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I Wasted Half My Life Trying to Find My Purpose

I Wasted Half My Life Trying to Find My Purpose

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Dear Rachel,

I’m almost 60 years old. I’ve held many jobs and followed many career paths in my life, but it’s only now that I feel that I’ve found my life’s purpose.

A few years ago, through really a fluke, I started doing arts-and-crafts projects with all kinds of populations (young and old) as art therapy. I absolutely love it! And after every class, I feel really fulfilled and gratified that these art projects have helped young girls (or old ladies) feel happy and productive. I have gotten great feedback from them, and my classes have grown exponentially. I feel I have finally found my life’s calling. I’m just wondering why it had to take so long. Why did I have to waste so much time when I could have been doing this all along—something I love that contributes to others?

Feeling Wasted


Dear Blossoming,

First of all, I just want to say it’s wonderful that you feel you are living a life of purpose and fulfillment, and I wish you continued joy and satisfaction in pursuing your idealistic vision.

People tend to see their lives as linear and destination-oriented, while in truth, life is actually made up of concentric circles, with our paths dotted by many guideposts and milestones, each of which is a necessary stepping stone to our ultimate purpose.

Look at Moses, for example. His ultimate purpose was to lead the Jewish people out of bondage into nationhood, and to be the vessel through which the Torah was transmitted to the entire nation. He was the greatest prophet of all time, speaking to G‑d face-to-face. But all this started when he was already 80 years old. He spent 60 years as a noble in Pharaoh’s court, and then 20 years as a shepherd in the desert. Why? Because these experiences were formative, and gave him the necessary tools for his ultimate role.

Another example is Rabbi Akiva, the greatest Torah sage of all time. He didn’t even know how to read until the age of 40. Then he studied for 24 years to become the great Torah scholar he is now known to have been. All his students died in a plague, and he started again with only five disciples. These are but two examples; there are hundreds more!

Each of us has to have many experiences—some of which seem disconnected—in order to reach the place where we ultimately achieve our life’s purpose. They’re not a waste of time; they’re the process we need to undergo to get to our ultimate destination. And the longer it takes us to reach our goal, the more experience and wisdom we’ve accumulated.

And I’ll tell you something else. Although you see where you are now as your ultimate destination, it may turn out down the line, in another 5 or 10 years, that you’re somewhere new doing something else that you will define at that later stage as your ultimate purpose. Where you are now is a necessary step to get there.

It’s important to remember, every moment, that you are where you are meant to be. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, at every twist and turn in the road we have the means and the opportunity to serve G‑d—and that is really our ultimate purpose.

Wishing you much creativity, spirituality and fulfillment,

Rachel

Rosally Saltsman is a freelance writer originally from Montreal living in Israel.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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doreet Oregon September 18, 2017

I want to ask Rachel,do you think we STOP THINKING,and being a "sentient being"after we die?--I thought about this" Brutal World".and since we live temporarily in an animal body,it makes no sense that this would be THE HIGHEST DIMENSION an intelligent,thinking being would end up in.--so this one was MEANT to be temporary!Its only a "way-station".BECAUSE its so temporary,its not the final one! Now I realize WHY the Chabad call this"the lowest world";its logical! Reply

BARRY WICKSMAN SAIPAN September 17, 2017

I now devote my life to study Torah. I will be 74 next month. thank you for your encouraging response. SHAVUA TOV. Reply

Nicholas Achimota September 15, 2017

The race is not to smart, the fight is not to the strong, nor food to the wise, but time & chance. Ecc 9;11 Reply

James Topeka September 14, 2017

שרה The word laughter at my age I'm gonna do what!! Reply

S United Kingdom September 13, 2017

Thank you, Rachel for this lovely response. Reply

Philip Hoyle Washington September 13, 2017

"It’s important to remember, every moment, that you are where you are meant to be. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, at every twist and turn in the road we have the means and the opportunity to serve G‑d—and that is really our ultimate purpose."

Love it (even though I sometimes don't believe it)! And Rachel is the name of my sister which is cool. Reply

doreet USA September 18, 2017
in response to Philip Hoyle:

Yes,and I now realize WHY you have to do that, remember "where you are,is where you're meant to be."Evolution. You can't evolve,as a being,much higher,before you crawl,you cannot walk and run.Every stage of life is important. Reply

jan wetzel FREDERICKTOWN September 13, 2017

Torah was transmitted to the entire nation. He was the greatest prophet of all time, speaking to G‑d face-to-face. But all this started when he was already 80 years old. He spent 60 years as a noble in Pharaoh’s court and then 20 years as a shepherd in the desert. Why do you say Moses was 60yrs. when the bible says he was 40 yrs. when he left Egypt and was in the dessert for 40 yrs.? Reply

Rosally Saltsman Petach Tikvah September 13, 2017
in response to jan wetzel:

Moses died when he was 120 years old. He spent 40 years in the desert. He was 80 when he took the Jewish people out of Egypt. the Bible doesn't say how old Moses was when he left Egypt only that he had matured. There seems to be more than one Midrash about how old Moses was when he fled Egypt. The point was however that he didn't achieve his ultimate purpose until he was 80. Reply

Yossi LA September 14, 2017
in response to jan wetzel:

The Bible says, Moses passed away at age 120, after 40 years in the desert. Hence, Moses was 80 when he took the Jews out of Egypt. Reply

doreet USA September 18, 2017
in response to Rosally Saltsman:

AHA, MOSES did not die;he was taken away by God,without human death.--God just came,took him away with him,he loved him so much.As for his AGE,do you think people lived longer then,or is his high age hinting at something else? Curious. Reply

Clifford Rothband Coconut Creek Fl September 13, 2017

I'll be 73 next week, I was born on the 2nd day of Rosh Ashanas 1944, Bris on Yom Kippur, Know what that means? I don't but in the shul on Sackman Street Brooklyn the Alta Cockers carried me with the Torah Scrolls until I was about 5. Everyone kissed me as though I was as important as any survivor with numbers tattooed on there arms. They were happy to be alive , laughed at adversity. They had no real jobs but found there life's meaning in being. Telling what they had been through and a little Shnapes. the greatest cookies and Rabbi's doing there thing by being humorous. Yes, everyone laughed at life. The point is that as bad times, often difficult as I my have been through others might have had it worse. And still had the resilience to find a meaning in life.
Zhe Gezhundt.
Can life be worse? The sun shines this morning, Reply

Hope September 13, 2017
in response to Clifford Rothband:

You are so right! Resilience and appreciation of the wonderful little things in life are what it's all about Reply

S United Kingdom September 13, 2017
in response to Clifford Rothband:

Have a happy birthday Reply

Hope September 13, 2017

A fabulous article...everyone needs to hear this, please post it beyond the 'women's pages' Reply

Denise Y. Fielding South Africa September 13, 2017

How true your reply Rachel. At the age of 78 I can say yes, 'all works together for good to those who love G-d and are called according to His purpose' Denise Add a comment... Reply

Hinda Baltimore September 11, 2017

What a lovely answer to the above question. Thank you for your vision and compassion Reply

Maura Jupiter, Florida September 11, 2017

Good for her! Reply

Hidaya NC September 11, 2017

I needed this! Reply

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