I’ve always wondered what purpose means. Even now I reassess it. Ever wondered why everytime your birthday comes around you resolve to live more? To do what you want. It seems like as though you finally figured out how to do it all.
It has been complex in my case. I’ve tried a lot of things. I know how to do a lot. At the time of writing this I had recently started digital illustration, I had revived the fictional world’s I was writing and I had started trying to make music with Garageband. This is in addition to several pots I had on the stove which were creative outputs, including my website.
I realized that I crave that satisfaction of a complete creative work. Or a progressed creative work. An itch that I can’t seem to scratch. The truth, that I need to create and create bigger and bigger, further and further to feel like myself.
That’s what purpose is to me. Unscratchable itches. Soren Kierkegaard wrote that becoming aware of your true self is our true task and endeavor in life. Your true self in your true task. It seemed to me that year after year, I tried to find more ways to be myself. In 2019, I decided to try it all.
I often wonder if there are people like me who have many skills or talents, and worry about never becoming exceptionally good at any of them. There are a finite number of hours in a day and infinite permutations of creative work. I have to say that the 10,000-hour rule is ridiculous to me, however I do believe one basic rule about skill. The more time spent practicing, the better that skill develops. Pushing yourself and however long that takes varies from person to person. *Example*
If you do 7 things, and you had a week to do all those things, you might chose to do one thing for everyday of the week. One option. You might chose to spend 2 days on each and end of doing 3 things but much worthwhile. Or you might pick one and simply stick with it for the week, you’ll make something probably really good. Then guilt will haunt you for what you chose not to do. Right there is the difference between a hobbyist Photgrapher (let’s call him John) and a hobbyist, photographer/producer/illustrator/writer (let’s call him Peter). It’s difficult for me to think that Peter who does other things including photography is as good as John who spends all his time on Photography. It is possible. Probably. Although it may not be the norm. Time compounds the effect of anything, postively or negatively. This has me thinking that, John might become a master at photography even as a hobbyist, if he sticks with it, chases it fiercly but Peter… Peter might not become a master of any of the things that he does.
I resonate with Peter. He has to share his time among what he loves, to feel fulfilled. He has internal conflict. He wants to be really good at all the things he does. Or he’d die trying. Is his true self, the master of all those skills or the person that never stopped trying to be? Should he give up the idea of becoming a master at his many crafts? Perhaps such is the inherent nature of divided time. It’s this question that I think I have the answer to.
Peter has to keep trying to be a master of all. That is what drives him. Peter wants to create bigger and better works. To do that he has to be better at his craft. The catch is that it might take him longer. It might take him all his life. He might never master some of it and he has to make peace with that. The point is, whether he becomes a master or not, and however long it takes, however infrequently his music comes out, however rare his art collections are released, however long it takes him to write his book, he is scratching his itches. All of them. To me, that is purpose.
Remember Peter? Peter is a photographer/producer/illustrator/writer hobbyist, he has a main career as an ad agency strategist. He loves it all. He get’s paid for one of them. Peter works with people at work, he has plans to one day start his own ad agency, and he knows it would take a smal village. The rest though, he does on his own. What if, to feel like he scratched his itch, he didn’t need to actually do the work all by himself?
Perhaps it’s enough to have been part of the process, to know people who also make music, or illustrate. To facilitate the creation process in some way. Almost in the same way that hobbyists band together and form a club. Peter wouldn’t need to be a master at illustration, making friends with another illustrator and working on a project together would be enough, or holding an exhibition show for his illustrator friend. Peter finds like-minded people for each of his hobbies, and helps them make what they want to make, then they help him make what he wants to make.
The principle, is the same as work. People like me, who do a lot, can team up with other people. Except that it’s not for the profit. Paying careers stay that way. Everything is done for the sheer life of creation. Of course it has to be feasible, and ideally shouldn’t result in a big financial loss. Everything else that happens, including making the hobby your career, or public recognition or even monetary profit happens coincidentally. In the end it’s still purpose for everyone.
If there’s anything I’ve understood about purpose, it’s that it’s not your career. It’s the complex relationship between you and what you love or want to do in your life. Whether you’re paid for it or not. As long as it gives you that tenous sense of satisfaction or fulfillment. It’s also difficult to point at and nearly impossible to explain, all anyone has to do is to ask “why?” to the point of the inexplicable. Peter, and me can’t explain why we want to write essays like these, it just wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t.
Purpose is a web of things that feel right and have progression. It’s why it’s sometime’s lost, or why it changes. Some things stop feeling right and new things start feeling right. Tenuous at best. It’s no wonder half of us have a hard time getting a good grasp on it. It’s difficult to grasp a spider-web, it simply falls apart, once it’s touched it loses its form. We know it’s there when we see it. To me, no one knows their purpose, we can all only feel it.