On Finding Purpose

Calm sunset moments from my boathouse!

Often, I face this looming question of what I am doing right now as a student and how it impacts me in the long run. It is a challenging issue to tackle that borders on the conversation of imposter syndrome, feeling burnt out, wondering if anything you do is enough, and so much more doubt and scrutiny.

It is easy to compare yourself to others, especially when you see others succeed while sometimes feeling stagnant. You become harsh on yourself, holding yourself to higher standards you may not have on others. There is always a question or a fear that your actions will not matter as the future is unpredictable, and perhaps your life is one big mystery. But I’ve recently come across this idea in one of my classes from a French philosopher, Simone Weil, in her book Gravity and Grace, who conceptualized and helped me reason about this difficult struggle of facing life’s challenges. Weil writes, “I also am other than what I imagine myself to be. To know this is forgiveness.” In simple terms, I see this quote as the idea that there is an image of yourself in your mind that you have created. This imaginary self is different from your actual being, who you put out into the world, and to truly understand the difference means to be kind to yourself and accepting of this fact.

Relating to finding purpose, it is easy to be caught up in the motions of perhaps working on your next assignment or trying to find your next summer job. You may have an image of an ambitious, successful student with a 4.0 while juggling being president of a club and working a part-time job. These attributes are great to strive for, but you may have yet to attain all of these goals or fully grasp what you want to do during college or post-grad life. Weil’s quote, and I’ve genuinely come to believe, is that it is essential to remember that the person you thought you were or are hoping to become is not your current self, which is okay. 

On my team, there has been discussion on working through and trusting the process. On paper, our end goal, the pinnacle of our season, would be winning our events at our spring championship races. Whether we win or lose our races will not determine the work I and many others have put into our training and purpose on the team. The idea of winning is “other than” the reality of where I am in my rowing career and is merely part of the journey. It comes in the form of pushing past obstacles and self-doubt on the journey, knowing I am doing everything I can now. To know this is to be a winner. There has been a mindset shift that perhaps it is not about the result but, instead, the journey, and that truly is something I would rather have defined myself and my purpose than anything else.

With this anecdote in mind, I want to stress the importance of trust, care, and understanding. These aspects are not something that will come naturally. Working through all that school and life are pushing at you will strengthen your resilience and dedication to your purpose, allowing you to look back fondly on all the work you have put in and be excited about the next chapter.

Enjoy a great burger with this coupon at a crazy good place!

By Lecia Sun

Lecia is a student at Tufts University studying Classics and World Literature. When she is not reading, she can be found attempting the New York Times Games, trying out a new creative hobby, and dreaming about her next great bake. 

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