For Anyone Else Desperately Trying to Figure Out Their Purpose in Life

According to Google, the definition of purpose is: “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”

So, when someone asks us: “Hey, uhhh, what’s your purpose in life?” They’re asking us why we exist?

Whew.

When I was a child, I had a close family member who’d repeatedly confront me with similar questions but from a place of anger and intimidation. They’d ask 9-year-old me: “Why are you even here? What do you do around here? Nothing. You do nothing!” They knew how to break me down. I felt like I was always making mistakes and feeling I wasn’t good enough. I internalized those thoughts, and part of me is still struggling to come up with a good response.

But I’m healing.

And, I’ve come a long long way. I bet you have too.

Maybe you’ve had some bullies in your life. Maybe someone has made you feel like less without even meaning to, but you still question your impact, your meaning, your reason for being. Am I doing enough?

Maybe you saw a groundbreaking TED talk, or you heard the news about an amazing child prodigy, or your friend told you about someone who has this really cool start-up. What am I even doing with my life?

Perhaps, you’ve found yourself scrolling on social media late at a night and feeling like everyone but you is living their best lives.

Or maybe you go deeper with it and ask yourself: “Is there even a reason for me to be here? Do I even have a purpose? And if I don’t, what’s that mean about my existence.”

A lot of us end up here. You’re not alone. 

We spiral and find ourselves viewing our lives as meaningless and worthless because we aren’t doing what others are doing. We internally berate ourselves for not accomplishing what we could be accomplishing based on our qualifications, ability, privilege, network, or training.

We convince ourselves that we don’t measure up.

We tell ourselves that we’ll matter more when we get the job, the spouse, the money, the degree, the _____.

Sadly, our self-worth can often be completely tied up in everything we don’t have and everything we feel like we’re not.

We can find ourselves in the happiest experiences of our lives (like truly thriving), only to be swept under the waves of self-doubt and misery moments later, when we realize we don’t have ourselves all figured out yet. Or when we hastily push ahead and set another goal to accomplish. Or when we realize that some parts of us are still broken.

But, here’s the truth of it: all of us have brokenness. All of us have doubt. All of us have shame. And still, our lives have meaning.

Each of us has the capacity to add something to the communities we live in, the churches we’re a part of, the families we care for, the schools we attend, and the strangers we meet. We can make all those places a little better. Often we’re doing this by simply showing up and being ourselves – our clumsy, unsure, brilliant, zestful, intelligent selves.

Yes, I’m still talking about you and me.

Photo of person of color standing near wall. Grafiti is on wall. Person of color is wearing a blue jacket.
Photo by Michael Afonso on Unsplash

I think we get to break up the concept of purpose into smaller and more realistic pieces. Instead of asking: “Why am I here?” ask yourself about what you enjoy, what breaks your heart, who has thanked you recently about something you did for them, what you’re good at – like naturally good at, or what you work hard at even though you don’t get paid for it.

Ask yourself about what you’ve made it through. Ask yourself about how resilient you’ve been. Ask yourself about the things no one can ever take from you.

What excites you – or what used to? What do you care about – even if others don’t find it the least bit interesting.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about these questions, and here’s what I came up with.

Pieces of my purpose: To be a kind, good, and caring husband. To be a supportive older brother and supportive to others in my family. To be a solid and dependable friend. It breaks my heart to know that others are struggling in silence with mental illness. I find myself thinking of ways to help others take better care of themselves – this keeps me up at night.  I also find myself thinking of ways to create community with other black men around issues of health and wellness, because so many of us are dying and suffering from preventable issues. I enjoy doing improv, writing, connecting with people, dancing, and bringing people together. If I wasn’t afraid, I would go all in on my dreams – I’m getting closer. Even at my lowest points, my worst moments, my biggest failures, I am still loved. I wholeheartedly believe part of my reason for being on this earth is to share God’s light with others through my work. I’ve often struggled to communicate this, because I feel like saying I’m a Christian and I love doing the work of the Lord turns others off, but it’s who I am. So here it is: I love Jesus. And if you don’t, I’m cool with that, and I still love you and celebrate you and think you get to have the big wondrous life you want to live. I find that leading and living from my heart makes all the different. It’s about love for me. That’s the big picture. Lastly, I believe I’ve had a positive impact on the lives of many just by showing up and being kind.

And, there’s so much more to me.

There’s so much more to you.

If you’re struggling to get unstuck from feeling like you have to have your entire life figured out today, I encourage you to pause, take a deep breath, and find some time to reflect on the topic of purpose in a different way. Remember to break it up.

 

Here are some questions to ask yourself this week, as you dig into this topic a little more. 
I don’t suggest trying to respond to every one, it’s not a test. See which question tugs at you the most, kicks up stuff for you the most, or just feels most salient for you right now.

  • What issue or idea has been keeping me up at night?
  • What’s been breaking my heart?
  • What am I already doing that has a positive impact on the lives of others – if only a little?
  • What have my friends, family, or strangers thanked me for lately? 
  • What would I create, add to, join, or show up for if I had the resources and wasn’t afraid?
  • What have I been hesitant to tell others about who I am and what I believe? 

Oh, and I just gotta say this. Sometimes, we need to put down the journal, and get out, do something, and shake things up. I’ve personally found that taking action is a healthy way to move through the anxiety of trying to figure out ALL THE THINGS. This means signing up to volunteer service, joining a book club, attending a free lecture at a nearby college campus, or signing up for a workshop gets you out of your comfort zone. Thinking and reflection are necessary, and so is getting lost in experiences, meeting people you’ve never met, and doing things you never thought you could do.

Perhaps you won’t find the entire meaning for your life by doing this (you don’t need to), but you will learn something about yourself. You will take memories with you, and you will hopefully feel a little more alive.

You do not have to know your purpose in life to have meaning on this earth.

You don’t even have to be living on purpose to be belong here.

You already belong, and you’re already enough just because of the fact that you’re living and breathing. Those are the prerequisites. Live. Breathe.

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Have you heard of Sinclair.ity? I send emails to wonderful and amazing people every single week. I do this because I appreciate it when someone speaks their truth. If you can use some real talk in your life each Monday, visit the sign up pageThank you for being you.

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Why Transitions are the Worst and What to Do About It

Goodbyes suck.

I hate the feeling of leaving someone, something behind. I’m not a fan of leaving my bed in the morning. And don’t get me started on season finales – I’m a mess.

The space between the familiar and the unknown feels unnerving. You know?

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I’ve moved a ton of times in my life, and often, the most challenging part is not knowing what my new home will be like. Who will I befriend? How will I deal with the inevitable loneliness?  Will I find a favorite spot to eat again? 

As we prepare to enter another graduation season, crawl through the not-so-evident shift from winter to spring, and struggle with embracing the flux of life, I cannot help but think of transition today.

Transitions bring about a certain flavor of uncertainty. It can feel like there’s this invisible force pushing us toward something uncomfortable. At times, we get fixated on the worst possible outcome.

My therapist taught me to interrupt my anxious thinking with thoughts like: “What if things work out” and “What if all my hard work pays off?” 

So, I’m passing that onto you wherever you are, whatever you’re leaving, or whomever you’re becoming.

Consider the notion that things might actually work out. This isn’t an exercise in empty optimism. Bring your full self to the most hopeful space you can. Imagine that this pending change might bring good with it.

The other side of this upcoming transition could be exactly what you’ve been needing.

It’s scary. But, there’s a lesson waiting for you when you arrive.

Take hope with you. Always.

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Have you heard of Sinclair.ity? I send emails to wonderful and amazing people every single week. I do this because I appreciate it when someone speaks their truth. It helps me to feel a little more okay.  If you can use some real talk in your life each Monday, sign up hereThank you for being you.

One Way to Add Love to Our World

A very close friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. It was heartbreaking. I searched for ways I could help, but none seemed sufficient because my friend was 3,000 miles away. A few days passed, and a thought hit me: What if this isn’t about how I can help? What if it’s more about how I can add love? 

I knew exactly what to do, but didn’t know if it would work.

I’d heard about an amazing person named Hannah Brencher, who started a global organization called The World Needs More Love Letters. Anyone could share a loved one’s story with Hannah’s team, and said love one would receive love letters, notes, and inspirational snail mail from around the world.

I submitted my request, prayed, and hoped for the best. It worked. Everything happened so fast.

My friend’s story was posted to Hannah’s website (which I bet gets like a gazillion hits a year). Over the course of several weeks, I received over 500 letters. Some letters were simple, some spoke about other individuals struggles with cancer, but each letter was genuine. I got down to business. I read every single letter, and created a massive bundle for my friend. Some moments were filled with me thinking: Wow, a lot of people out here are hurting. Other moments were filled me feeling thankful for kind strangers. I’d cry. I’d laugh. And, I grew to feel even more empathetic for my loving friend who was – and still is – one of the most caring people in the world.

I found a way to add love.

Sometimes, we get so overwhelmed with all the sickness, hurt, meanness, and unfairness in our world. We might think: I don’t even know where I can begin to help. That’s real. There are no easy answers. I think what maters is that we take some type of action. It could be helping someone with their college application, or shoveling your neighbor’s car out of the snow. It could be organizing a fundraiser, or being more intentional about checking your own problematic ways of speaking.

A lack of options is not the issue. It’s often more challenging to have too many options. So, let me help you out by presenting you with one simple, yet meaningful way to inspire someone you’ve never even met,.

Hannah and her team are currently in the midst of a campaign called The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing. Each day, a new story is posted, and folks have the opportunity to rally their friends, peers, family, and loved ones, to send letters to the designated recipient.  Today marks day 8, and I’m happy to be promoting this particular story. My challenge to you is to not only write a letter to this person, but to get one or two friends to as well. You can share this email with them, tweet the campaign’s website, or just call them up and write your letters over a cup of hot chocolate.

Here’s the story:

Many individuals face tragic + difficult circumstances in life, and Lacey is no stranger to those types of circumstances. Her friend shared with us:

“Lacey is an incredible individual; she’s like a lightning bolt of energy, love, and encouragement. I met Lacey a few years ago and learned that she had been diagnosed with not just one, but four incurable brain, neurological, and spinal conditions. It’s been a long road for Lacey and her husband, as they’ve journeyed together through her three brain surgeries, consecutive recoveries, and day to day life.

Lacey has been a force to be reckoned with and continues to be a source of positivity and joy to those around her. This fall she began school again, to earn her doctorate in medical anthropology in hopes of helping others who have experienced similar life-changing diagnoses. There are still rough days for Lacey, both physically and emotionally, and I want to show her that she won’t be defined by her medical history, but the future she chooses for herself.”

Please join us as we send that same encouragement + love to Lacey that she so readily spreads!

PLEASE MAIL ALL LOVE LETTERS BY DECEMBER 20 TO:

Lacey’s bundle

℅ Beeta L.

519 S. Anaheim Blvd

Anaheim, CA 92805

USA

There it is. It’s an opportunity for you to add love and inspire hope for Lacey. Will you join me in sending her some uplifting snail mail?

 

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It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

We can have everything we need in life, and still feel like crap. Our bills can be paid. Our jobs can be awesome. Our friends can be the most amazing people in the universe. But, we can still find ourselves feeling unsettled, upset, or depressed.

This isn’t about being ungrateful.

It’s about watching everything in your life fall into place while negative messages float through your brain…

“This is great, but I want more.”

“I feel like I’m not doing enough.”

“I don’t deserve any of this.” 

“People will think I’m weak if I step away from all this. But, I really need a break. I can’t keep this up.”

“I have so much now, but if I make one mistake, this will all go away. I can’t mess this up. I can’t.” 

So many of us are silently suffering. Some of us our grieving. Some of us are working to heal our wounds. Some of us are just trying to get out of bed every day and be a person. But, people don’t always get this or take the time to understand. They’re confused when we’re not feeling okay, especially when our lives appear to be in good shape.

The reality is that our insides don’t always match our circumstances. They don’t have to. Mine haven’t.

Things have been going really well for me lately. Improv is awesome. Family life is great. My health is on the up and up. At the same time, I’ve had some intense moments with my anxiety. Between the shortness of breath, and racing thoughts, I have no idea of how I’ve been able to show up to life. Prayer has helped. Rest has helped. But, it’s been rough. At some point, I realized that it’s okay for me to feel successful and a little terrible at the same time. It’s okay for me to have bad days and bad weeks.

It’s okay to not feel okay.

It’s okay to be afraid of losing that new person you’re with, or gaining back all that weight you just lost. It’s okay to be doing well in school, and at the same time be experiencing family issues that have your mind in two places. There’s no such thing as perfection.

There is a such thing as beating yourself up for not being perfect.

You’re never going to be perfect. None of us are. Even on the best day of your life, things will still get messy and go wrong.

I’m the kind of person who overthinks so much that it’s difficult for me to even leave the house in the morning. I don’t want things to go wrong. I’m not comfortable with the fact that life is in constant flux

Part of me realizes that we get to show up to this messy world with frowns on our faces, tears in our eyes, and pain in our hearts. We get to come as we are, even on days when we’re called to smile and be positive, because no one should be expected to be happy all the time. No one should be expected to have it all together.

You don’t have to have it all together, despite what others say.

You don’t have to keep smiling and responding with: “I can’t complain” when someone asks you how you’re doing.

Be honest the next time someone asks you about your day. Don’t be afraid to bring the mood down. Allow the other person to make room for your energy, and be open enough to make room for theirs.

Part of what fuels the stigma around mental illness, is a culture that views anyone having a bad day as weak, abnormal, or in need of a stiff drink. We need to spend more time with our emotions, and with the emotions of others. We need to share more. We need to empathize with others more. We need to hear the stories of those who are hurting (which is most people you interact with on a daily basis).

We get to be real with each other, because real is what a lot of us need and want.

Your feelings are valid. Your hurt is valid. Your hope is valid. And you, all of you, is who we need to survive.

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Your Words Hold Power

“Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.” —Maggie Kuhn

 

Your words hold power. They do. Think about how impactful words told to you as a child were. Consider the stinging insults from the playground bully. Or, the advice from the family member who made you feel invincible.

Words hold power. Your words hold power.

And yet, how often are we called to use our words before we feel ready? How often are we called to speak up when no one else seems to care?  Our words still matter. They matter when we stutter. They matter when we overthink them before saying anything.

At times, unspoken words can have the greatest impact. They can do the most violence.

Your words matter.

You might be in a situation right now where you’re doubting yourself. Imposter syndrome has crept back in.

You’re being asked to present, teach, or proclaim, and you’re thinking: “They have the wrong person. I’m not ready for this. I’m not right for this.”  Let me tell you something: you were called to the table for a reason. You are right for this. Someone saw brilliance, answers, and better questions in you.

It’s your time to say what needs to be said. Offer up your opinions. Challenge the status quo. Say what only you can say: your truth. Don’t settle.

I know, it’s scary to be impeccable with our words. It can be frightening to tell others what we’re really thinking. What if we give them something to use against us in the future?

What if?

What if you say something that could help shift someone else’s story? What if your words are the difference between joy and pain for the person you didn’t even know was listening?  What if your words could liberate?

They can. They have. They will.

Speak up.

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Being Black in 2017: The Allyship and Understanding I Still Need! [Podcast Episode!]

I had the absolute honor to be a guest on Jamie Piperato‘s Social Justice and Inclusion Podcast for Higher Ed Professionals! I’m still glowing from this opportunity and am so happy to be able to share it with you. Listen here. 

Here’s the abstract: 

Sometimes people from marginalized groups feel like they are the spokesperson for their entire population. What we know is that this responsibility is both burdensome and unnecessary. If only people would do their homework more before asking things like “Why are Black folx so upset about police brutality” or “What’s the big deal with Trump being elected?” or “Can you explain micro-aggressions one more time?” These questions can often be well-intentioned, but the impact is often grating and frustrating. We need to be more informed about those to whom we call ourselves allies.

Here are some key points from the episode: 

  • The importance of doing your homework and research
  • How to approach allyship
  • How to stop letting fear keep you from using your voice

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Check it out. Share it with someone who needs to hear it. Learning to be an ally is a never-ending educational process.

 

 


Have you heard of Sinclair.ity? I send emails to wonderful and amazing people every single week. I do this because I appreciate it when someone speaks their truth. It helps me to feel a little more okay.  If you can use some real talk in your life each Monday, sign up here. Thank you for being you.

Fake Love: Letting Go Of People Who Bring You Down

I had a crappy middle school experience both inside and outside of the classroom. I told a snippet of my embarrassing story to around 700 people on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 with the Stoop Storytelling Series. After the show, several audience members came up to me, and briefly shared their emotional reactions and stories about bullying or feeling left out. What I learned is that we’ve all had some dark childhood moments, and many of us haven’t told a soul.

I also realized I’m holding on to toxic relationships. I’m still pouring myself into bottomless glasses. It’s draining and it’s unfair.

I turn 30 this year, and it’s causing me to re-evaluate many of the important things in my life. This month, my focus has been on friends.

Namely, I’ve been thinking about:

  • How often I try to hard to make friends – and keep them
  • The people in my life who seem to reject who I am, yet, I still try to get them to like me
  • The people who I’ve given so much to, yet, they provide so little in return

A former colleague recently reminded me to continue meeting people where they are. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s what helps me connect with my college students. But, there needs to be a line with it comes to personal friendships and the people I invest continual energy in. I can meet people where they are and love them, but I don’t have to stay where they are. I’m realizing that I do have some things I need from my friends, and not everyone is willing to give it (and that’s okay).

Here’s a list of my non-negotiables.

I want friends who:

  • Are adventurous and outgoing
  • Are willing to share some deeper parts of themselves
  • Aren’t afraid to ask themselves big questions
  • Give to others and serve others
  • Are aware of issues facing marginalized/erased/oppressed people and don’t just ignore them
  • Love me for who I am and respect me
  • Want to make roots in or near Baltimore for the next several years

They don’t need to:

  • Have everything figured out
  • Be anywhere near perfect – no one is
  • Be enlightened
  • Be successful
  • Be a completely open book

I encourage you to take some time and make these list too. 

Some would say I’m being too picky, and I’d agree. We get to be selective.Think about it: we can’t pick our family, our co-workers, or the dude sitting next to us on the bus. But, we have a say in who we call friends.

I have been too open and too afraid to choose the people I want in my life. I’ve been under the impression that I need to take whoever shows me love. This has been damaging.

I’ve also been trusting people too quickly out of desperation. I need to take more time to let the relationship build. This means sharing a little less of myself, and not putting in so much investment after one meet up. At the end of the day – if I’m being honest – I’ve been lacking consistent connection for the past several years. It has a lot to do with attending college in Jersey, volunteering in three different cities in Oregon, moving to Pennsylvania, and then living two different places in Maryland.

That’s a lot of good-byes. So, now I’m wanting to be more grounded.

I’m realizing it’s worth it to take new relationships more slowly. If they don’t want me, I can’t make them stay, and I don’t need to make them stay.  It’s worth it to be mindful about the people in my life. Jim Rohn said we’re theaverage of the five people we spend the most time with.  

Here are my goals for friendship for the rest of 2017:

1. Befriend more men of color – especially Black men
2. Set better boundaries with people who are taking life away from me (mean people, jerks, those who threaten my Blackness, people who are myopic, people who intentionally make life harder for others, etc.)
3. Position myself to meet the people I’m wanting to find by volunteering, attending fun events in the community, and hosting more dinners/brunches.
4. Continue to connect with pen-pals and long distance friends
5. Pour more into my marriage – Tyensha is my BESTEST friend of all.

So, what about you?

Are you holding on to toxic relationships? Have you honestly been feeling a bit lonely or desperate to connect with others? Know that you’re not alone.

No one has it all figured out – stop believing what you see on social media. We move to new places, we leave home, we marry, we go off the grid, we take time to find ourselves, and sometimes all our friends just up and leave. We all have reasons why we are where we are. We also get to choose the people we keep in our lives. So who are you wanting to keep?

Who do you need to let go?


Have you heard of Sinclair.ity? I send emails to wonderful and amazing people every single week. I do this because I appreciate it when someone speaks their truth. It helps me to feel a little more okay.  If you can use some real talk in your life each Monday, sign up here. Thank you for being you.