What is a full life anyway?

A high school junior wants to know. 

Good question, says our elder. Only you can figure out what will make you feel fulfilled.


Dear EWC

I am a junior in high school, and I have been struggling with how to think about my life. It is so long yet it is so short, and more than anything I want to live it fully. I want to experience life, travel, and find love. Will this fulfil me at the end of my life if I get to do all of those things? Or will a normal everyday life fulfil me? Will working the normal 9 to 5 allow me to feel like I have lived my life? Please let me know your thoughts on these questions.


CraigJ replies

Good question.

The easy answer is that you have to figure this all out on your own, because everyone is different, and everyone has their own set of goals, dreams and realities. What is a fulfilling life for one person, may not be so for another. Also there is the issue of circumstances and capabilities; not everyone has the opportunity to do whatever they want, and many don’t have the needed talents to excel to the level they dream about. We can’t all make it to the big leagues. 

So, as you move along, you find your way, and hopefully your life becomes what you dreamed about when you were a junior in high school. If you’re lucky, skilled and hard working, sure, you can find a good job, meet Mr. or Mrs. Perfect, have a bunch of friends and float away into the sunset. Or something like that.

This is actually a pretty good deal, and while everyone has their everyday problems, heartaches and troubles, this prescribed path can lead to a great deal of reward, pleasure and satisfaction. It may require the 9 to 5 job, getting up with kids in the middle of the night, aggravation with a spouse, crappy bosses, and a continual desire to always be on vacation, but all in all, it’s can lead to all the things you’re looking for: contentment, a sense of achievement, companionship, a solid roof over your head and even joy. 

Is this the true, absolute, deep fulfillment, which is at the heart of your question?  Maybe. This is where things get harder.

For some, not all, it appears that, in addition to getting by in the world, they are looking for some inner peace, or understanding, that fulfills them at a more meaningful level. Maybe they find it in religion. Maybe Zen. Maybe being a naturalist. Maybe being an existentialist. Maybe skydiving off the rim of the Grand Canyon with a parachute. 

Whatever. Lots of people have gone a million different directions searching for their ‘thing.’ But be sure that if any of the answers were easy to find, everyone would buy some. 

For most, it’s just a continual search for an understanding of life that is deeper than what we find in the daily news, in the tabloids, or from social media, something that they truly believe in, deep down. I italicised ‘truly’ because there are many false answers out there, and finding what’s right for you is tough. While some can find meaning in historic, relatively simple life lessons, and they are very happy (and fulfilled) with this, for others, their real answer is more obscure. Either there is something missing, or there are often too many questions left unanswered. 

I almost hesitate to write about this deeper level because it’s not something talked about much these days, and it’s hard to explain. But as someone who asked questions similar to what you ask here, at about your age, I’ll assume you’re a bit like I was, looking for something beyond what was taught through the usual channels. 

If you fall into that category, then your total ‘fulfillment’ may be harder to find because you’re looking for something to connect to, something that gives better answers than what you’re used to seeing. I think many people feel this, often as a sense of something missing, or as void somewhere inside that they just can’t fill. A lot of times we just gloss over it, move on and enjoy what we have. As noted, it’s all good. 

However, if you want your real answer to this, then you just have to look everywhere, from books, to teachers, to history, to friends and family, to religion, to history’s best and brightest. There is no road map here, or one final answer, but only the search for something that helps it make more sense to you, that truly helps you find beauty in it all, tragedy and joy.

Through the years, as an example, I’ve dabbled in it all, wondering about everything from where the universe ends, to God’s parents, to how your heart starts. I’ve read a whole bunch about a whole bunch of different topics, looking for better answers, smarter people, and explanations I actually believed in. 

What did I find? Nothing and everything. I don’t have any answers. I am not enlightened. It doesn’t all make sense. However, it does fascinate me, and I am filled with the wonder at it all, from having a family and friends, to capitalism, to what it is to be, to the perfect golf swing. I value the teaching of our historical teachers, and some leaders. I am in awe of how we got to this point, good and bad. 

Is this absolute true fulfillment?  Who knows?  Probably not. But it’s closer for me than when I started. My fulfillment isn’t ever to really have the answers, just to look and be ok with not knowing. 

That’s what you have to figure out for yourself, if this deeper level is what you have in mind. Or even if it really isn’t, it’s something to think about. In either case, the real answer is to keep asking these types of questions, but enjoy the ride, as much as you can, no matter what.

I hope this helps and wish you all the best. 

Article #: 474063

Category: Self-Improvement

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