Have you ever woken up with a start, heart pounding and mind struggling to catch up with your thoughts at dawn? Of course you have. There’s no way you’ve made it into adulthood without experiencing a similar episode.
What was it that jolted you from your sleep? A mountain of bills looming on the horizon? An impending graduation ceremony? That inexplicable wart residing beneath your left breast? For me, it was none of the above, and something you might consider far less dramatic. Nevertheless, it’s been niggling at my subconscious for weeks now and finally manifested into a mild panic attack. One looming question: Malaka, what do you want most out of this life?
I panicked (and am still ill at ease) because I had no ready answer for the Voice asking me this very important question. I think it’s one that we all must ask ourselves after critical stages of our human development and evolution.
After sitting with the question for some time, I came to the understanding that my unease has been stirred by the realization that I have not set new goals for myself. Every human being wants to be a better version of his/her previous self. That motivation to improve, to be better than we were yesterday is what gets us up in the morning and keeps us going, looking forward to the weeks and years ahead. Abraham Maslow described it best in his Theory of Self-actualization, which defines self–actualization to be “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially.”
As I often do when I am in a state of panic, I turn to advice and input from people I respect and admire. These people are not exceptional in the conventional ways we tend to consider the trait. They are HVAC repair guys, housewives, teachers, etc. Their exceptionalism lies in their faith, honesty and openness with which they view and receive the world. In times where it is de rigueur to take an entrenched view and never waver from it, despite the presentation of facts that shatter one’s shaky narratives, these are the people I have come to value most. So I asked them: What is the one thing you want most in this life? Their answers were ready.
“A new house.”
You sense a theme, I’m sure.
A few years ago – maybe even six months hence -my answer would’ve mirrored theirs. The Bible says ‘money answers all things’, and I believe that in some sense to be true. But it was the purchase of a lottery ticket that made me realize that acquiring money is not the goal in itself…but rather what potential money unleashes for you. What is it that’s on the other end of money that you’re after? It is THAT response that I am more interested in. It’s that answer that I am lacking in myself.
As I said, I bought a lottery ticket (something I hardly ever do) a short while ago. Before the numbers had been called, I imagined myself the recipient of a fantastic windfall and had begun spending money in my fantasy world. Then a sad realization set in. I don’t need a bigger house, because I am satisfied with the one I’ve got. I don’t need a new car because apart from needing a good detail, I am incredibly happy with my Honda Pilot. I ran down a mental list of all the things money could fix in my life and discovered that though they are nice, I don’t need any of the things money – in its limited capacity – is capable of furnishing, nor do I really want them. What I need and want is to discover my true purpose; what mark am I meant to leave in this world to make it better and less hostile for those to follow? I don’t know the answer to that yet. I suppose a good place to start is with recycling plastic.
So now it’s my turn to ask you: What do you really want most out of this life? Have you given it any thought? Where do you find yourself on Maslow’s grid…and if you died today, would you be satisfied with it?
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