From time to time, we may find ourselves asking, “What is my life purpose?”

Some of us may be able to answer that immediately, some of us may not.

There were times when I thought I have found it: the answer to my ultimate life purpose–but then I looked into it closer, questioned it and I wasn’t sure anymore. So I searched again.

It became an infinite loop I could not escape.

I used to think that knowing my life purpose would be the key to deal with those times when my life seemed too calm or too chaotic (never truly satisfied, are we?). As if knowing the answer would give me all the assurance, motivation, inspiration, and permission to march through life, knowing for certain where I’m going and that I’m taking the straightest path to get there…

I almost forgot that in 2014 I learned about how we’d never find “the ultimate answer” because no matter what, we’d always have another question to ask.

That’s why in my January newsletter I told you that I just wanted this year to be the year of play: the year to explore, to reconnect with my curiosity, playfulness, and excitement, to do the things I want to do without worrying too much about what will come out of them.

A few days ago, while washing dishes, my mind went to one afternoon a long time ago, when I was still working full time. We were in one of our weekly team meetings at the office and we were talking about ‘role’. We were asking each other, what role would we choose in the office, if that role had nothing to do with our job titles, tasks, or functions.

Someone said, he’d be the clown, making people laugh with his jokes and funny impressions.
Someone else said, she’d be the decorator, making things look neat, pretty, and artistic.
Someone said, he’d be the problem solver.
Someone said, she’d be the cheerleader.
Someone said, he’d be the dreamer.
Someone said, she’d be the devil’s advocate.

“What role would I be happy to play in life today / this week / this month / this year / at this stage of my life?” 

When I think about it, this question feels lighter and more playful than what-is-your-life-purpose, but it can also give us a hint about where we may wish to go.

What role would you be happy to play in life?

What role would you choose for yourself at work, at home, at school, among friends, that had nothing to do with your assigned function, expectations, duties, or assumed responsibilities?

What role would you not mind filling?

When I asked this question to myself the other day, it was funny that what came to mind immediately, was serving food.

I have always felt a strange pull towards kitchens, cooking, and food, as you can see here and here.

I guess what I love about serving food is that warm and fuzzy feeling of making or preparing something for others and seeing them enjoying the things I make. It’s a lovely feeling to see the immediate impact of ‘serving’ and the experience of sharing: to see someone’s hunger is finally satiated, to get someone’s appetite back, to share stories upon rows and rows of pans and plates and bowls, to come out of of the interaction feeling full, nourished, and satisfied.

Funny enough, if I choose to see ‘serving food’ as a metaphor for what I do: writing, drawing, creating content, or just being present in life in general–I can see how the role is still somewhat valid.

So, for the time being, I’ll be playing around with this role.

Let me know what role you’d happy to play this year!

P.S. If you’re a lover of zine and cats and all things handmade with love, you may want to subscribe to Koran Bulan, a digital zine by @hairembulan, or get some lovely handmade stuff she made at @pondokserbaaneka or order her embroidered linen clothes at @SunandMoon.id – while doing this, you can also help her to care for some rescued cats. Read the story about the latest rescued cat, Yin, here.
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What are the things you would do anyway, even if you know you would fail?
What are the things you would do anyway, even if you can’t make money out of it?
What are the things you would do anyway, even if you know you won’t be great at it?

I wrote in my journal that 2021 will be my year of PLAY. After such a heavy and tumultuous 2020, I realized how much I missed living life with a playful attitude: being spontaneous and silly, doing things just for the fun of doing it, being curious and full of wonder.

Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, Calif, said, “Play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep, so when we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice. Over time, play deprivation can reveal itself in certain patterns of behavior: We might get cranky, rigid, feel stuck in a rut, or feel victimized by life.”

Last year, I had been so focused on ‘understanding my purpose’ and ‘being purposeful’ it made everything felt heavy. At the end of 2020, I felt so overwhelmed I had a little breakdown.

I started questioning why I should continue doing the things I do if they don’t produce tangible results; if there’s no direct outcome.

But I forgot some things.

I forgot that life is more than just producing tangible results and direct outcomes.
I forgot that you can live a good life even if it seems like you don’t understand (or confused, or unsure, or unclear about) what your purpose is.
I forgot that ‘to have fun’ can also be a purpose.
I forgot that ‘to play’ can also be the answer to the question: “WHY?”

I realized that I had forgotten how to play.

So, this year, I want to learn to take myself (and my work, and my art, and everything else) less seriously.

Lately, I find myself asking these questions while working, designing stuff for my shop, having a call with a client, washing dishes, walking at the park:

  • Can I make it a bit more fun?
  • Can I inject more playfulness into it somehow?
  • Can I find something to help me enjoy it more?
  • Can I drop the importance of it and focus on having a pleasant time?

 

Most of the time, the answer is yes.

“What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome,” Brown said. “To benefit most from the rejuvenating benefits of play, we need to incorporate it into our everyday lives, not just wait for that two-week vacation every year.”

So, if you know that you will fail at it, won’t make money out of it, and won’t be great at it, what are the things you would still want to do anyway?

Do it.
Let’s play.

hanny
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Hi. I'm HANNY
I am an Indonesian writer and an artist/illustrator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.

hanny

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