Repurposed. This word came into my head today about how I’ve been feeling rejuvenated in my life. I had been feeling like I was merely drifting along and then suddenly, I had been re-given my purpose. And my initial reaction was to smirk and think about how feeling “re-purposed” made me feel like an old piece of furniture and how it was nothing like that. But then, it’s exactly like that.
I think it’s fair to say that we all have our hills and valleys in our lives. We feel like we’re on top of the world, basking in all of its beauty and wonder and then suddenly we can’t drag ourselves out of bed and we can’t even place why. We lose our focus and second guess our entire existence. Eventually though, we tend to find ourselves back in that place of motivation; the mountain is in sight and we’re marching straight for it, ready to tackle all of its treacheries.
But furniture? Come on now.
We all start out shiny and new. Naive to the world around us, positive that we are going to do amazing things. We find a place to settle in and slowly, almost immeasurably so, we start to lose that shine. Bills pile up; we collect dust. Loved ones pass on, relationships fade: a scratch here, a nick there. Until one day, when we finally take a breath to evaluate our situation, we realize just how much damage has been done and how little care seems to have been given us. We forget our purpose; we lose sight of the finish line; we despair.
Then someone comes along and does the unthinkable. They take us home, sand us down, even us out, and put on a glossy finish. They mix the old and new. Our deepest imperfections still visible but less rough and a shiny coat that reveals the beauty of our bare skin. They have given us new life, new reason to push forward. And that is where real strength comes from: the uniqueness in those imperfections. We all have scars, specific areas in our past that still hurt more than others. Those gashes dug a little too deep to ever really get rid of. But that’s where our character comes from: the lessons we learned and how we reacted to them. Those are what make you who you are.
If we didn’t have any imperfections or scars what would that make us? A blank sheet of paper; an empty vase; a coffee table, still in its box, wrapped and protected. What good are any of these things if we don’t use them for what they were designed for? The Mona Lisa was just a blank canvas used to its full potential. The Great Wall of China a bunch of stone. You and I? Some skin and muscle. Just a shadow of a life, until we actually do something with ourselves. Life isn’t just the breath in your lungs, it’s having passion and taking risks and making memories. Even if those memories hold pain and scars. Even if that risk turns to failure.
Without these things what are you doing? Existing is not the same thing as living. Not by a long shot. I’ve spent so many of my younger years knowing certain parts of my purpose but putting them secondary to merely existing. I spent all of my waking hours toiling over higher education degrees and career paths that I knew were nothing more than a means to exist. By the world’s standards they were great accomplishments but in my heart I was lost, bored, and unenthused. I was slowly killing the desires of my heart because “the dream” is all about building a solid existence.
But living? That comes from a a place in your heart where you get excited to go to a job that you are passionate about, where you know you are making an impact. It comes from the embrace of a friend when you were able to help them in the midst of their struggle like no one else could. It’s the joy produced so deep in your very core that you weren’t even aware something so profound existed until you actually had a taste of it. Living is our purpose, but we’ve let so many things in the world distract us from that. We hide behind social media and get lost in the mundane acts of our “friends'” lives. We get caught up comparing our secret low moments to the pubic highs of others. We get so wrapped up trying to be what someone else wants us to be that we forget who we wanted ourselves to be from the beginning.
And the terrifying things is that it has all become so commonplace that we don’t even see it happening anymore. Teens spend their entire day SnapChatting and KIKing and using all kinds of forms of communication that suddenly make me feel twice my age and wanting to tell them about how in my day I had to walk to school uphill in the snow both ways… And I’m not even from that generation!
But I digress.
All this time is spent learning how to get the most “likes” and “follows” and “retweets”. Do you see it? We’re being systematically trained to do what gets us the most social acceptance (Is Pavlov’s experiment ringing any bells here?…yes, unfortunately, terrible pun intended). By default, we’re being systematically trained to avoid our personal joy for the joy of the masses. I’m going to continue with my nerd-dom for a minute to throw in a line from “1984” by George Orwell that said, “sanity is not statistical.” One of the truest things from my high school days that resonates with me still.
We need to wake up and stop thinking our purpose is just to exist in this world. We are meant to really live. And that requires embracing our uniqueness. Take a risk. Don’t care about how many “likes” you get. Do things that are difficult. Do things that make you happy, not what makes people like you. Find that joy in your heart. Embrace it and run with it! Take the step from existing to living. Don’t just fill your lungs with air to survive but breathe in what the world has to offer. Travel. Write. Experience. Listen. Love. Grow. Change. Do. Find your purpose so you can finally live.
Those memories, scars, and passions that you accumulate, those are propelling you from your purpose to live, to the very thing you are called to do. You can never find the strength beneath the scars if you don’t first experience the pain that brought them. You’re the only one that has this specific set of scars and memories. Only you can use them to define yourself. Be exactly who you are meant to be. Don’t be the carbon copy of a life already in existence. What good would it do the world to have two Vincent Van Goghs? “Starry Night” would be half as impressive if it were painted twice. Let Van Gogh be him, and you be you. Find your purpose. Embrace it. And don’t for a second think that what you have to offer the world is anything less than significant. A liver may not be glamourous, but without it where would we be?