Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Searching for Meaning

Years ago I realized I was repeating the same patterns over and over again. I'd try really hard to identify a new job or career, and once I started working, I'd hate it. While the jobs were prestigious--I started out as an NBC Page, worked at KNBC news for three years, then became the Arts and Antiques Editor for Architectural Digest magazine and so forth and so on--I didn't feel the work was meaningful. So, I'd quit and seek out the next opportunity.

Even after my first book, Job Search Strategy for College Grads, was published, I didn't feel satisfied. Maybe it was the topic of the book or perhaps it was my concern that I was a "one book author," but I constantly worried about finding my "life's work."

In retrospect, what was so distressing about the process, was that once again I felt like I was the only person who was having these problems. Every place I worked, everyone else seemed to like what they were doing far better than I did. No one else ever said, "Gee, I think this is a waste of my time. Surely I was born to do something more important than this."

It was just like being in college all over again. None of my other friends transferred to another university because they were unhappy. No one ever said, "Why am I in college if I don't know what I want to major in?" None of them ever quit college for a year to travel in Europe and then work for a presidential campaign.

It seemed like I spent my life with people who either knew what they wanted to do, found meaning in environments I found meaningless, or never asked themselves the important questions: Why am I here? How can I contribute?

All these years later, I'm sorry my path was so difficult and strewn with so many depressive episodes. But I'm quite certain that I wouldn't have been happy if I had walked through life with blinders or sought money and prestige rather than meaning.

As difficult as things were, I wouldn't be who I am today if I hadn't continued to search for the answers to my questions. My pain and suffering might have been mitigated. I might not have had to fight existential demons. But I never would have found the light at the end of the tunnel.

8 comments:

catatonickid said...

There's so much hope and strength in that. Thank you, Susan. Just the thought that behind all the struggles really is something worthwhile - something that OK, maybe doesn't make it all better but that is real and profound all the same is important. Inspiring even, at least to me.

GirlBlue said...

I could so relate to this. I have spent my entire adult life not knowing what I want to be when I grow up. I've left two degrees and only work to pay the bills. Luckily I work in a big company and I interview well so that I could be sent to another department to experience a different atmosphere every two years or so.
i still fight my internal demons though, I'm still not satisfied and searching for more. Everyone around me seems to be set and happy with their lot but I am on that neverending quest and nothing seems to ever be enough

Jazz said...

Susan--
I suspect that many of the people who appear to be "happy" with their lot in life are not happy at all, but are hiding it well so that everyone else will think they are successful. It takes a lot of extra work to figure out how to build a life that is meaningful to you and not what our culture tells us is meaningful. Too many people have bought into this culture's shallow messages that what we need to be happy is to be well-liked and to make lots of money so we can have stuff. There aren't many of us who are willing or able to look beyond that and seek meaning in our lives...but I honestly think that finding meaning in your life is part of the key to finding wellness.

Annie said...

Susan, What a fine post! I understand what it means to search for meaning especially since I am on disability. I feel the search is sometimes the meaning of my life. As I share my journey and the few meanings I have found in my life I feel a sense of arrival. It is then when another search begins. Thanks for your inspirational post. Peace Annie

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Catatonic Kid,
You're welcome. The other day when I left a comment on your blog about "everything clicking," this was part of the answer.

Sometimes it felt like I wasn't making progress, but I persisted. And other times I realized that each job or pursuit in which I added a new skill set, expanded my self-knowledge, or perfected my craft, was really important.

I'll write more about this tomorrow, but I just wanted to explain it to you a bit better.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Girlblue,
In my case, writing truly was the "work" I'd been seeking. The answer was finding the right topic, the right audience, and right kind of writing, which (for me) is a combination of writing books and now this blog, and perhaps other types of writing in the future.

In a sense, everything I have done led me to this place. I hope that ends up being true for you.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
I couldn't agree more. I do believe finding meaning has played a critical role in finding wellness.

When I was struggling so mightily, it's not that I felt I wanted what anyone else had. It's just that I sometimes wished I was as easily satisfied as they were, because it was so difficult wanting more.

It's only now that the pain and struggle has ended that I feel it was all worthwhile. There were so many years when I worried I'd still be struggling until I was on my deathbed.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Annie,
One of the values of blogging (for me) has been the opportunity to share and to get a response. For most of my life, I kept all this inside and it was truly suffocating.

I could truly relate to what you wrote, "As I share my journey and the few meanings I have found in my life I feel a sense of arrival."

Susan