As I spend my days studying (and snacking, and running, and snacking some more) my mind sometimes wanders away from the mind-numbingly boring specifics of the laws of civil procedure and such subjects. While I haven’t been reading as much fiction as I’d like – either now or during the past few years of law school! – I do still read the papers every day, and I’ve noticed more focus on a topic that I’ve given a lot of thought to. So it’s what I’m thinking out loud about this Thursday.
That topic is happiness, and also purpose, and how those things can be interdependent and combine to create a feeling of meaning in one’s life. An article in last Sunday’s paper by David Brooks intrigued me, not so much for what it said, but for how it confirmed what I’ve suspected all along. Growing up, I was convinced that I had to be amazing at one thing – what that thing was wasn’t so much the point as the fact that I would achieve the pinnacle of success. I think a lot more kids today feel that way than in past generations, and social media certainly doesn’t help with the pressurized quest for perfection, but for me it was something I struggled with every day. I did ballet very seriously until I was 14, and when I left that world, I felt lost, because I didn’t have something I could define myself by. I spent high school searching for what my ‘thing’ might be, and it was only toward the end of that time that I began to realize I didn’t need to find it. I’d always done well in school, yet realized that when I wasn’t into a certain subject, it wasn’t going to come easily to me or become interesting by virtue of sheer determination – not everyone can be interested in everything! The opposite was also true. Even if I was really passionate about something, I did not then need to become the best at it. I could do it just because I enjoyed it. That was a game changer.
During my three years at Oxford, and the following three at law school, I slowly figured out that I was much more interested – and thereby interesting – than I’d ever imagined I could be. I started running, and although I’m never going to win a race or impress anyone with my speediness, I love it and it makes me feel invigorated and alive, so I’ll keep at it for as long as I can. Yesterday was National Running Day – something that just three years ago, would have caused me to laugh out loud if someone told me I’d be celebrating it with an 8-mile run! I learned how to cook and bake food to fuel my body and soul that tastes just the way I like it, and discovered that I really enjoy providing sustenance for myself and for family and friends. I never would have guessed that would make me feel fulfilled either, and yet it does in a profoundly simple way.
I haven’t had any flashes of genius that tell me there’s something major I’m meant to do. Instead, as I’ve grown into young adulthood, I’ve also grown to understand that I don’t need to be just one thing, or to find and pursue one major goal to make my life worth living. Instead, I can embrace and enjoy all the things life has to offer, and make time for everything I want to do, like a true Renaissance girl. That mindset is what inspired the name for this blog, and it’s how I try to live. I run, I cook, I read, I write. I spend time with family and friends. I play in the park and go to museums. I’ve studied in school, and I’m sure I’ll work hard after the bar is over (well, I already am!) I enjoy the little moments. And when I think about where I want to be in five years, or ten, or fifty? I dream that when the time is right, I’ll have a family with the right person, and teach my kids how to find their own way. That I’ll do something fulfilling that lets me give just a little back to the world. If I can aid or inspire just one other living soul, I’ll feel like I’ve made my mark in a manner that means much more to me than if I was making headlines every day. That article called it a small, happy life; but to me it doesn’t seem small at all.
What do you think about happiness and purpose in life? Can little things turn into big dreams?
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