As I enter the third act of my life, I have become aware that I have developed a very different response (OK, let’s call it what it is, a reaction) to the idea of purpose. All of my life I have considered myself lucky to have had a strong sense of purpose, and while my purpose has changed throughout the years, the feeling that I’m needed here on the planet has usually been a steady thing.

Whatever our age or our level of awareness about the matter, we all struggle with the idea of purpose and have a difficult time when we feel that our purpose has shifted. The transition time can be a struggle. Questions like “What do I do now?” “What is God’s (the Universe’s) will/plan for me?” “Who will I be now?” and “What do I have to offer at this point?” are very common. The phrase “When one door closes, another one opens…but it’s the hallways that get you!” is a comfort at these times. It lets us know that others have been through what we feel now and have made it out to the other side.

In the past several years, I have come face to face with much mortality. I’ve had several significant deaths and losses, worked through major difficult challenges, moved cross country and--like all who are reading this--survived a pandemic. It has shifted my perspective about purpose.

I no longer feel that I need one. I don’t have a purpose. I am a purpose. I rather resent the idea that each one of us must somehow prove to the world that we are worthy of being here. But do we? How much of this idea is civic responsibility? How much of it is manipulative guilt that drives the capitalistic systems we are part of?

Of course we must all do our part to keep the world in motion, to take care of children and  others who need assistance, and to be responsible for our societies and our planet. This is a part of living ethically. But the idea that I must have a purpose? That’s another story.

Is it that I need a purpose? Or is it that I need a place? If I have a place in my community that feels secure, I may not actually need a purpose. I don’t have to prove to anyone that I am worthy or that I am valuable, because I already know that I belong. I know that I am loved, I know that I am accepted, I am part of the whole, I am held.

In this reality, I am free to be creative, to change positions or roles in my community, to care for others when needed and to care for myself. I can play more. I can explore more. I am not under such a strong onus to produce. I have nothing to prove.

But how do we find such a place?

The answer is, we don’t. We create these places. We create them by being kind, by giving when we can, by concern for people around us. We create them by practicing humility, by being a student of those we don’t understand, and by cultivating forgiveness in ourselves. No, our communities and the people in them will not be perfect, and there will always be people within them that we may need to avoid. But if we create a kind and giving ethos in our sphere, we have been part of creating a space, a place, where purpose is not necessary. We are our purpose. We are that place.

Dr Rosalyn Dischiavo

Dr. Rosalyn Dischiavo EdD, MA, CSES, is a sexologist, professor, former family therapist, and a professional sexuality educator. She is the Founder & Director of Institute for Sexuality Education & Enlightenment, and the author of “The Deep Yes, the Lost Art of True Receiving.” Dr. Dischiavo is also currently President of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) as well as past Professional Education Steering Committee Chair on the Board of AASECT. She is a Certified Sexuality Educator and a Certified Sexuality Educator Supervisor.

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