What's My Motivation?
I never felt the need to "find" myself, because I never "lost" myself.
In the 1960s and 1970s, it was common for people to “go out and find themselves.” I never understood the need. “I’m right here.
Why would I go trekking the Himalayas to ‘find myself’?” I loved to travel; I brought myself with me wherever I went.
And then, in the 1970s, we had cults on every corner. Dreamy-eyed, barefooted young people who had found paradise in homelessness danced around us on the sidewalks, sticking flower stems in our hair — an invasion of personal space we were expected to pay for.
I began to see why some people might need to “find themselves,” as clearly, these folks were lost without a map or compass. I knew, even at 13 or 14, that I did not want to go anywhere they were leading.
And then, enlightenment in the form of bright yellow smiley faces and bumper stickers that proclaimed to all the world: “I FOUND IT!” Found what?
I thought they were looking for themselves, but they found — oh! Suddenly all those empty leashes with “invisible dogs” made sense — they’d found the DOG! I liked my invisible dog just the way it was. Invisible poop, and all. And my pet rock. I did not need theirs.
But no, turns out, they’d “Found Jesus.” They’d “let Jesus Christ into their heart as their personal savior” and by asking what the bumper sticker meant, you’d implied you were interested in the story of their salvation and how you, too, could join in God’s merciful bounty. I told them, politely, to go get lost.
I’d never kicked God out, so why did I have to let Him in? Sure, there was that time, for a few years, when I was not on speaking terms with God. When I stayed out of God’s house — any form of “church” in any faith or denomination — because Mom always said you had to be polite and not use bad words in someone else’s home, and all I could think when I sat down to pray was profanity.
“Fuck you, Big Guy. Fuck you.” But you know what? God didn’t kick me out, and I figured you couldn’t be so livid, so furious, with a being you didn’t believe in. So I definitely wasn’t atheist.
Eventually, I declared a truce. And the next time I set foot in a church, I did not spontaneously combust. Apparently, spontaneous human combustion was also a thing, in the 1970s. I’ve never known anyone to burst into flames without first being doused in gasoline, but according to all the tabloids, it was a thing.
I had a good life. God did not rain frogs on my head, though the thought makes me laugh, now — would’ve been entertaining, even to me, and probably a fair “punishment” for the profanity.
Method & Motivation
I majored in Theater Arts for a year. I’d spell it “Theatre,” but this is the good ol’ USA, and “Theatre” seems pretentious. Just so you know I was not studying to run the projector at my local movie house. Anyway, I loved acting. I hated “method acting,” and by extension, most of the students in my major. Talk about pretentious. Or stupid.
“What’s my motivation?” Did you not understand the story? The character? The lines? The problem is, some of my peers grew up too fast.
Or maybe they never had the joy this only child did, of spending long, boring weeks during the summer playing make-believe, and being everything from a cat to a princess to a pauper to a child who’s discovered another world at the back of the closet under the stairs.
“What’s my motivation?” Put me in costume, hand me a prop, and shove me out onto the stage. I’m there. My motivation is whatever the character’s feel — er, you really don’t know, do you?
You just cannot play make-believe if you overthink it. The goal, here, is to suspend disbelief long enough that you simply…are “in character.” I was horribly unsympathetic towards the method actors, at the time.
Now, I just feel sorry for adults who’ve lost their sense of the miraculous, their sense of play, their sense of joy in what might be, rather than in what is. I feel sorry for folks who have to work so hard to play, on stage.
I never honestly gave a lot of thought to my “purpose” in life. I knew what I enjoyed: asking lots of questions, learning the answers, reading voraciously, climbing trees, swimming in the ocean, eating tasty food — well, come to think of it, a jellyfish can eat.
And exactly how long have jellyfish graced this planet? 500 million years or more. How long have humans existed? About 200,000 years. 6 million or so, at most — but only if you count creatures that were just starting to resemble “human.”
Do we need a purpose? I think humans are the only living creatures who believe they do, and who actively search for theirs.
I know, I’m not a jellyfish — but this does not mean I need to overthink my “purpose” in life.
An Epiphany in the Ethernet
In the late 1980s, I learned that computers were not, as a matter of fact, the boring number-crunching machines I’d told my father they were, when he suggested I consider a career doing something or other with them. As if they might one day grace every desk, every home, or be held in our pockets. As IF. Deadly dull things.
Until I started playing online role-playing games, and then I wanted to expand upon those games by writing new areas to explore, new hidden objects to discover and wonder and make up stories about, new quests for my fellow adventurers — until I realized that they were exactly like the old “choose your own ending” stories.
And I could write those on a computer, where people would come act on a stage I’d built, in a world of my own making!
I had an epiphany, while working on one of the new areas for a role-playing game: Perhaps our purpose is to be entertaining. To God, if we believe that God exists. To one another, certainly. Even to ourselves, if only to relieve our fellow man of some of the burden.
You see, I was writing this marvelous setting, building a world, but the only character wandering around in it was me. And I craved an audience. Not to adore me, but to find delight in my work.
To play and to find their own spaces within this world, to watch them build on them and share what they loved, to form their own relationships, and discover things I’d hidden about for the curious to find.
Oh, was it disappointing when players weren’t curious enough to look.
It’s no secret that writers, fiction writers, at least, love to “play God.” We’re not surgeons, with literal power over life and death. But we have that primal, creative urge. We communicate the possible.
Sometimes, we tell greater truths than journalists dare, by burying them safely within a story. Other times, we simply daydream and then, through words, bring into being what only existed in imagination.
We have to share it with those marvelous creatures called readers. Without readers, the words have no form or solidity — but when they exist outside us, in others’ minds, they begin to be real. It is a gift we give each other.
Outside of this, I believe my purpose — our purpose —is to learn. To become better at caring for this creation we call a universe, and particularly the little corner of it we call “home.” To become better at caring for and nurturing one another — if nothing else, to learn how to “first, do no harm.” Words to live by, even if we’re not doctors. If we could learn and achieve that goal, it would truly be something, wouldn’t it? First, do no harm.
A professional writer - technical writing, freelance, fiction, and poetry - residing in Houston, TX. Married, mom of two, fun-loving tree-climber and amateur artist. Read more at her website: https://jahangiri.us or on Medium: https://medium.com/@hollyjahangiri