shortly before Christmas, leaving me angry and upset. As the time has gone by, and we have moved into 2014, I have found peace with the situation and have developed a new and brighter outlook.

The simplicity in letting go of the people who are not good for you is powerful. The fact of the matter is that there are toxic people—the kind who do nothing but tear you down, encourage bad decisions, use you, make you question your self worth, and restrict both happiness and personal growth.

Sadly, these people are often the “trainwreck” people. They are the ones who are hurting. They are lonely, in need of someone to “be there for them,” or broken. Somehow, they draw people into their mess. Convinced that they just need someone to help them out, we step up to the plate. We offer that shoulder to cry on, that emotional support, whatever they may need. Unfortunately, this often becomes a cycle, and if we’re not careful, those of us with big hearts get easily caught up in this crazed disaster.

We try to stop the trainwreck. But, in the meantime, we get thrown right into it. A pattern develops of the trainwreck individual constantly needing approval, attention, and reassurance that they have purpose. They begin to develop an unreasonable amount of dependence, calling you with every need and constantly bringing you down to their level of hopelessness. It becomes a one-sided friendship—a complete takeover of your time and energy. And, no matter how hard we try, we cannot convince someone that they have purpose, or that they matter; nor should we be required to do so.

This is unhealthy, and when friendships become this dependent and disproportionate, people get hurt all too often.



Toxic people suck the life and happiness out of those trying to help, and they bring others down to their level of self destruction and doubting. Because of this, I'm taking a stand in 2014 and refusing to get caught up in helping them. 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help those who need things, or that true friends don’t ever have breakdowns. This is not the case. Friends have rough times, and we are there for them during those times as we should be. I’m simply stating that if someone is intent on being a trainwreck, there is nothing you can do to stop them, and trying to stand in the way will only serve as a detriment to you and actually hinder them from making any improvements they need to make as well.

The people who deserve to be in your life are those who inspire you, make you laugh, will be there for you—whether you need a buddy for beer and wings or whether you need a good cry, challenge you, try new things with you, encourage you, want you in their life—but don’t depend solely on you for their happiness, grow you, respect you, and trust you. On the flip side, that means that to be a good friend, we must be all these things as well. However, we should not put up with anything less. It is a matter of self respect as much as it is a matter of preservation of one's sanity.




Having said that, here’s to a year of walking away from unhealthy friendships and not standing in the way of an impending trainwreck.