I am what people call a “good student.” Despite exams and compulsory sports, I liked school (most of the time: early classes weren’t fun). I was certain this would carry over to university. Therefore, it was a bit of a shock when, after a term or two, I started thinking that perhaps university wasn’t for me.
My biggest goal in life is to be a successful published author. Accordingly, I decided to study English literature and creative writing at university. However, as I lived a hectic life of scribbling essays and attending seminars, reading books I didn’t like and scribbling some more essays, the whole effort seemed pointless. ‘I want to be an author,’ I thought. ‘University isn’t helping me achieve that goal.’ What was the point of doing a Bachelor’s degree, and eventually a Master’s degree, except for ensuring that I would have a “stable job” and “secure future” after graduation? It wouldn’t help me be an author. It was only preparing me for my back-up plan, in case I failed as a writer. This was what I grumbled about as I drowned in deadlines.
But recently, in the calm after the storm (the storm being exam period), I began to think. Being at university has taught me so much. Both in classes and out, every experience has been a lesson. I’ve made choices I regretted (leaving reading to the last minute? Never. Again.) and choices I’ve been proud of. I’ve learnt how to write better, how to network. I’ve learnt how to cook and how to manage my time better. I’ve even learnt when to use a colon instead of a semi colon.
And I’ve realised that I’m not going to magically become an author. I have to take initiative of that goal and make my own way towards it, instead of hoping that my circumstances will somehow carry me there. This is true no matter where I am, or where I would be if I had chosen not to go to university. In the end, I am not wasting my time. Being at university is forcing me to work on my back-up plan, yes, but it’s also teaching me how to handle multiple tasks so that I can simultaneously work on my main goal. It’s preparing me for life after graduation, whatever that may be. It is up to me whether I leave as an author or not. It is up to me whether I waste my time or not, because I create my own meaning in life.
2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life”
Very profound thoughts, and well presented. I just read about the importance of meaning in life in a book on management which I want to share. The following is a quote from “The 80-20 manager: Ten ways to become a great leader” by Richard Koch:
“Nothing is more important than achieving meaning in your life. Viktor Frankl, the Austrian doctor and philosopher, wrote one of the most important books of the last century, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, after he was liberated from Dachau concentration camp. Meaning, he said, derives from achievement — from creating something or performing a deed that derives from your unique imagination and talents. When we crave meaning but cannot find it, we use money, sex, entertainment or even violence as substitutes. We think these will make us happy, but they don’t. Indeed, the very search for happiness is misguided because it comes only when we are _not_ looking for it — at that moment when we find meaning by losing ourselves in productive self-expression. Happiness is a by-product of leading a life with meaning. ‘Only the unfulfilment of potential is meaningless,’ said Frankl, ‘not life itself.’ Bertrand Russell put it slightly differently: ‘Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness.’ “
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Thank you for sharing! I guess meaning and happiness – and doing what you love – can be seen as interrelated (or even as the same thing), depending on how you choose to look at things.