Do you have a why?
Is there any question banaler than “what do you do?” It’s a conversation starter but likely you will forget what the person does unless it is in a similar field to yourself.
Small talk, that’s what the question indicates to me. You are asking a standard question that one adult should ask another when really, do we care what this new, random person does? Will we even remember in five minutes what they said?
I would much rather know the why of your life. Why did you choose to do what you do? Why did you study what you studied at University? Why did you choose to live here? What’s your why, that allows you to bear any how. (To quote Nietzsche)
This is something that I have been pondering since completing Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. This is the second time I’ve read it, both very different points in my life, but crucial points where I have asked myself, what is my why? What is my purpose? What do I want to do with my life?
I was inspired to re-read due to recent interviews I had seen of Jordan Peterson. That we should have a purpose, a why in life, because that’s what keeps you going, that’s what makes you want to get up in the morning, you must have a why if you wake up voluntarily at 5 am every morning right? As a night owl I am vehemently against waking at such an ungodly hour, but early birds you guys thrive.
This may change at different points in our lives. I never truly knew what I wanted to do with my life until I was 25 and then-recent events caused me to rethink. I had the epiphany that what I thought was my why was actually how I can do the why.
The why for me is actually something as simple as learning. By that I mean, I love to learn, about people, places, languages, cultures, psychology, philosophy and whatever else. New books excite me, signing up to a French course makes me look forward to Saturday mornings, travelling (in a non-covid world) brings me the utmost joy, even HelloFresh has been great in lockdown for learning new recipes, picking up Piano again, after 16 years.
My why is to learn and understand as much as I can, while I can. To be a polymath and a polyglot. Why is that my why? I don’t know, maybe it is a personality thing, I just know it is and that requires no justification.
I will always gain when I learn, maybe that is why it is my why? I derive joy from that feeling of accomplishment. Big or small.
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how — Friedrich Nietzsche