• nicole calder

A purposeless life

I’ve been struggling for some time now and it hasn’t been until the past month that I’ve really started to understand the reason why. At first I thought the cause was the election triggering something within me, then I thought it was my heart recovering from an earlier heartbreak, but what I have realised is that although these issues have certainly affected me, they’re not the primary cause. I’m struggling because I feel like I’m living a purposeless life. My life is lacking meaning and as a result I quite frankly feel a little lost.


Throughout my entire life, I have known structure. I would go to school and then to soccer. Soccer was my life; I went to school and worked hard so I could reap the benefits of the sport I revered. Once I graduated from high school, I still had soccer. And at this time, I had a girlfriend too. I never once felt like I was missing something; soccer filled that void. As did my girlfriend. My life was full of purpose and meaning. Looking back, the happiest months of my life were when I had the presence of these two things; soccer and a girlfriend. And there’s a reason for that.

I’m an all-or-nothing person…when it comes to something I love or am passionate about. My brothers used to mock me for this, telling me I should never put all my eggs in one basket because it could destroy me. Although they raise a valid point, that investing all of yourself into one thing can leave you extremely susceptible to being destroyed, it also allows you to feel true elation and happiness. And I have experienced both these phenomenon; true elation and outright destruction. The truth is, I’m not sure I would have it any other way.

Since coming to college, I maintained this structure; school and soccer every day. Soccer to me has always been more than just a form of exercise; it became the best way I knew how to externalise my internal passions. Anyone who has seen me play would agree that I always played with one thing: heart. My college years, my college teammates, much of it was disappointing. I was surrounded by teammates that did not share the same passion, teammates that were merely playing soccer so that it could pay for their college degree, and teammates that saw their collegiate playing years as their final destination in a sport they’ve devoted their lives to. I then had a self-serving coach that frequently put his best interests before the team’s, a coach that feared accountability and change, a coach that slowly made me resent my collegiate years.


Nonetheless, I still had my one thing: soccer. Well, that is when I wasn’t injured. I realise now that when I was injured, I lost more than just the endorphin release and natural buffer against things like depression. I lost my purpose. I lost my structure. And I almost lost my life. After tearing my second ACL my senior year, I wasn’t sure I would ever play again. I began to seek an alternative; coaching. Coaching was great, but it wasn’t the same as playing. Shortly after graduating and in the midst of still rehabbing my knee, I met someone. Given the painful and destructive nature of my relationship earlier in the year, I had reservations. I was guarded. But this girl used her words, and actions (at the start at least), to reassure me. It wasn’t long then, before I was hooked and giving all of myself to her. My life now had purpose again.

What I’ve learned is that in the absence of soccer, I can be okay. But only if I am in a relationship in which I am truly devoted to my partner. And I’ve come to understand that the reason is this: my life’s purpose is to play soccer and to love. These are the only two avenues that I have found I can give my entirety to, that have given my life purpose and meaning. To love wholeheartedly is a beautiful gift and has proven to be as fulfilling as playing soccer has been throughout my life.

Since this relationship ended at the commencement of 2016, I spent much of the year searching. Searching to fill this void. One of my regulars at my restaurant called me out on this some time back in December. He stated that, “The reason you are taking all of these courses (to become a crisis counsellor, a certified peer specialist, and an authentic love course), is because there is something that you are lacking within you. Something you are deeply unhappy with.” These are the kind of conversations I need. I need people to challenge me. Challenges are what cause me to look within myself for answers. Perhaps this conversation is what prompted me to understand my present struggle; my life is lacking meaning. And I am searching for it within these courses, hoping that I might find something that I can give my entirety to. But I haven’t found it. And so here I am, feeling a little lost in what I am doing in this life.

After reading the book The One Thing by Gary Keller back in September, I felt inspired and compelled to determine my life’s purpose. With the assistance of other friends’ input, I concluded that my life’s purpose was to coach others to understand themselves whilst equipping them with skills and confidence to be themselves and overcome adversity. Although this glorious and complex purpose might indeed be my ultimate purpose in life, it is not what is giving my life meaning today. Through my work as a crisis counsellor on Crisis Text Line and my work as a coach/mentor; I do not feel fulfilled. I feel nothing. Empty, actually.


Much of my life I have been told that it is unhealthy to need another human, or to really need anything. But I disagree. I believe it is in our nature to need others and need things and I’m not just referring to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I’m referring to needing purpose. Late last year I also read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a man that survived the devastating destruction of the holocaust. He writes that he only survived those concentration camps because he gave meaning to his suffering; he had a purpose for surviving. And his purpose was to educate others, to write about his experiences. He developed logotherapy, a therapy based on finding one’s purpose. At first, I felt very little towards this book and was merely reading it for the sake of reading it. But as weeks have gone by, the message derived within Frankl’s words have been gaining significance within my own life.


In terms of needing another, we all need others. Humans need other humans, that is why we are social creatures. I do not necessarily need to be in a relationship to function in life; I can and have survived much of my life being single. What I do need though, is I need a relationship to fulfil a greater purpose within me. And that purpose is to love. To give all of myself to. People might argue, well can you not love your friends with this excess love? The key here is friendS – plural – we cannot give our entire self to multiple people, that’s not possible. Whenever I am not in a relationship, I feel like my life and love is being wasted. I have always felt that I have all this love inside me, yearning to be given to someone else, and when I can’t, I feel unfulfilled. Dissatisfied. I feel like I am merely existing, not living. This insight offers some clarity into my relationship behaviours, about why I cannot jump from relationship to relationship or sleep with just anyone; I cannot love with anything less than all of myself. And so one-night stands have never appealed to me, not because they lack emotional connection, but because they cannot offer fulfilment; they do not satisfy my life’s purpose.


Long story short, I miss soccer. And I miss companionship. I miss the structure soccer provides, the comradery shared amongst teammates, and I miss the purpose it fulfils. I miss giving my all to something or someone. It baffles me that the American system offers nothing beyond college unless you make it pro. But even then, the seasons are so short it’s almost only a temporary fix. I can train all I want by myself, but that’s not the same. Soccer is a team sport. I have struggled since moving to the US because this passion has not been shared nor reciprocated. I frequently hear people exclaim that they can’t wait for the season to be over and it kills me a little inside. What I would give to play again, to have played more than I did, to be playing in that structured, purposeful environment again. But instead I am here, without soccer and without a significant other, feeling lost in what feels like a purposeless life.

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