And old friend and I sit crosslegged facing each other, the two of us in her childhood home. We have just prepared a ritual: The smoke of burned sage still lingers in the air, like suspended strands of grey silk. A candle flickers on the nightstand nearby, a glass of red wine on either side, and several crystals form a semi-circle in between us. As she shuffles her new deck of oracle cards, she tells me to silently think of a question— something in this life of mine for which I seek an answer.
The room's tranquility allows me to look inward.
I'm in between jobs, whatever that means. I quit my last job because it was a hamster wheel of stress and unbalance, but the pressure of unemployment is making me want to jump right back on that hamster wheel. I've applied to two dozen jobs in just the last month, without a single call back. Am I not qualified enough?
On top of all of that, I have my own dreams: I felt the insatiable urge to travel, so I took a trip to Costa Rica. I deeply felt the need to write, so I'm writing. I crave to start my own business— to lead writing workshops that help heal and empower others and I want to start performing with my hula hoop professionally.
It's a cyclical loop of rat-racing thoughts and with each passing day, my sense of worth weakens, along with my dreams. Every day I don't get a callback, self doubt grows.
"Have you thought of a question?" she asks.
What is my purpose? I internally ask. I nod and we begin.
I cut the deck of oracle cards, my friend slides the top card forward and turns it face up. It says, "Giving and Receiving Love."
At first, this puzzles me; I need a job interview. I need some income. I want some progress. I want some career advice! What did love have to do with all of this? And then it hits me— I asked the cards what my purpose is. My purpose on this earth is not to make money or even to be employed. This is so easily forgotten in a society like ours.
When I was living on the farm in Costa Rica a couple month ago, my biggest adjustment was figuring out what to do with all of the free time. There were no phone calls to make, no emails to answer. There was no T.V., no Internet, and no cell service.
There was however, a huge bookcase filled with good reads, four adorable dogs waiting to be played with, and eight acres of beautiful land we were welcomed to explore. But in the beginning, these things felt wrong because they didn't feel productive. Whenever I would pick up a book, lay in the hammock or take a walk around the jungle, I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something else, something more, I should be doing.
I shared this with my friend Sarafina, another volunteer on the farm. She too had just quit her job back in Connecticut for similar reasons. She took a minute to ponder this, then answered thoughtfully, "You know, purpose doesn't equal productivity."
We are taught to spend our lives obsessing over productivity— we start by hustling for standardized tests scores, for good grades in school. It's all building up for that unknown "thing" that is coming, and coming fast. We go to college, pour sweat and sleepless nights into receiving that diploma, and then quick! We have to get jobs! Yes! This will be where it all pays off! We're going to go out into The Real World!
We land our first job, and by Jove, we've got to bust our ass here as well! And so it goes— money leads to mortgages and car payments, which lead to needing more money.
But after a couple weeks on the farm, relaxing didn't feel wrong anymore. It felt necessary. I started sitting alone with my thoughts more. I grew more comfortable with my own company. I spent more time in nature. I gained confidence and clarity. By pausing and being still, I could hear my own inner wisdom.
Whether or not you believe in oracle cards, know that your purpose on this earth is not to be productive just for the sake of being productive; It is to love and be loved. At the end of our days, this will be the only thing that matters: how much we were loved and how well we loved others.
Oh, but Ivy, are you saying you're going to ditch society and go be a bum?
Worry not, my productive friends. Nothing's changed, really, except a shift in perspective. I still need money, I'm still applying for jobs, and I am continuing to work on making my dreams a reality. Perhaps one day I'll ditch The Real World, but for now, while I'm here, my actions are going to be led by love. After all, from the wise words of an old teacher of mine:
"If you do what you love, money will come."