If it’s true that our gift to the world lies within us from birth, and we develop and reveal this gift through our personal journey, then so it is that my offering of purpose learning is rooted in my journey of learning purpose.
Though there have been times in life when I’ve directly asked the question, “What is my purpose?”, the answer to this question has more often than not been revealed through my exploration of other questions: What are my gifts? What am I passionate about? What does the world need?
Like a solver of complex puzzles, I have learned, am indeed still learning, how all these pieces fit into place. And, though the modern United States education system gave me some tools to help explore these questions, ultimately, to truly come to know myself and the world’s needs, I’ve had to school myself.
It wasn’t until I was three years out of college that this process began. Several years working in the biotech industry and enough distance from the societal and academic pressures of young adulthood gave me enough space and quiet to know that the path I was on wasn’t my own, and, that even though society had given me an amazing opportunity to achieve success by its standards, something about this version of success didn’t quite resonate with me.
In a healthy society, I might have had mentors to turn to at this crossroads to help point me in the right direction; better yet, I might have had mentors all along to help me find my path. The wisdom of the ages, traditionally passed down through mentorship and rites of passage integral in society, I had only rarely found throughout my life. I thus took it upon myself to find it.
I did this by turning to the perspective-shifting and transformational power of travel. Though at the time it felt like I was stepping off a cliff - with all the comforts of life and community I had come to know in my 25 years, and the great unknown in front of me - stepping outside my bubble was the first step toward opening myself up to the signs I had been missing all along. Volunteering at an orphanage in Guatemala and taking a 4.5 month bicycle tour from San Francisco back down to Guatemala the following year were just a few of the experiences that helped me get out of my bubble. My eyes and mind were blown away.
This indeed was, and continues to be, a journey in listening. In order to hear those signs, I needed new tools. I found these tools by immersing myself in deeply rooted cultures, new (to me) spiritual pathways, and the wisdom passed down through teachers from all over the world. It required me to slow down, to open myself up to new possibilities found in ancient ways of being, and to incorporate the many world traditions that are now so accessible in our highly globalized society.
Learning about the world, in all its beauty AND pain, and my place in it all, was an essential step. There have been many difficult steps since then. Exploring the pain and longing buried in my psyche, and how my psychological wounding has impacted my relationships, for better and for worse; reckoning with the privilege that many of my identities have afforded me and trying to reconcile that privilege with the oppression faced by so many on account of me and many like me, consciously and unconsciously; learning how to cultivate inner peace and happiness while what feels like a constant swim upstream.
And so I continue to listen, and to learn, and to figure out how to be(long) in a society that doesn't quite seem like it has a place for the whole me. I am finding this to be a science, and an art. And though I am in constant change, and will always be a student of life, I humbly accept my responsibility to share my path, and the wisdom I've gained on it, with others who feel a similar calling to live in a world where all beings have the security, connection, belonging, and resilience to bring their gifts and full self to the world.