For as long as I can remember, I've had a gnawing feeling at the back of my consciousness. I've tried to shake it — believe me, I've tried — but it's always there, floating around the back of my head like storm clouds just over the horizon. Sometimes I can ignore it, but never for very long. Although it has been my lifelong companion, I haven't been able to identify this feeling until recently.
Here it is. I've always felt that I am filling my life with busywork to distract myself from the difficult task of figuring out who I am, what my purpose in life is, and what I need to do about it.
I have felt this way not only when doing actual busywork, but also when doing things that are ostensibly worthwhile. I have felt this way while reading classic literature in high school, serving inner-city kids on a college mission trip, improving my skills at chess and Scrabble, playing volleyball on the Lake Michigan beach, fixing computers, and writing blog posts. I've felt this way while studying history and religion, which is ridiculous because I love those two subjects so much that I have often spent all my spare time learning more about them. Maybe love isn't the right word. Maybe it's more like obsession to the point of distraction, which is sort of the point.
Joining the LDS church quelled the feeling of distraction very well, because church-related activities will suck away all your time if you let them. That was one of the things I liked best about it. There's precious little time to discover your true self, when you're losing yourself in the Lord's work. And when I was reading my scriptures, preparing lessons, and attending ward activities, I felt like I was making the world a better place. In some ways, I was. At the same time, much of it was definitely busywork, and none of it was my true calling. Someone else assigned me a plausible life purpose, and I happily followed it. I feel like I've been indulging that avoidance mechanism for my entire life. Mormonism was perhaps the biggest distraction I've ever provided for myself.
I have filled my time with plenty of other distractions, too. Competitive chess and Scrabble, computer programming, amateur astronomy, foreign languages, skepticism, reading, podcasts, and way too much time on Facebook. These are all worthwhile pursuits, and I believe I am a better person because of them. But they're not who I am, and they're not what I ultimately want to do with my life. Unless they are, but I haven't figured that out yet.
I think it's likely that I'm already doing some of the things I ought to be doing with my life, probably not to the extent I ought to be doing them. Or maybe I should be doing something I haven't discovered yet. Who knows? Because I haven't identified my purpose yet, everything feels like a distraction. Of course, even if I find my true calling in life, it's impossible to break free of all distractions without joining a Zen monastery. Hm, maybe I ought to join a Zen monastery. At least I have given this feeling a name, and I will let it inform my life instead of ominously looming over it.
So what's my point? What's my purpose? I don't know, but I want to find out. I am the only person who can determine the right answer to this question. That's assuming the question has an answer, but I suspect it does. Has anyone else felt like this? If so, and if you have found any answers to this question for yourself, how did you find them?