Finding Life Purpose on a Train in Germany
Flashback to May 3rd, 2018, I am on the high-speed rail line from Munich to Hamburg as part of my 9-night solo-getaway throughout Germany. I remember it being one of the few times in my life where I could sit down and be in my own thoughts. I purposely wanted to find time to reflect on my life and what I wanted for my life and what better time to do so with 5 hours to kill.
I mentally stumbled upon the question of all questions, what is the meaning of life? Why am I here? It is a question that feels like it could go in a million directions but then I asked a more relevant question, does it matter why I am here?
It is human nature to question your surroundings, to dig deeper into meanings even when there is no particular reason to find a deeper meaning. We are curious about things that do not matter while simultaneously not being bothered about things that can affect us. The question of the meaning of life ultimately turned into that it is less relevant to find the meaning however it is more relevant to find purpose now that we are here.
Everything became clearer once I realized that life purpose meant more than life meaning. To clarify, when I state purpose, I am stating the purpose of each individual in how they lead their life rather than asking why there is even life. The significance of why there is life may be answered by the brilliant philosophers but what each of us can do is find our purpose.
Before this moment, I did not know what my purpose was because I never thought of life in this manner. To me, for many years, it was about the superficial pleasures and the day to day mondain routines that many of us mindlessly go through. We are so pre-occupied with the now that we do not consider why we are doing what we are doing? If we are striving for more money, what is the purpose of us having more money? Are we filling our emptiness of purpose with material objects?
Many of us strive to prevent from being impoverished but can someone from an impoverished country be fulfilled? Is happiness purely on the basis of their countries GDP? If everyone is poor, are you poor? Can you be poor and happy?
I spent years feeling purposeless and I did not realize that I was purposeless. I spent every last dollar on objects that I do not even remember buying today because they ultimately meant nothing to me. It did not bring me fulfilment in the long term, only short-term satisfaction. This coincided with my bouts of anxiety, depression and panic attacks. I had been fighting myself internally because I was creating a life that was purposeless, and it took a toll on my body.
On that train ride to Hamburg, I decided to go on a journey of finding purpose in my life. Find out what really mattered to me, what was I passionate about and what was I scared of. At the front of the line is happiness. I decided that no matter what, my decisions in life were going to be selfish in the direction of personal happiness. If I did not want to do something, I was not going to do it. I found that I was living somewhat of a life that was not really for me. I would sacrifice my happiness at times to please others when it was not in return. This is not to be callous or mean towards others, on the contrary, if I aim in the direction of being happy, then my happiness can infect others.
My next purpose was to focus on my legacy. I think legacy is a word that many people do not consider anymore as it sounds almost medieval, but it means something. How can a human being remain alive forever? Their legacy. There are great men and women of history that remain in our psyche because they were able to build a legacy to be remembered by. We can all build legacies and it starts with one person. I must also mention that I am a father and my son is my reflection.
I decided to pass on everything I had learned including my personal experiences of success and failures and give it to him as age appropriately honest as possible. Far too often we lie to our children about life in fear of scaring them and this handicaps them because they are not prepared for life. I realized that my son is the most important part of my legacy as he will pass on those lessons to his children and so on.
Legacy building is not just for your children or family but your friends, co-workers or any other person that you come in contact with, even if it is temporary. I made a decision that for every person I am able to sit down with and have a conversation with, I am going to try my best to leave a positive mark on their life, even if I never see them again.
This is not me becoming a hippie and handing out flowers, this is me
realizing that I have more of an impact on this planet than I used to believe.
It is my choice on the legacy I decide to leave behind, and I choose to use it
positively. With these new purposes of moving towards happiness and building an impactful positive legacy with every homosapien I come across, I was ready to live a new life.
I prematurely left Hamburg and jumped on a 6 am train the next day to
Berlin. With this new sense of direction and my improving German skills, I had a new sense of self confidence. While waiting for the train, there was an older woman also waiting and I was able to have a nice conversation with her in German. For anyone that is learning a new language, when you are able to have a good basic conversation in a foreign language, you feel a sense of euphoria.
After boarding the train to Berlin, I dozed off for a few minutes and woke
up to a very attractive German woman sitting in front of me and facing my
direction. The person I was a few years before, I would have never attempted to spark a conversation with her but this sense of confidence and purpose of positivity, I decided to talk to her (admittingly in English). Interestingly enough, she had just retired as a professional volleyball player and played for the German National Team. She explained how she was trying to figure out what she was going to do next because all she had ever known was athletics and now her identity is gone.
I realized at that moment that I am not the only person that feels lost in life. I told her my new discovery and point blank told her “Whatever you do in life, do what makes you happy. The rest will work itself out.” Her face lit up and it was like I confirmed what she was hesitant to accept for herself. She told me how she wanted to move towards physical health and yoga, she was actually on her way to a workshop. At that moment, I helped a stranger to confirm that she was making the right decision and to trust whatever makes her happy.
From that moment on, my legacy has purely been about effecting those I meet in a positive fashion. I try my best to support my friends, whether they are in America or abroad. I have had intimate conversations with friends when they had no one else to speak to. I have had people that barely knew me feel a level of trust to tell me something that they have never told anyone else. It is something I have never taken for granted and I have grown as a man, friend and father because of this mental exploration.
I encourage you to do something similar. Find what makes you happy. It does not matter if you are barely getting by financially, find something that makes you feel fulfilled. Take a risk in life even when others doubt you. Do not live in regret because you did not even try. Improve your relationships rather than split them apart. Find common ground with those that you may disagree with. Do not let petty differences push you away from someone that you care about. Love those even if they do not love you back. Build your legacy because one day when you are gone, you want stories about yourself to be something that brings a smile to someone’s face rather than a scowl.
So I ask you, what do you want to be remembered for?
So thankful your trip to Germany gave you enlightenment. Sometimes it takes just such a change of scenery and periods without busyness and distraction to allow your mind to wander and search and find and realize what really matters. Möge Gott dich segnen!