I first came across Mark Manson’s article on life purpose a few years ago. At the time, I answered the questions quickly in my head without giving it much thought.
I stumbled across it again recently and was surprised how much my answers had changed. Between my first reading and the present, I’ve moved abroad twice, finished college, been through a health breakdown, and am currently sort of floundering for what my life purpose is.
Firstly, I love the opening story of Manson’s brother, who, at the age of 18, knew he wanted to be a Senator and went on to do everything in his power to become one. Manson rightly says his brother is a freak – although as a multipotentialite, I would just call him a specialist.
Secondly, Manson gave me a big wake-up call when he says;
Here’s the truth. We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time. – Mark Manson
Of course that’s what life is, but as someone who was intent on finding her purpose in life and how to best use her life for the earth and so on and so forth, it was both jarring and refreshing to realize that my life is just a series of some things.
Manson goes on to say that instead of asking what we should do with our lives, we should be asking, “What can I do with my time that’s important?”
So here are Manson’s 7 strange questions and my answers.
1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?
Right now, my answer is writing. Writing, as all writers know, isn’t really about the writing. It’s about the psych-up and coming around to it. It’s the notecards and weird midnight text messages you leave yourself with ideas. It’s the getting up for coffee and then more coffee and the wondering if you have carpal tunnel. It’s searching for the perfect notebook to take notes in, and the guilt knowing you’re wasting all this time NOT writing.
The writing takes about 10%, I would guess, of a writer’s actual writing time. We deal with it. It’s the shit sandwich. But the olive (or bacon, in my case, I hate olives) is so, so good.
2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?
I don’t wear what I want. My style is dictated by comfort, budget, and my perceived body shape failures, not by what I like.
Four months ago I would have said being a teacher though, so it’s some improvement.
3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?
Such a delicate question, Mark. Well, for me, right now, it’s D&D. I’m working on campaign prep for my first ever full DM experience, and when I’m in the midst of planning, time just evaporates.
Another big one is, as Mark mentions, getting lost in a fantasy world. Good stories just capture me, and I’ll read four hours straight in a good book (or play four hours in a game or watch four hours of a show – wherever I find a good story).
I wish I had written writing, but it’s not true. I spend a lot of my writing time thinking about lunch.
4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?
One, in D&D, I’m going to be the DM for a group of 6 players, of whom I know 1. So I will need to be gregarious, extroverted, attentive, and goofy to make it all work. I’m so, so willing to do that.
Two, in writing, I’m embarrassing myself weekly with the flash fiction Friday things. I know they aren’t great, but I still keep putting them out there. Poetry too. Oh man do I embarrass myself. Let me do more.
5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?
Realistically, Mark? I have no idea. But I’d like to start volunteering. I have this great idea to take my two great passions, writing and D&D, and bring them to kids or the elderly. I wish the 826 Organization had a chapter near me, but they don’t. Hey, maybe I could start-
6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Barring having to make money doing something, I’d pick something like foraging in the forest in Romania, or learning to sail in the Hebrides, or writing in a cabin on the cliffs of Scotland. Something tame, you know.
Really, at this moment, I’d just like to play and DM D&D forever. But I’m in one of my obsessive moods, so ask me in a week.
7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?
I’d definitely start a local chapter of 826, and then I’d write a letter to each one of my friends and family, and then I’d write a journal detailing my year waiting for death to be published posthumously.
I’ll end with a quote from the article, which sums it up nicely.
Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well. And to do that you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself. – Mark Manson