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Confused About Your Purpose in Life? It’s Simple.

The past year has really done a number on people. Truly good human beings are writing me and telling me that they feel like failures. They are worried about their finances and their futures. They are starting to define themselves by what has happened to them.

Several years ago, I quit my job to chase my dream of writing a book, but that book was rejected repeatedly. I was demoralized. If I wasn’t going to be “Fawn Germer, Author,” who would I be? Everybody was asking, “How’s the book coming?” “When’s the book coming out?” I felt like such a failure. I was so embarrassed.

My friends got together one day and I blurted out, “I don’t know my purpose in life.”  The outburst was met with silence and stares. Finally, Pam said, “I don’t know, either.” She was in a job she hated. Teresa said, “Me either.” One by one, we went around the room and every single one of us confessed that we didn’t know our purpose in life. I was sure that, by the time we got to Bette, we would get an answer. Bette was in the throes of chemo for ovarian cancer and, surely she had figured things out since she was facing a likely terminal outcome. But, she shook her head “no.”

Not one of us knew our purpose in life.

Time passed. I sold my book. Pam switched jobs, Teresa went back to school and Bette kept on living as best she could.

For two years, Bette lived the best life possible. Once, we went kayaking to Caladesi Island. The Gulf of Mexico was cold, yet she dove right in because she said she “thought the water was pretty.” She got a grant from the city to build a butterfly garden in her neighborhood. She spent time with family and went hiking and laughed and lived.

My book was finally published and Bette and the gang made it to my first big signing. It was a big deal for her, and she’d forced herself to rally so she could be there to support me. A day or two later, she was in the hospital again. I left on tour for several weeks, and when I got back, she began her walk into death. One day, she told me she’d seen Jesus and she wasn’t afraid.

The day came when her brother called to let me know Bette had passed away. He asked if I would write her obituary. As a journalist, I have always thought that obituaries are the most important things we will ever write because they are the last word on an individual’s life. I spent a lot of time writing Bette’s. I thought about how she’d lived her life as she faced her death. She filled every moment with as much joy as she could find. She was from a huge family and every one of her brothers and sisters took turns of coming down for a week and caring for her. I know that, when she died, there was peace. She’d defined her purpose in life by simply living her life. That obituary was not a list of accomplishments. It was the story of a woman who lived. Regardless of what life threw at her, she lived.

That was when I realized what I’d learned through her passing. Our purpose in life is to live our lives. In the end, the only thing that matters is that we breathed in our moment here and filled it with life.

I was flying off to St. Louis for an event the next morning and everything was so rushed because I’d taken time to write the obituary. I had to get my hair cut before my trip and was going to a new hair salon. I passed right by it as I sped through the darkness, then turned around on the busy six-lane road and kept searching for the salon. I moved into the two-way turn lane so I could see the numbers better on the left side of the street, but that was a terrible, terrible miscalculation. Another car was coming straight toward me, blaring his horn. We had no time to stop and nowhere to go because there was so much traffic whizzing in the other lanes.

Miraculously, a space opened up on his side and he moved into it, flipping me off as he sped past me.

Seconds later, I turned into the salon parking lot. My heart was pounding harder than it ever had. I’d come within a split second of being killed. How tragic it was, because my friend had just died after spending two years fighting so hard to live, and I had almost died because I hadn’t been paying attention.

What a profound lesson. We lose so much time by not paying attention and don’t realize what we are wasting until we face losing it. It doesn’t matter what you do for your job or where you are living or where you think you rank in society. What matters is what you do today to live and enjoy your life.

It’s so simple. Your purpose in life is to live your life.

  1. Great post, Fawn. Second time today you made me stop and think today. Also, your article of HuffPo was excellent. Okay, third time you made me stop and think today.

  2. I really have no idea what i want to say or even HOW to say whatever it is I feel after reading this! but i sure DO feel something..kind of scary, i think..maybe even a bit hopeful at the same time..

    I guess it is quite personal as i have been fighting the dreaded pit of depression for so long and NOT living at all,that i have forgotten what living a life even is. i do not FEEL as though i am living..

    me, the gal that rode a bike everywhere, shot pistols in competition statewide, traveled, rescued dogs and pot belly pigs..went to church and every 3 months went thru her roladex to write all 283 people a lil personal hello note.
    the gal that doesn’t have a roladex anymore, chased friends away..hides inside…lies on a disabilty and isn’t ‘making it’

    your article here is making me think i need to get up, walk out of my ‘hidden haven’ of a home and start walking..where to? i have no what? i have no idea..

    i sit here and read book after book, watch TV without really watching it, go into the pool with some of my 9 dogs, nap, eat and day after day time passes on.

    if not for my animals where would i be? or maybe..would i be?

    you wrote-> What a profound lesson. We lose so much time by not paying attention and don’t realize what we are wasting until we face losing it. It doesn’t matter what you do for your job or where you are living or where you think you rank in society. What matters is what you do today to live and enjoy your life.

    It’s so simple. Your purpose in life is to live your life

    my question is… ‘how?’..and sometimes i ask ‘why?’

  3. I am so touched by what you wrote. A friend once told me, “When you find yourself walking down dark streets, you’ve got to find streets with lights on them.” Look for the light. You wrote, “If not for your animals…” That is a great place to begin your gratitude moment every night. Think of every single reason you have to be thankful. Include the sun rising and the sun setting and the fact that you are alive to see them. That is how to find those light streets. And, don’t beat yourself up. Start over tomorrow. It’s a new day. A beautiful, new day — if you want it to be.

  4. “Your purpose in life is to live your life.” Yup. Nailed it again, Sis. If you’re not participating, you won’t be there when the moments happen…worse, you won’t recognize them! Both the Huffington post today and this story are so blatantly obvious in both their simplicity and their power. Go get ’em, Fawn.

    And to Hedy, above, don’t waste time asking questions; that’s just another form of paralysis; just go…do…there are so many folks who could use your help, no matter what form it takes. Read to an elderly person who has lost their sight. Walk the dog(s) of a person who’s recovering from surgery. Rock a crack baby. Teach English to a non-native. Helping someone else supplies the giver with the gift, even moreso than the receiver. There are tons and tons of agencies and opportunities for volunteering…do it for an hour, do it for a day, and get ready to receive the blessings. I don’t mean to sound preachy, I just know what has gotten me through months of unemployment and years of depression – turn outward…and watch what happens. The best of the best is what lies ahead for you. Go get ’em, and don’t ask why or how! Just do it!

  5. Thank you, Fawn. I have struggled with this very issue for decades. I’m ashamed to say I keep waiting for my “real life” to begin professionally even as I am completely doused with huge blessings in other facets of my life. Truly, I think I was drawn to your post this a.m. I feed a renewed sense of what “purpose” really means,not in terms of my lifespan, but in terms of each dayspan.

  6. I grabbed my heart when I read that, Clare.

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