First of all, what is “meaning”? Meaning is a given direction, a goal, it’s what helps us get out of bed in the morning. It’s the propulsion helping me believe that my life is worthwhile, and that my days are not vain. My highs and lows exist to bring me further.
Moving in a direction that is good for me is what a meaningful life looks like to me.
I believe the word “meaning” has no capital letter, because although many philosophers, thinkers, and religious groups of all eras wrote and reflected on the topic, there is no unified answer to this question.
The motivation to get through each day varies from one person to another, from one culture to the next. For some, it’s work, for others, it’s their children. For others yet, it’s making money, traveling or exceeding physical limits.
Therefore, meaning is unique to everyone.
In addition to being unique to everyone, someone’s life meaning can change. Through seasons, it evolves, modulates, reshapes itself. Sometimes it gets lost, dies and then returns. It goes through separation, disturbance, then enlightenment.
My life as a child revolved around rocks I would compile in my pockets, trees from the forest behind my house and games I invented. As a teenager, I savored writing, poetry, music, and somewhere along the way, everything lost its meaning (French); several heartaches made me question life. As a young adult, I reflected on the meaning of life for the first time and I came to the conclusion that my life was dedicated to knowing God (French). Then, closer to my thirties, meaning vanished once more, and I thought I would never find it again. I fell into emptiness and believed I would lose myself there. Days were the same and went from grey to cloudy, to letting in some sun to passing through the cold rain. I could no longer see purpose. “I am not even thirty…woah my life will be tedious if I no longer see its meaning.” And today…
Today, I find purpose principally in five aspects of my life:
From various exchanges – sometimes words, gestures, glances – I feel inspired to continue. Whether in friendship, love or my roles as a travel coach (French), Creative Journaling facilitator (French) or English teacher, I try to entertain true connections and love others even when they are very different from me. I dare, as much as I can, to show myself as I am (even if it’s not always easy!). I welcome the unknown and go towards it without fear. I sincerely believe that everyone has something to offer me.
“We do not make trips. Trips make us and break us, they invent us.” David Le Breton. Trips make us and break us… YES, totally. They open up my mind, form my thoughts, and invite me to open my arms to the untouchable. It is difficult for me to express the meaning my life takes when I travel, or more accurately, the meaning that traveling gives to my life. I touch upon it in this article (French), but beyond that, dozens of key moments made my heart beat for the world in a particular way: a heart-to-heart conversation with a Palestinian friend about his everyday reality, an exchange with a South African refugee and taxi driver, a moment of ecstasy for the beauty of Argentina’s landscapes, a reunion with friends from Switzerland, a breath of sea air on the beach in Gaspesie, a sacred ritual in Peru…
Walking in a forest, climbing a mountain, making a snowman, putting on my snowshoes, witnessing the sunrise, scuba diving or contemplating a stream… All those moments remind me that I am a citizen of the world and I live on a beautiful and breathtaking planet. Through this beauty, I relate to the world, to what’s beyond me, and I am no longer alone. This feeling of belonging to a whole invites me to take a step back from my life, problems, questions, uncertainties, anxieties and sorrows, and puts everything into perspective. And then, I see meaning with more clarity…
The magic in my life is to welcome the unpredictable, smile to the unknown and pay attention to it. It’s being sensible to the small synchronicities that make me believe, maybe, my life has a meaning beyond what I understand. Or maybe not. But to be honest, I don’t care. I don’t care, because I enjoy thinking everything happens for a reason, that every meeting teaches me something, that my intuitions are my subconscious’ gatekeepers and that life speaks to me sometimes in ways outside rationality. And those magical moments provide meaning to my everyday life.
Finally, it can happen, that I lose sight of my life’s meaning. My ability to foster a relationship with myself is what helps me greatly. Through writing, readings, therapy or mindfulness exercises, I can find refuge within myself and care for what is, in the moment. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes that’s all we are capable of doing; find refuge within ourselves and hope for the best. I know how to welcome and accompany myself, one step at a time, to reconnect to a meaning.
Does my life have meaning with a capital M? No. Not really. Love others and love oneself… Believe in others and believe in oneself… Respect others and respect oneself…Honor others and honor oneself… These values are the foundations of my days, they help me get out of bed and give meaning to my decisions. However, I never forget that my life’s meaning is fragile. Changeable. Shakeable. I know I must take care of it, since I’ve already lost it before. In moments when it becomes more blurry, I remember my past’s crossings and the roads I took to find meaning again.
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Dans ce livre, certains reconnaîtront leur sortie du placard, d'autres une séparation importante, et d’autres encore leur entrée dans le monde adulte.
J’y partage mon histoire, un témoignage authentique parsemé d’exercices pour vous aider à trouver votre propre étoile du Nord.
Mélanie Gagné, psychosociologue