Although I would, like many others in this class, see myself as a teacher in a few years, I’m just not sure if that is my highest purpose. It seems like a great thing to do. I mean, there are very few ways that one can impart knowledge, leadership, and care in such an environment as a school, but there seems to be something more. There is a much bigger world out there than myself—as Liz Gilbert courageously finds out—and I don’t think that I can know my highest purpose just now, or ever.
Teaching seems like something that could lead to a great fulfillment of self, but then again so does being a writer, a husband, or a father. Perhaps the realization of such a multi-faceted purpose is simply a testament to the vastness of the world and the possibilities of our purpose. These things being said, I think that it is quite possible that we might each have more than just one purpose. We are strong and capable beings and to limit ourselves in any way is to place a limitation on our progress and our purpose.
Just as Gilbert finds herself amidst an emotional, religious, and romantic upheaval is when she achieves the most self-depth. She no longer strives to be the “perfect wife” or the caring mother; these are archetypes, molds, ideals. Gilbert craves to know herself, not the world’s version of her.
Student, son, friend, brother these are all titles that I give myself or that others give me. At the same time I am and am not these things. I am indeed a brother, a student, a friend, a son, and perhaps many other things, but does any one of these things or even all of them together capture the entire essence of who I am or what my purpose is?
For all of my life, I have been Catholic. I have read and heard stories about God, miracles, and the like. They always seem so outlandish, so Other, so incomprehensible. If the Passion is distant, the Resurrection is unreachable. If the Incarnation is contradiction, the Trinity is paradox. But still, these things, these religious doctrines and Catholic dogma—though tall they may seem—touch on something. They touch on the complete and total reliance of humanity. Reliance on a purpose, a reason, a way.
Gilbert, at the time in her life that she felt most unsure, needed a way. A path that would lead her to something. I doubt that she or anyone else who find themselves on such a path, have any inkling to where it leads—at least not an accurate inkling. However, Gilbert is willing. Willing to reevaluate. Willing to take the first step. Willing to follow through.
I think that this formula of an open path and a willing soul is the formula of purpose. Here is your path, here is your reason, here is your way. We might not reach the end of that path; we might not find what lies waiting for us. But, I don’t think that is the important part. For the path is a journey, it is a means regardless of end. The learning is done on that path, the challenges are met, the friendships are forged, and the soul is searched. The path is not an obstacle course at whose completion the gift of all knowledge of self and other is awarded. We gain that knowledge along the way.
So, although the words son, brother, student, and friend may not define who I am completely and might not encompass my highest purpose, they are my path. They are the means by which I learn my truest definition of self. Though I may one day be a teacher, a husband, or a father, these things will not be purpose any more than the others were; they will simply b the next turn along my path.
Some day, I will no longer walk along my path. It might not be because I have come to the end of it, but rather because I have come to another turn, one that does not require walking or being. When I get there, I may still be unsure of what my purpose was. However, if I have walked along my path willingly and have followed through on my journey, then I do not fear what my lack of knowledge will bring, for I have done all that I could have done. And for right now, that is my purpose.