Back in middle school, I was set on becoming a cardiologist. And then in high school, I wanted to be an author. And then finally, an even more confused me wanted to be an international human rights lawyer in first year. Rumi taught me something really valuable in third year.
My undergraduate education at U of T has not helped me figure out what I want to BE in the future. It has however taught me what I want to DO – which, by the way, is so much more important. I started this soul-searching journey last year by listening to my body. It is not normal how physically excited I get writing about civic engagement and political theory. I don’t know why but it seems like I FEEL and EXPERIENCE more than the average person. And when my body tells me something, I listen. I also felt a frustration with the impractical nature of theory alone. I don’t want to fantasize about Rousseau’s sentiment of existence; I want to try and actualize it and use it to guide my lifestyle. I don’t want to just fantasize about Hegelian jurisprudence and Habermas’ communicative action theory, I want to explore how and whether it can be actualized. I want to be a part of the process of social change.
I discovered in third year that my purpose in life is to change the system for the better from within through the bottom-up approach. I want to uproot the present and challenge the status quo; and by doing so, work to create a system which better accounts for the experiences and needs of the underdogs and the marginalized. That is my purpose. I know it is. I can feel it in my heart. The confidence in my mannerisms when I talk about it in class, the way I can get others excited about it and the fulfilment I feel when I realize it, just tells me that this may be my PURPOSE! And I know that I can actualize this purpose through good ol’ dialogical action (get people talking to each other)!
By defining my purpose with a DO instead of a BE or a career title, I can keep the way it is actualized undefined. This area of ambiguity is where my freedom is found. I can’t tell you what I want to be when I grow up, but I can tell you just what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I like defining my purpose as such. This way I can actualize my purpose as a lawyer, as a teacher, as an academic, as a public policy consultant… the list goes on and on. I can find fulfilment in life without confining myself to one career path.
Last Thursday, a question on a law school application asked me why I wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t see myself as a suit in the future. I just see myself working on a grassroots level as an agent of social change. So I answered the question with no knowledge about careers in law and just wrote what I wanted to DO in this world. The next day, I randomly came across the Wikipedia page for public interest advocacy and had one of Oprah’s A-ha moments!
PUBLIC INTEREST LAW. That is how I can actualize my purpose! Somehow what I wrote in the answer was the exact definition of this area of law. Was this a coincidence, by mistake or by design? I think this was the universe’s way of showing me my way! And impeccable timing I must say, since law school applications are due this week! Even if I don’t get into law school, I can still actualize my purpose through other careers in public interest advocacy—so it really is a WIN-WIN situation!
So instead of defining your purpose in life with a BE, try framing it with a DO.
So use your time at UofT to figure out what do you want to DO in this world!
PS: The subliminal message in this blog post was: ACTUALIZE!!!
Actualizing your internal purpose is IMPORTANT. What transcends our immediate existence is what we actualize into the external world. Our will can change the world–only if we put it into existence. Only then, can it exist outside of us and make an impact on the grid of life.
Do not let the fear of greatness turn you into hollow men full of ideas and yet still impotent–stuffed yet so empty.
2 comments on “I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE!”
You seem motivated and very committed to some or many types of social justice and I applaud that. However, a vast number of pre law students each year have this goal of aiming to change the system and of fomenting an equitable society, improving the lives of the “underdogs”. Although very commendable, these idealistic pre law students tend to get a reality check once they learn how the law works and how difficult it is to change the system to suit their ideals. The progressive ideals carried by these ambitious students are typically stymied by the rules and intricacies of the very system they wish to change. Also, what you are feeling and believing as a young academic fresh out of undergrad, a student who has studied theories that would, if put into practice, transform the social essence of our civilization, may or may not last. The world views of many similar to yours, usually go through transformations, naturally affected by the vicissitudes of time, and become wholly distinct from the perspectives of their recent pasts. Priorities change to adapt to these new perspectives and most certainly, to new circumstances. Many do indeed do meaningful work for the interest of marginalized groups. But that’s where it should begin. Focusing on one marginalized group at a time would be more fruitful than trying to radically change the system. Good luck.
Know exactly what you mean! I feel the same way when I do my readings or sit in lecture in women and gender studies lectures. I know I want to DO something in that field but still trying to figure out what to be. The DOING part is definitely step 1 of figuring out the BEING part!