Changing Up Our Roles: Revising Our Objectives

From time to agonizing time, having a clear idea about our purpose is a challenge for most people. As we evolve from dependency to self-sufficiency, from being single to coupled to decoupled, from our tentative youth to our powerful middle age to our reflective later years, many roles naturally fade away or come into focus. But the sort of objective I’m examining in this post is the motivation beneath these quotidian experiences. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What drives you? Is it something from deep within or are you doing it because someone told you, because you thought you “should?”

“I’m 65 years old, and I wonder about my goals,” someone admitted in a recent conversation. “I go into the office and none of my employees really needs me anymore. My kids are grown and out of the house. I’m not sure what my objective is.” As different as my life is from theirs, I’m deeply sympathetic to their sense of feeling lost. It can occur at any point in our lives and it never gets easier. Indeed, I envy those individuals who are confident about their life’s mission. They’ve come into this world knowing they are a doctor, a teacher, a farmer, a sentinel. They know what fits and without any hesitation, they embrace their calling. It’s all very clear for them. Hmm. I wish. Not for me. Probably, not for you, either.

Anyone interested in re-booting knows what it’s like to question their direction, question their reason for being. We are malleable, mysterious creatures, we re-booters. We reflect, we deliberate, we gut check, we notice the struggles of others and wonder what’s happening with them. I’ve wandered through adulthood, fantasizing about playing one role and then another, trying on different identities as I assess whether they feel “right.” Where I get confused is that I can find things to like about most of them—I can see myself playing these roles–so it’s all very inconvenient when I sense an invisible force pulling me in another direction, away from these good possibilities. What in the world am I seeking? And then a partial explanation burbled up from beneath my awareness: because, for me, they’re just roles. If I were to do these things, I’d be play acting instead of fulfilling my purpose. (Woo. Whoa. That’s sorta heavy.)

How many roles do you play? In your deepest of deep hearts, how many of them would you say suit you?

Now, let me be clear about something: playing roles is something we all do. The distinction arises when we don these costumes simply because they appeal to us, even though we aren’t perfectly cast. We watch wistfully as the Laurence Oliviers amongst us slip into these identities, fully inhabiting them because this is who they are meant to play. They have hit their mark. We believe them as they model the loving patriarch, the patient teacher, the attuned musician, the radiant friend. The energy they transmit is genuine, the light they reflect is clear.

What sort of light do you reflect these days?

After all these years of struggle, my light is growing brighter. I’m beginning to recognize that for most of my life, I have been distracted by everything outside of me, believing that what “they” had must be better than what spoke to me. It’s taken me a long, long time to recognize that casting myself in plays written for others was never going to work—and that’s ok. It’s not a tragedy.

Having made this realization, it makes me feel stupid, needy, and embarrassingly dependent on the opinion of others. Groan. I’m still not totally confident that me being me is sufficient, but that’s what I gotta work with… I gotta star in the one woman show that is Chrisanna—at least for now. If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. (What I still can’t figure out is if I’m playing to a totally empty hall.)

So, why am I blathering on about this? I want you to reflect upon the various roles you’ve played in your life. How many of these roles have been ones that fully reflect your most basic self? How many have been ones you assumed because that’s what was expected? Which of these roles have you outgrown? Which of these roles do you continue to fake? Do you like your costars? How would it feel if conditions changed such that you no longer were needed to play that part?

What would you do instead?

What first step might you take to get there?


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One Response to “Changing Up Our Roles: Revising Our Objectives”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good points Chrisanna. We all like to feel what we do is needed and useful. The hardest part is to recognize that we must become the ultimate decider of our meaningful goals and purpose in life—not others. We must become our own coach and cheerleader.

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