Why Am I Here? by Dr. Barbara L. Swinney
Jemiah, my younger daughter, is a precocious, witty, nine year old who makes me laugh and just amazes me with some of the things that she comes up with. On occasions, when her teenage sister is busy doing other things, Jemiah and I get to enjoy some alone time. She loves it when I’m able to just be present and focus my attention on her. She also likes to ride along with me to run errands and do whatever is that mama’s have to do on Saturdays.
This particular day just happened to be one of those days. Jhardé (the 15 year old) was off with her friends and Jemiah and I had the rare opportunity to hang out—just the two of us. I had a few errands to run and a couple events at which I need to do a “just need to show my face” events, so she and I jumped in the car, she proudly buckled herself into the front passenger seat, and away we went! Jemiah was feeling so happy and free; I could tell by the ginormous smile on her face and the way she propped her bare feet on the dashboard. I just happened to glance over and noticed that she had taken off her shoes. I caught a glimpse of her little toes and commented, “Girl, you need a pedicure!” She responded, “I like my toes, thick or thin…I like my feet!” This was one of those laugh-out-loud moments that Jemiah never seizes to provide. In jest I said, “Girl…you are a nut!” She rebutted, “If I was a nut, I wouldn’t survive!” Out of curiosity, I had to ask, “Why do you say that?” “I’m allergic!” She explained. Knowing that she’s highly allergic to nuts, we both found this hilarious! We continued to make our rounds; from a graduation party to a retirement party, a stop at the grocery store, and another at the gas station.
Between stops, Jemiah, her usual self, continued to talk; she had pushed the “on” button on the chatterbox and there were no signs of her turning it off . I didn’t think much of it all at first, but then she said something that I thought was quite profound for a child her age; something that simply stirred a thought in me that I’d never truly considered. “Mommy!” she elicited my attention. “Do you ever experience surreal moments?” Huh? I responded. “Sometimes I have these surreal moments!” My first thought was, what does a 9 year old know about surreal moments? Really, she’s 9. I couldn’t wait to hear what she would say next, but I just couldn’t resist the urge to probe. I wanted to see if she really knew what she was talking about. I asked, “What does surreal mean, Jemiah?” She went on to explain, “Sometimes when I’m in a situation, like playing on the playground or doing some type of activity, I find myself just sitting and watching, almost like I’m not there…I mean, I know I’m there and I know I’m participating, but it’s like me looking on, observing what’s going on. I interrupted, “Kind of like an out-of-body experience?” Yes…exactly, like an out-of-body experience. She resumed, “Then I ask myself, why am I here…why are any of us here? Why do we exist…why are we here on this earth…what did we come here to do? While I was simply blown away by this; experiencing some inner turbulence like never before, Jemiah was not all phased and had no real expectation for me providing an answer.
We pulled up to pick up my older daughter from her friend’s house, Jemiah was on to the next subject and seemed to have little recollection of the experience she’d shared with me just moments earlier. I had certainly not forgotten. In fact, I was so distracted in my thoughts of our conversation, I could barely hear the two of them chat it up and argue about who should be in the front seat. I repeated her questions in my head and held on the turbulence they caused. I didn’t want to lose this prompting to explore my real reason for being here on this earth. “Why AM I here?…Why are any of us here? What’s the whole point…what’s the purpose?” I just kept asking over and over again. I was stumped. By the time that we arrived home, I realized that this was way bigger than a car ride and some along time with my daughter. This was so much bigger!
In the days and weeks to come, I started coming up with my own questions and conclusions; none definitive. They all just seemed to lead to more questions and even more complex conclusions. Then I had this thought, “What if our purpose for being here is simply to figure out how to “be” here?—How to silence the noise of external demands and become blind to false images to which we compare ourselves; how to change the schema established my misinformed realities. What if our purpose is to help others figure out why they’re here by showing them what “being” looks like…to show them how to be happy with knowing that you’re enough no matter what others think, say, or do…to recognize the peoples’ opinions of you don’t change who you are and therefore, your “being” is not disturbed. What if that is really why we’re here?
Are you struggling to find your purpose? Tell us about it in the comments.
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