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2 minutes ago, MissLemon said:

Right, but then that's where the decision making has to come in.  If being attached to a church is a condition of teaching Sunday school, then you have to find a church you click with.  What does it take to make that happen?  If teaching means driving further to find a church, is that an acceptable cost to pay to add purpose to one's life?  

 

I think that problem solving is very rarely the core issue. Because if it was - well, I know Jenny and Regentrude are good at problem solving. 

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18 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

I was thinking about this yesterday!

I wanted to be a ballerina. 

I have no idea how to operationalize that at 50 🙂

That's what I'm saying. What would being a ballerina "do" for you?

Was it the dancing? Being on stage? The music? Traveling with the troupe? The flexibility? You might still be able to get the "benefits" of being a ballerina without actually being one if you can figure out what part of being a ballerina looked or sounded "fun".

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6 minutes ago, fraidycat said:

That's what I'm saying. What would being a ballerina "do" for you?

Was it the dancing? Being on stage? The music? Traveling with the troupe? The flexibility? You might still be able to get the "benefits" of being a ballerina without actually being one if you can figure out what part of being a ballerina looked or sounded "fun".

The fame, lol

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My answer would be that I would like to be rich enough to start a foundation and run it myself, and give life-changing amounts of money to people in need. Just write checks all the livelong day, and have an assistant do the accounting and correspondence.

The helpful part of that ridiculous impossibility is that I like to help people who don't have what they need, and actual things to try could presumably come from that genre of activities.

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I would find this assignment frustrating also.

But let me give it an honest try ....

  • Write and perform great music that could help people in some way.  [Not realistic but wouldn't it be nice?]
  • Clean houses and run errands for shut-ins.  (Preferably after getting my own house in order.)
  • Motivate my kids to choose and pursue a meaningful volunteer gig.

One thing I've done before and might be realistic for moms of grown kids: 

  • Be a [volunteer] reading tutor in a low-income school district.

Another thought though - being happy is a legitimate, meaningful goal in and of itself.  Who says the goal has to be doing for others?  Of course it's lovely to do for others, but that takes energy that we don't always have.  What would make me happy at this stage of life could include getting myself in physical shape, decluttering and cleaning my house, walking in the national parks, cooking food that *I* like . . . .  If I got my body, my house, and my workload in shape, I'd have more energy to do for others, which would make the world a better place, right?

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I wouldn’t leave past purpose off the list. I’m confident the exercise is meant to find common themes, and kids/homeschooling is a huge theme to potentially work with in a different context. I, myself, truly believed I wanted to stay active in this hs realm once my kids grow up because I adore it. I no longer think I will, at least not directly, but I won’t count out small contributions as a possibility.

 I’m also keeping the thought of foster care alive. Still don’t know if I’ll actually do it, but I might get involved in other ways.

For me, the whole depression/“purpose” thing can be very chicken/egg. Sometimes I have to kick the depression to find a goal, but sometimes a goal will kick my depression. Working on both ends simultaneously ups my odds.

My own list is beginning to look more like many small things rather than any big things. Stuff I can complete short term  (ex. running a fundraiser) gives me more dopamine than the thought of completing a degree. (Not that I’ve totally counted that out yet.)

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- Intellectual stimulation including deadlines to work towards (currently working on UG university modules for fun and thinking about Masters)

- Helping others, through my work with students, helping neighbours, caring for family, including my not-easy mother

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Posted (edited)

Thank you so much to everyone who has chimed in thus far. 

I'm trying to resist the urge to counter specific suggestions, because I appreciate the fact that everyone has been willing to wade into this discussion and offer those suggestions. It's all grist for the mill, even if I can come up with 1,000 reasons why a specific idea doesn't work for me. 

In a general sense, I am a person who is wired to be future focused and goal oriented. However, while I derive some minor personal satisfaction from setting and achieving personal goals (walking a certain number of steps, finishing a 5K, reading a certain number of books, earning good grades in classes, etc.), after a while those feel empty to me without some kind of external purpose. 

For me, purpose and meaning are inextricably tied to service, primarily in terms of alleviating suffering for other living beings. And, although I have no illusions that I am terrifically special or anything, I derive purpose and meaning from doing something that I am especially suited to doing well. To feel a sense of purpose, I need to believe that there is some reason I -- as opposed to most other people -- am doing that specific thing.

One example: Several folks have mentioned tutoring or mentoring, but I am actually very much an introvert and have what I suspect may be some social anxiety. Meeting new people and interacting with people I don't know well is straight-up exhausting for me. I've done some tutoring -- both paid and volunteer -- and I both didn't enjoy it and didn't feel like it was something I was really good at. The only way I can tolerate those interactions is to retreat into the "Teacher Jenny" persona, rather than showing up as myself. There are people for whom that sort of thing is a calling, but it's not mine.

Edited to add: I meant to say that I have also found meaning in doing simple tasks that require no special skills other than being the one who is willing to show up and do them. I've washed a lot of dishes for church gatherings and felt convinced it mattered. But those opportunities have tended to be serendipitous.

And, unfortunately, I am something of a realist. So, for example, despite my drive to service, I understand that, in many cases, what is most helpful to the causes I care about and support is financial contributions. The organizations who work on those causes day in and and day out are much more prepared to tackle the problem(s) efficiently, and the best thing I can do is write a check. 

One of the ways I attempt to derive purpose from my current job is by remembering that the higher salary I earn as part of corporate America allows me to make regular financial contributions to several organizations. 

It's something, but not enough.

Finally, I am human and am unlikely to stick with something -- no matter how valuable I might believe the pursuit is -- if doing that thing consistently makes me miserable. (See my comments about tutoring above.) 

Truly, I am extremely grateful to everyone who has joined the discussion. In brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. I'm reading everything, and doing so is helping me to refine my own understanding. 

Please keep the comments coming.

Edited by Jenny in Florida
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Just want to say, I'm an extreme introvert, yet I did find tutoring fulfilling.  Aside from making a difference, it appealed to my personal superpower of "organizing," because it involved breaking down complex things into simpler parts/connections for kids who needed that.  And as it was one-on-one or one-on-two, and with small people who wouldn't judge me the way adults might, it was not really a social strain.

But of course it isn't for everyone.  Just wanted to kinda break it down a little.  😛

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1 hour ago, SKL said:

Just want to say, I'm an extreme introvert, yet I did find tutoring fulfilling.  Aside from making a difference, it appealed to my personal superpower of "organizing," because it involved breaking down complex things into simpler parts/connections for kids who needed that.  And as it was one-on-one or one-on-two, and with small people who wouldn't judge me the way adults might, it was not really a social strain.

But of course it isn't for everyone.  Just wanted to kinda break it down a little.  😛

Oh, I've done quite a bit of it, both online and in person, for a paycheck and as a volunteer. I had moments of satisfaction, but the exhaustion far outweighed that positivity for me. I "can" do it and do it pretty well, but it's not "my thing."

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I'm in the busy season of life, and here is my list of ideas for when life isn't so crazy:

Children's librarian or volunteer, story hour, read aloud, etc.

Aid at school- I may not want to be tied to a schedule,  but I would love to help struggling readers, volunteer, fundraiser (and I know this may sound weird bc we homeschool- but our puic school could use help!)

Offer young adults classes on cooking and budgeting, possibly parenting classes, too.  If I had a lot of money, I would start a non-profit to help young families with life-skills like this.  I see a true need in my community. 

Write a book- lots of genres!  I've wanted to be a published author since I was about 12. 

Other things I will do for me, not exactly about finding purpos- travel, hike, sew pretty things, enjoy new recipes (cooking for a big family is a lot of work- we usually just stick with the same things)

Things I may eventually find worthwhile- gardening, yoga, meditation (wish I had more time now), 

And I will want to spend time with my grown kids and eventually grandkids!  

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Philantropist? If giving is important, is there a next step you can take? Are there local boards that you might become a part of? I understand the extreme introvert part, I'm very much an introvert. 

Other questions you might consider: 

Do you want to learn something, or use your skills to teach others? I know you've mentioned that tutoring isn't for you, but what other outlets are there? 

Personal assistant? Do you prefer to keep your own schedule flexible or would you operate well by scheduling and organizing others? 

If you like variety, have you considered taking some continuing ed courses in something wildly outside of anything you've done before? 
 

I get the mundane nature of life, I really do. Like to what end is all of this busyness in my life? I've boiled it down to this is something that is just for me. Looking at the big picture of doing a PhD at my age and in this current educational environment, it seems absurd. But when I get into the detail of the research, I enjoy it. It's like people watching, albeit 1000 years in the past. 

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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, elegantlion said:

Do you want to learn something, or use your skills to teach others? I know you've mentioned that tutoring isn't for you, but what other outlets are there? 

Personal assistant? Do you prefer to keep your own schedule flexible or would you operate well by scheduling and organizing others? 

If you like variety, have you considered taking some continuing ed courses in something wildly outside of anything you've done before? 

So, I'm breaking my rule about not responding to specific suggestions, mostly because I'm using this as a jumping off point to share what I already do/have tried.

In the time since my son graduated and made me obsolete, I have:

  • completed a non-credit certificate in non-profit management.
  • earned a graduate certificate in instructional design.
  • become certified as an Associate Professional in Talent Development.
  • earned a professional certificate in instructional design. (That one was kind of redundant, but was selected and paid for by my employer, who wanted my whole team to do the training as a group.)

Currently, I'm taking the first of a four-class series to earn a second graduate certificate in Learning Design and Technology (which I think is actually more what I'm interested in that straight-up instructional design). 

I've also taken an online painting class and done a bunch of read-along/book club series with assorted podcasts.

(Side note: I also tried to re-learn the ukulele, but my arthritic/neuropathic fingers rebelled.)

I kind of feel like I've got the whole "take a class" thing covered.

In terms of teaching others, I'm currently an instructional designer/manager. I write and develop online courses for adults, mostly for workplace safety; teaching others is what I do professionally. (Prior to this job, I was a technology trainer at the local library. I also tried substitute teaching and teaching online literature classes for homeschoolers.)

Personal assistant most definitely would not be my thing, but also I am not really looking to do a major career change at this point. At my age, with only a couple of years with my current employer, I feel extremely queasy about the possibility of jumping again. Especially since we just bought a house. I probably need to find something to give myself purpose or meaning that runs alongside my for-a-paycheck situation.

Edited by Jenny in Florida
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