Forget Purpose, Just Live

In the Christian Corpers’ Fellowship in Anambra State, there’s a tradition of asking birthday celebrants three intimate questions: How old are you now? Who will you marry? Have you found your purpose? I had no problems with the first two questions. I have an age I can be proud of (only Nigerians will understand what I mean) and the marriage question… *sigh* the answer is No. There were very spiritual people who used to give concise answers to the last question. They uttered grand statements about their place in the universe and made me wonder where I missed it in my spiritual journey. And there were mortals, like me, who had no idea how to answer the question. Some embarrassed themselves by giving contrived answers that fooled no one and others just stood before the congregation befuddled and tongue tied. In some Christian circles, the only thing that is worse than ignorance of your purpose is not being a Christian. Thank God no one knew my birthday during that period. I would have answered the second and third question with the same response: No.

I have a problem with purpose questions. I’ve never understood why anyone asks primary school (and even junior secondary school) kids what they want to become in the future. I know someone somewhere has an academic explanation for that rubbish, but I’m not interested (there is an academic reasoning behind taking alcohol and doing crack too, that doesn’t mean I’ll try them). Up to my penultimate year in secondary school, I had no proper answer for the question. I wish they’d been asking me a different question: what do you like to do?

I love books; always have, always will. But after years of telling people I did not know what I wanted to become, I decided to study engineering. Of all the things I can do, engineering is the one that comes least naturally to me. I should have just done something that requires me to analyse ambiguous texts all day. I like that. I don’t get bored by that. The day my children come back from school and tell me their teacher asked them what they want to become in future is the day I’ll start homeschooling them. Or I’ll go to their school and create a scene. I’ll rant and shout and become an embarrassment to my kids till their teacher understands that his job is to give them a desire to learn. That is all I ask of teachers.

***

Last year I was preoccupied with thoughts of what I want to become in life. I wanted to figure out why I got to the egg instead of the sperm that carried a passionate light skinned girl who would have developed the cure for cancer. I talked about this (not the cancer part) with a friend who was, for all intents and purposes, my shrink during that period. She was the one that reminded me that all that matters is to be sure every moment is spent doing what I should be doing. I can pray all day, asking God for why he decided to stop me from being a miscarriage. Then I get no answer. I can get annoyed at my neighbour who prays all night and all day. He must be the reason heaven’s help desk is not answering my call; always bugging the angels about his co-workers that he wants to kill and clogging the request line. But that is juvenile speak. Sometimes He keeps quiet. Sometimes it’s better that way.

***

Imagine if a kid knew in primary school that his purpose in life is to drive the garbage truck that services your street. Imagine. He’ll never drive that garbage truck. He’ll waste his childhood out of apathy and no one will get to drive that garbage truck on your street. Now, imagine a garbage truck driver that spent all his life living. He loved good music, read good books, made good friends, learnt how treat strangers and by some twist of fate he now drives the garbage truck. He’ll make the best garbage truck driver that ever existed. I’ll even choose to spend more time with him than some purposeful pseudo-intellectuals I meet on the internet.

There is no point living with hope that something grand will happen to us and in the process losing the opportunity to make the best of everyday. When I leave this body, I want to be able to say ntoi to the death. I want to watch death’s approach and know that I’ve done all that I can (except bungee jumping and sky diving; I’m not sure I’ll ever do those things). I don’t want to be so occupied with getting ahead that I miss loving the people I should care for now. It’s not worth it. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe there something great that I was created for. It just means I know that great thing is hidden in the little things I do. Waking, sleeping, reading, writing, sleeping and trying to squeeze out time to do the things human beings expect me to do. Then I look forward to the next day.

The world as we know it might be over the moment you’re done reading this blogpost. The sky might open to reveal Jesus descending. There won’t be deadline extensions–that is a very Nigerian thing. Sing, dance, write, draw, make someone laugh, console someone who is crying, fool around with your children, say sorry to your fiancée, make peace with your boss, forgive your pastor and tell that special person you love them. Don’t be too stuck up in your vision of the clouds that you miss the beauty around you. For a moment, forget purpose and just live.

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24 thoughts on “Forget Purpose, Just Live

  1. Nice piece. I love your illustration of the garbage truck driver. It’s a hypothetical case, but I’ll say that his driving is perhaps a platform for his life-assignment which may involve reaching out to people for God. I agree with you that purposeful living is about the little things that we get to do everyday

  2. the truth is…you keep surprising and inspiring me everyday with each piece coming out greater than the former. you are right its time to accept each day with its packages of blessing doing that which appeals to your sense of relaxation and which gives you satisfaction. then other events should unfold as fate has it in stock according to Gods will……its time to declare war on those who give me motivational books, how to do it, and how to become a millionaire books and mostly those who seek to know what my purpose are in life

  3. its time to declare war on those who ask for purpose, give motivational books, how to became a millionaire, and how to do it book, let events unfold in accordance with Gods conceived purpose for every created being. thanks man…..it keeps getting better here.. pls post daily

  4. I really enjoyed it but the most touching summary came in your last comment : ‘Live for the future by making the most of the present.’
    Unfortunately, in this part of the world, our parents choose for us, the pressure to be better than the neighbour’s child overwhelms our parents. Maybe its some kind of grand inferiority complex. Thanks for the post.

    1. Parents choosing might be more than inferiority complex. I do not have a complete understanding of the phenomenon, but I know a few parents who chose for their in spite of being above their neighbours already. But I think we’re getting to a place where parental influence will stop being an excuse.

      Thank you Ayo, for reading and commenting.

  5. There was a time I thought I had ‘it’. It was right there at the tip of my hand. Fast forward to one year later and I’m zooming my hand x7 . WHERE IS IT???
    Was that it?
    Is it gone?
    I can’t have missed it right? I never even start dey live am.
    Was that the real deal or a false start?

    There is a purpose for all life, finding it is as much a journey as living it out is. The day-to-day living is as important as the grandiose plan. Many don’t get that I think, they keep their eyes on the grandiose and keep stumbling through life. Live, love, be Happy. make others Happy. live and leave a legacy. If that isn’t it… *carries magnifying lens*

  6. Thank you for this post. I for one am tired of all this purpose talk. Just live and enjoy living; wake up everyday and do good to everyone you come in contact with. Love above all else, and at the end of the day, when all’s said and done, you’ll realise your chief purpose all along was to leave the world a better place than you met it. You’ll realise that the smile you left on the face of the truck guy who picked up your waste made his day a lot better 🙂

    Beautiful writing as always Ife. Your words resonates in me. May I also direct you to http://www.holisticwayfarer.com? Her blog talks about everyday life issues like yours and Timi’s and mine. I’m so glad finding likeminded blogs here.

    Love,
    Uju

  7. “Love above all else”. A lot of people forget that this is the ultimate goal for all of us. Paul summed it up nicely in 1 Corinthans 13.

    Thanks for pointing me to holistic wayfarer. I’m now following her. Glad to have found your blog too. Thanks Uju.

  8. Love this piece… Initiall didn’t want to go through because I felt it was too lengthy and I felt bone-idle about it… Thank God I read it, it really sparked up some thoughts in me which makes me wonder (having in mind your beautiful illustration of the truck driver) that, at times if God really shows most of us our we would really become, it might come as a shock (+vely or -vely) to many of us… And I keep wondering why we often ignore little things which might even be your purpose in life *smiles*, little things like your #do-good-everyday-living and not bothering yourself with what you missed or not…. Focusing on doing the right thing at the right time, living rightfully might just be the WHAT and THAT needed for ones life as his/her purpose…..

    Weldone Ife, would wish if this could be enlisted in the syllabuses of our primary and secondary schools… *big grin*

    1. Propaganda once said that “mystery is such a strange gift” and I agree with him. The fact that we do not have complete maps of where our lives are going means we have to constantly stay in tune with God and keep a keen focus on the things we do in the present till he leads us to the place where he’s taking us. If we all have perfect images of where we’ll end up, living would lose most of its allure.

      Thanks for reading through Jbass. I’m glad you stayed in spite of the length of the piece.

  9. Discovering and living out your purpose is important, after all, it’s the reason why you’re here. But if I hear you correctly, and I may be wrong, we should enjoy the journey on the road to our ever-moving destination. I like the statement, “purpose unfolds” because it evokes images of experimentation and discovery.

    1. You heard me correctly ma’am. As good as finding purpose is, I think we sometimes forget that the things we do in the present are the building blocks of that purpose we aim for.

      I’m however trying to understand what you mean by “ever-moving destination”.

      1. I meant that just when you think you’ve ‘found’ your purpose, it unfolds again. So that even though the ‘core’ is essentially the same, different expressions & windows of opportunity open up. Makes sense?

  10. Well spoken…educative really but may only be practicable by a bulk few. Because this purpose of a thing I classify into three; informal upbringing, formal(school) upbringing, and personal education. As of the informal, take the chibok girls for instance, in about 7 years time, a number of them would have nurtured a purpose for living. Praying to see the next day to achieve it. Some revenge, some terrorism… I reserve my words to make this comment not much longer. I believe only the personally educated minds can easily practise forgetting purpose and enjoy living, believing purpose will divinely unfold…thanks. the read was worthwhile

    1. Sometimes it is those who look educated that miss the whole point of living without being fixated on success at the detriment of the things around them. I don’t think literacy has much to do with our ideas of purpose and how we live in interaction with other folks. Some of the most perceptive people about life are those who have not even been in the walls of a classroom. As for those girls, the best we can do is pray.

      Thanks for commenting.

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