A New Way to Look at Purpose

“Purpose does not need to be huge and all-encompassing. It can be small, seasonal, and still deeply satisfying” 


I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about purpose in my life. Most of the time I live with the nagging sense that I haven’t quite got this purpose thing figured out, that maybe there’s something else, something bigger that I’m supposed to be doing. As I’ve begun to slow down and simplify, though, I’m coming to understand purpose in a new way.

Back in January, as I began creating more space in my life, I noticed a creeping sense of sadness. It was a malaise I couldn’t shake. As I stayed with the sadness, I realized that it was connected to the season of transition fast approaching.

In June, we would celebrate one son’s university graduation and his younger brother’s high school graduation; the two youngest boys were also leaving middle school for high school. While these were exciting transitions for the boys, they also felt like endings to me. And I’m not really great with endings.

For once, I let my sadness guide me. Stay present, my sadness told me. Clear as much space as you need for this season of transition. Be there for your boys; they’ll need you. And honour how difficult these endings are for you. Stay with the sadness. And savour these final months of your boys’ middle school and high school years. 

For once I actually listened.  I let the sadness linger a little, and didn’t avoid it by getting extra-busy (my usual approach). I cleared my calendar, said no to practically everyone, and left things wide open.

And in that opening, I found the space to really be available for my boys: I listened to the older boys wrestle with what was next for them and helped them write resumes and scholarship applications; I toured my youngest boy’s new high school with him and helped him decide which electives to choose; I spent a week in Ottawa celebrating my  eldest son’s graduation from Carleton University; I was there for the final middle school band concert and for the last of the high school rugby games.

I was there for my guys. Fully. And, as it turns out, joyfully.

I found, for a season, a clear sense of purpose. I understood that my purpose was simply to parent with as much patience and presence as possible. It was so easy to know what to say yes to – and when to say no. I felt centred and grounded, not scattered and distracted.

That doesn’t mean I got it all right. My middle son may have felt just a teeny bit micro-managed during his final semester of high school. And though I made sure that he got his college and scholarship applications in on time, I completely forgot to order grad photos for him. The final notice arrived in the mail this morning.

And the sadness? It’s still there. But I’m sitting with it and letting it guide me through these next months. Transition, of course, takes time, and just because the June graduations are behind us, the transition is not.

These days, my sadness is about letting go as my middle son tests out adulthood. Letting go isn’t easy for me, but it’s necessary for him. And so this new season wil include lots of self care and compassion. I’m going to need it.

Where purpose is concerned, I’ve always had the idea that we are here for one big thing. This belief causes all sorts of distress. What if I’m not living out my purpose? What if I die, as they say, with my music still in me? This is the stuff of sleepless nights for someone like me.

But in this season of transition, I’ve come to see purpose in gentler terms.  Purpose, it turns out, does not need to be huge and all-encompassing. It can be small, seasonal and still deeply satisfying.

At least for now, I’m giving myself permission to see purpose this way. I’m not going to worry about “Big P Purpose.” I’m going to be gentle and compassionate  with myself, and focus on the purpose calling to me in this season alone.

What small purpose might be calling you in this season?

Author: Sally

Writer, teacher, mom. Celebrating the beauty and mystery that surrounds us and learning to trust in the journey.

2 thoughts on “A New Way to Look at Purpose”

  1. Enjoyed reading it Sally. I am also looking out for that Big P Purpose. And till I find that, I am looking around and accumulating all the wisdom and learnings that I can. I don’t know if thee is anything else that can be done.


  2. Beautiful words, “Purpose does not need to be huge and all-encompassing…”. Such a timely reminder for me as I too am in that liminal space of transition, albeit different to yours, Sally. I too struggle for a sense of purpose. So huge and overwhelming at times, coupled with anxiety that I’m not fulfilling my intentions. Small and seasonal sounds like a gentle way to go. Thank you for your words. Enjoy the season!


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