I generally enjoy questions that prompt self-exploration. Here's an oldie but a goodie: "What is the meaning of life?"
Okay, that one's easy. It's 42.
The Hitchhiker's Guide aside, this is a lovely little rabbit hole of a question that I enjoy tossing around during lazy Sunday coffee dates.
There are, on the other hand, three bunny-chaser questions that punch me in the gut and the face at the same time. Here they are:
1. "What are you most passionate about?"
2. "From where do you derive purpose?"
3. "If money weren't an object, what would you do with your time?"
That last one is for the universal basic income fans out there.
If you've been following my writing at all in the last few years, you know these questions leave me bruised. I threw passion under the bus of purpose, and have since come to dislike them both equally.
To be clear, these questions are not qualitatively bad on their face. They are incredibly useful. These questions help others understand you. The trouble is I can't answer them without feeling like I am lying.
These three questions plop me into a space I call Apathyland. It's a place of self-doubt, indecision and general malaise. There's an implication in the questions that somehow you must have answers -- and not just any answer. You need to have one you can deliver with certainty, excitement and conviction.
"If you can't answer me," each questions snobbishly intones, "your life clearly can't matter for much."
I'm a generalist. I consume life like a buffet, not an entrée. I'll heap a lobster, a pot pie, a turkey burger patty, some kale (of course), a little ratatouille and a birthday-cake style cupcake with a side of blackberry cobbler all on the same plate. I don't look at the menu of life's disciplines and find satisfaction in choosing one or two things.
That comes at a cost, however. "Dilettante" is not a label easily worn with pride.
This week, I discovered a way out of Apathyland. Make a menu of your buffet choices. Write down everything you've ever liked doing. Even if you can't stand doing it now, write it down. Who cares if it's not some deeply complex hobby? Write it down.
A meaningful life isn't about always having a purpose or passion project on hand you can use to impress people at parties. It's about enjoying whatever moment you're in, knowing there are things you've done, there are things you'll do, and neither of those groups of things is negated by the fact that you're doing absolutely nothing right now while being open to anything.
If you're one of those people with a passion project. Congratulations. That's fantastic. Baking cookies is among the many things I enjoy doing. Remind me to bake you some.
I'll get right to it after I'm done following links on Wikipedia though. Because, even though it is neither a passion nor a thing from which I derive purpose, I enjoy that too.
Oh, and Lifehacker has a "Mid-Week Meditations" series
now. This stood out to me:
"Acknowledge that your opinion of yourself and the things you like matter—maybe not to the world at large, but at least to you
Whether you have a passion, a purpose or you happily have set up camp in Apathyland, who cares? It's not anyone else's opinion of you that matters other than your own.