Photo: Artem Varnitsin/Shutterstock

Search for a Purpose or Live in the Moment?

by Alexis Kayanan Oct 5, 2010
Where is the fine line between having a good time and escaping our true purpose?

Light streaks past the curtain, penetrating my eyelids. A throbbing artery pulsates behind my brow, seemingly threatening to pop my eyeballs from their sockets. I inhale deeply in hopes of fanning away the noxious fumes of lingering alcohol.

Courageously, I pry one eye open. Noon-ish. Early. Strained after being fooled into a fruitless mission, my eyelid angrily snaps back shut.

Thirty minutes later my cell phone dances on the nightstand, chirping, letting me know it’s a text. It’s Sigs. Feeling guilty, I force myself out of bed, and drag myself to the shower. The water on my head massages the pressure away from my sinuses. Washing away the liquor residue from my brain will take a while longer.

I dress, and hear the chirping sound come from my bedroom again. “I’m hungry!!!!!!” Sigs texts. Another thirty minutes later, I’m staring at her over a Filipino breakfast in the corner diner: eggs, rice, beef strips. She doesn’t remove her shades throughout the entire meal.

I used to get tired of this routine back in my twenties. Why am I still doing this?

Blurry snapshots of empty bottles, swirling green lasers, and women dancing in black dresses bubble up in my head. I file them away with the other hundreds of similar late-night snapshots in my mental library. “What am I doing here?” I finally slip out through a mouthful of rice.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, we do this every week. We all go out, we drink, we dance. We generally have fun. But then what? I was doing this in my twenties in college. Now I’m in my mid-thirties on the other side of the world. I used to get tired of this routine back in my twenties. Why am I still doing this?”

A frown creeps across her face, knowing where this was headed. I recognize the frown. It’s the same one that an ex-fiance shot me seven years ago in a lonely bar in Honduras.

Small, Dark, Deep

“You always do this,” my ex had said. “You always get all deep, and try to find the meaning of everything. Honestly, it’s too much sometimes.”

It was raining that night. The bar was small and dark, decorated with local Honduran weaves and pottery. It was crude, yet charming, in the way that a homemade dollhouse or a tattered shrine might be.

“What, and you never think about it?” I asked. “Don’t you ever wonder what it’s all for?”

“Don’t you ever not think about it? Do you mind coming back to the present and just enjoying this?” she said, annoyed, her arm sweeping across the bar.

The love between us hadn’t been lacking. But in the end, this unanswered question would split us apart. Its effect on my life, and our relationship, took form in many ways, from detachment from the present to apathy towards the future.

In the end, this inner struggle was like magma swirling under the crust, slowly building pressure. Its release created a mid-ocean rift, slowly driving her shores further from mine.

“Whatever,” she had conceded that moment, on that day. “I give up.”

All Fun and Games

It’s now 1:30 pm. The fork makes a clinking sound on my friend’s plate signaling that she’s done eating, though several clumps of rice still lay on her plate. She finishes swallowing her last bite.

“I know. And next week, we’ll do it again,” she says, smiling. The smile fades and she waits. Then she smiles again, a little longer, a bit more emphatically. “As you said, we had fun! Right?”

The rest of the day I replay our conversation in my head. I see my friend’s confident smile, and recall her attitude to simply enjoy the ride.

She too is searching for something. I know that. She doesn’t have all the answers. But you can still search for your purpose, she had said, while living in the present. She crooned ‘living’ as if with a capital ‘L’.

Around dinner time, my pocket chirps. It’s my friend Tebs. “Whatcha up to?” she texts. No plans, I respond.

I didn’t get out last night. Let’s go out!” she texts back.

Another night out? Will I feel regret tomorrow like I did this morning? Would I be closer to my discovering some sort of purpose in my life if I stay at home, or chose a different activity? I don’t know. Then I recall breakfast; I recall living with a capital L.

Ok,” I respond. “I’m on my way. Pick you up in a bit,” I hit the send button as I run out the door.

How do you determine if living in the moment is taking you away from finding your purpose? Share your thoughts below.

Discover Matador