One of my biggest dreams in life is to have my own TedTalk. If you know me personally, this might come as a surprise: I’m usually the quietest one in a conversation, I sweat during job interviews, and my heart sometimes races at the thought of making small talk with cashiers when I’m buying groceries. In our new era of Zoom calls, I prefer to keep my background lighting dim so that I can casually lean back into the darkness when my face inevitably turns bright red.
Despite all of this, I want to have a TedTalk. For someone who has been described as “painfully shy,” I desperately want to be seen. I want to stand on that stage and be filmed for an audience far greater than the number of people filling the auditorium around me. I want to share some deep wisdom that changes people for the better and inspire them with my story. I want to give one of the best TedTalks people have ever heard. The problem is, I have absolutely no idea what it would be about. In part, this is because I don’t really know what I want my life to be about. Even at 24 years old, I’m still trying to figure out who I am.
Along my journey of self-discovery, I have often heard advice about honoring your true self, finding the passions that light you up, and listening to your heart. This is all great advice. But for someone like me, the problem is that the pieces of my heart are constantly at war with each other. If you’re like me, honoring one side of yourself can feel like abandoning another.
I’m a graduate student studying psychology. I love statistics, data analysis, and hard facts. I also love to write poetry. I love flowery language, deep expressions of emotion, and the understanding that there are some things that science will never be able to explain. Sometimes I’m an extrovert who has no trouble standing up in front of a classroom full of students and teaching them about the human brain. Other times, I’m an introvert who panics when I have to place an order at a restaurant.
I have tried on a lot of different passions during my life, trying to build myself an environment where every piece of me can grow. The long list of things that I’ve thought I was destined for include being a singer, a tour guide, an actress, a music therapist, a counselor, and a researcher. I wasn’t terrible at any of them. In fact, I’ve been pretty good at a lot of them. But if you’re an overachiever like me, you’ve probably felt the same way as I do: You’re good at a lot of things, but never quite good enough. You can be pretty good at something, you can really enjoy it, but if you’re not the absolute best at it, it must not be what you’re meant to do.
Despite going down so many different paths, I still haven’t found one that leads me to where I want to be. I still don’t really know where that even is. In all honesty, I still don’t know exactly what I’m meant to do. But I do know how I want my life to feel. The different paths I’ve taken all have a common thread that ties them together: I just want to feel connected to other people, and I want them to feel connected to me.
I want my life to feel like a TedTalk that is able to reach millions of people, that helps them to feel less alone, that inspires someone to make the day of a stranger just a little bit better. I want to feel like I’m able to make a difference in the lives of people I haven’t meant yet. I want to inspire people to be just a little bit kinder to each other, and to be a lot kinder to themselves.
Maybe you read this article because you wanted a sign. I have waited for signs, too. I have waited for inspiration to finally strike, for a sign to tell me what my life’s purpose is. I have waited for the day to come where I do something that is worthy of having a TedTalk dedicated to it. Maybe you still want a clear cut answer on how to find your life’s purpose—I don’t have that for you. Finding that answer will be up to you. I do, however, have a question that can help you start: How do you want your life to feel, and what tiny step can you take on your journey toward that feeling?
For me, today, that one tiny step was writing to you. Writing this article has brought me one tiny step further along on my journey than I was yesterday. I hope that reading it can act as a catalyst for your journey, too.