|night sky over Ayers Rock/Uluru photo credit|
Do you ever look up at a starry sky on a clear night and feel overwhelmed by your utter insignificance? In the great scheme of things, you are a speck of dust, existing for merely a millisecond in the history of time. I remember the exact moment in my life that this felt most apparent...
I was backpacking across Australia: a group of us way out in the outback, the dusty Red Centre, camping beneath the stars one night, on a mission to reach Ayers Rock - or Uluru as it's more accurately known - in time for sunrise.
Now I use the term 'camping' in the loosest sense of the word, since we had no tents; we were just lying in a row in our sleeping bags directly on the dry and cracked red earth, hiking boots tucked inside our sleeping bags so that they wouldn't be stolen in the night by the circling dingos, who sporadically startled us with piercing cries.
|Sleeping under the stars|
As we lay on our backs, heads fuzzy from exhaustion and warm beer, staring up at the sky whilst one of the more astute astronomers amongst us pointed out the various constellations, we agreed that we had never felt smaller, or more irrelevant, than at that moment.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by life; to feel like a tiny ant standing at the foot of a giant mountain. Sometimes, I contemplate the scale of a task, such as gathering 100k signatures for my petition (challenging the NHS's new laissez-faire approach to cancer screening) and it feels impossible.
It's all too easy to doubt yourself, to ask "why am I bothering?" or "what's the point?" The pessimist in me mutters "another 40 years and you'll be dead and forgotten anyway" - which is a pretty dark way of looking at things (although on the flip side it does help keep worries in perspective).
But then I remember that an ant is actually one of the strongest creatures there is, able to carry over fifty times it's own bodyweight. This video, which I filmed in Costa Rica, demonstrates the impressive strength and resourcefulness of leafcutter ants:
But that's nothing! A dung beetle can pull 1141 times it's own body weight, making it the strongest animal on Earth for it's body weight. Not a rhino, an ox or an elephant - a dung beetle. Think about that for a moment. I try to remember these facts whenever feelings of my own insignificance challenge my sense of self-worth.
As humans, we often measure our value in terms of our job, earnings, looks, popularity or possessions. You don't need to be a CEO, a celebrity or a supermodel to be worthy. You just are. Being a decent human being is enough; you are enough. But one thing I've learnt is that having a real purpose, a passion, a goal, is what gives us a sense of self-worth and what, ultimately, makes us happy.
"Having a purpose is the difference between making a living and making a life" - Tom Thiss
For years I went to work, living for the weekends and holidays, without any real plan or focus. I'd assumed, somewhere in the back of my subconscious mind, that at some point soon I'd become a mother, which would then become my purpose.
My older, feminist self shudders at this admission. Sure, I worked long and hard, bought property and upgraded: from flat to house to bigger house. But it wasn't the product of a burning passion; I just had a regular managerial job and clocked up the hours. Alas, motherhood was not to be, so then my entire being was thrown into question. What was my purpose now? What had I been working towards? What was the point of me? Years of agonising self-hatred and despair followed. What was the meaning of my life?
|Life may have no meaning; but you can create a purpose|
Then, one day, I rediscovered my passion for writing - a pastime that had been largely discarded, along with sketching and netball, soon after I left school, to be replaced with the monotony of working-class life; nose to the grindstone. Adulting had taken over.
Suddenly, the cloud lifted and I had a purpose. With renewed vigour, I'd wake early in the morning to write a blog post before work. My articles started getting more hits. I had one featured in a magazine, and then another. I drew on my life experiences and began campaigning to help others on physical and mental health issues, particularly cervical cancer and infertility. My excitement grew along with my stats. I was using my blog to do good; there was a reason to get up in the morning. Perhaps I could have a legacy after all. Finally, I had a voice.
|Feeling proud: my first published article|
Whenever I encounter a setback and that sensation of being tiny and insignificant threatens to overwhelm me, something inspiring happens - like a retweet by a celebrity or a request from Washington to appear as a guest on a podcast - and my confidence is buoyed once more. A tweet last week to Piers Morgan was read over 203,000 times and later quoted in The Sun. Thanks to the internet, the world is now a much smaller place:
Some might say, "So what?" "Who cares?" Haters gonna hate. The bigger your dreams, the more you'll come up against resistance to them. If your "purpose" brings you joy and benefits others (or at least doesn't affect anyone else negatively), then keep your head down, blinkers on and teeth clenched in dogged determination.
On a basic quantum level, all the matter in the universe is made up of stardust. As Moby sang:
"No one can stop us now
'Cause we are all made of stars..."
You don't have to be famous to be a star; you already are one. So find your mission, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem in the great scheme of things, and pursue the hell outta that shit. We all want to leave our mark, a footprint (and not just a carbon one) to show that we were here, we existed. We mattered.
When you find a hobby, job or some passion that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and crack on, you've found your raison d'être. When you're fully immersed in that passion, when you've found your flow, you'll experience true happiness.
It's never too small, and it's never too late. Don't simply accept the status quo. If you found your passion at an early age: congratulations! Lucky you. If you've not found yours yet, there's still time (but not a lot; don't rest on your laurels).
Try this simple exercise, which can help you find your life's purpose.
So get out there, find your purpose - whatever that may be - then live boldly: be your authentic self and shine like the star you are.
Now, when I look up at the night sky contemplating the infinity of the universe, I no longer feel irrelevant; I feel exhilarated by the infinite possibilities...
|my first glimpse of the sun rising over Ayers Rock|
Before I die i want to... by Candy Chang (NSFW warning: this one'll make you blub)
Personal excellence: A self-development site by Celestine Chua
TED Talks to find your purpose
7 strange questions that help you find your life purpose, by Mark Manson
3 unexpected ways to find your life purpose, by Shannon Kaiser
Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:
Facebook: Samantha Jane Walsh