Purpose or Prestige?

After going through a harrowing quarter-life crisis and FINALLY finding my purpose, what I can say is that this has been such an eye-opening experience for me in so many ways. People, embrace your quarter-life and mid-life and three-quarter life crises! They open your eyes to new dimensions!

At that point in my life (and even now), I wondered how or why someone would go to school, study, go to university and specialize in a certain course, say, business, do well in it, get a job related to the profession, then a year later, hate it. I mean, literally be bored out of their mind with their work; yet this is what they studied for, for four long years, and probably spent their childhood dreaming about (“When I grow up, I want to study business!” OK, kids don’t usually say that, but for the sake of this story, let’s allow it).

I think I expected that everyone who dreams of being a doctor will be a doctor or will at least never change their mind. I know, life is dynamic. It’s like I always have to remind myself that.

Anyway, where I was going with this is that, purpose is what matters. By purpose, I mean, what you were created on this earth to do, based on your personality, skills, abilities, talents and interests. Keep in mind that purpose can also change from time to time because for a particular season in life, you may have a different purpose from your current goals at another time.

Recently, my sister was telling me how people make money from the oddest ventures. Money is money and work is work, really (all legally obtained, of course). No one will ask you how you got your money when you’re rich so they can frown upon your humble hustle or job that gets you that money. There is a woman who goes home with hundreds of thousands of shillings a week from selling mitumba clothes. Another one makes nearly a million a month from growing some rare herbs and chillies. Basically, what I learned from this is not to judge people from what they do.

At family gatherings, when the young people congregate with the old and are asked what they do, where they are now working, etc, the parents and older generation are always pleased to hear of doctors, lawyers and other professionals, but say you are musician and the uncomfortable shifting and furtive looks that follow will be unmistakable. Why is this? Why is it more prestigious to have a law degree than to have musical talent and prowess? In reality, the musician probably makes a hundred thousand shillings on one gig. How about the lawyer? If he/she is lucky, they earn that in a month.

So what is it really about? Does prestige and cultural norm trump financial success?

I want the financial success. I want the purpose, the pursuit of it, even if it will be unglamorous, because I believe living in my purpose will put me on the path of happiness more than prestige ever will.

Your purpose, when you find it, might lead you down an unlikely path. Wangari Maathai comes to mind, her purpose at the time was saving trees and conserving the environment for a better tomorrow. Was it glamorous? Not really, especially when she was fighting for the environment and leading protests to conserve our natural forests. Did it give her fulfillment though? Yes, I’m sure it did. The satisfaction that she was doing her part in the world and in the greater scheme of things was making a difference must have been great.

It’s really about what is more important, doing your part to change the world, or looking good even though you don’t like what you are doing or couldn’t care less about the financial growth in the last quarter (if you are in the Finance Department).

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

It’s scary to go where there is no road and make your own path but I’m finding courage to make my own way.

Watch out for me, I’m going to change the world!

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