Slowing Down to Find Our Purpose

By: Madison Newman

I thought I knew what I wanted when I started my senior year of college. I had plans and clear steps to reach my goals. Those objectives were not necessarily easy nor guaranteed; however, I felt somewhat secure. It would happen. I would go to that graduate school. I would move to that city. I would get that specific job. And, from there, I assumed that everything else I wanted would fall into place: getting to travel, meeting someone and getting married, moving to a specific state, and having a family. I planned it all. It had to happen.

And yet, plans change. I started to wonder whether or not I truly wanted the things I had planned for. Suddenly, my idea of the perfect school and perfect career shifted. Then, we were sent home from school because of the COVID-19 pandemic. From there, it just seemed as if things kept falling apart. I felt like I was floating without an anchor. A year later, I still feel insecure in my “plans”: I don’t know if they will manifest, or if I even want them to.

Too often, we link our worth to our identifiers or accomplishments: how many degrees we have, how many friends we make, how many job offers we get. I knew that, when I made plans for the future, I was equating success with happiness. My purpose was to do certain things. Perhaps that is why I have felt such fear thinking about the future recently.

A friend and I have talked a lot recently about how we are struggling. We’re burnt out. Focusing on school or our jobs has been difficult. We feel lost. I think a lot of people are probably experiencing the same emotions. Everyone is hurting in some way.

We have also talked a lot about being gentle with ourselves. For the first time, I am looking to find purpose outside of my achievements. I am finding small things that make me happy: going on walks, making new playlists, and watching reruns of my favorite show. I try and find ways to slow down. I read devotionals in the morning now before getting up. I get more enjoyment out of making a nice breakfast and eating it mindfully instead of rushing to start my day. I honor Sundays as the Sabbath and don’t do homework. For the first time, I am looking to be present in the moment.

Perhaps this is how we truly find our purpose. When I started slowing down I noticed that I could love greater. I could show more kindness to others. I could keep in better contact with people I care about. I could learn more about myself, my boundaries, and my hopes. I could focus on my values. I could start to dream about a future not based on what I get done, but on how I choose to live.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” The “not leaning on my own understanding” part is difficult. However, this unprecedented time has forced me to release control (not that I really had any to begin with) and trust in God. He has determined my purpose as His beloved; now, I can find more about it as I progress along His path for me. There is something so sweet about it despite the growing pains.

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