It has been almost four years since the last time I have been asked to respond to the Jesuit question “what is your highest purpose?” The first time I answered the question in writing was on a Kairos spiritual retreat from my Jesuit high school. I still have my first response in an unmarked notebook in my dorm. My response has changed somewhat since I first answered the question.
The question “what is your highest purpose?” is a difficult one. It forces one to consider an aggregate of factors including what direction they desire his or her life to take, what external currents and forces are affecting your future and whether or not these align with your desires. Ideally, one should also consider how one would best be able to contribute to society in the most beneficial ways. This element of the question is important because it forces one to consider how he or she is best able to contribute. This is often overlooked in favor of the first question element because one’s desires and ambition can be easily prioritized over one’s possible contributions to society.
In my Kairos notebook I resolved that one of the changes I was going to make in my life to more adequately serve my higher purpose was that I was going to be more open to new friendships and appreciate my parents more. I could not discern the handwriting in which I scrawled my “highest purpose.” This attempt to rediscover my past goal has led me to an interesting realization. That goal was important at the time I wrote it; however I have since had many experiences which have further shaped and refined my goals.
At this point in my life, I feel as if I cannot relate to Liz Gilbert’s need to make a pilgrimage like journey in order to find myself and my highest purpose. I feel that regular self reflection has afforded me the insight into my own strengths, weaknesses and passions that I do not have to make such a deliberately life altering change. Over the past few years, I have learned that I derive intense enjoyment from mentoring and teaching those younger than me. After this slow realization, I began studying secondary education so that I might become a teacher after graduation. Once I made this determination, all of the anxiety regarding my future plans faded away. For lack of a more eloquent or scientific reason, it just feels right. I have been working in schools for 3 semesters now and I have learned so much about the art of education.
My higher purpose cannot be found in Italy or India. My higher purpose is in a classroom. Through teaching I hope to inspire in my students a love of knowledge and the artful spoken and written word.