Hunting for Wally, ladybugs and a purpose

The desire to be something

Everybody wants to be something. Often that something isn’t well-defined. Sometimes it’s outright hazy.

Nobody wants to be nothing.

Being something is satisfying. It’s meaningful. It’s a reason for getting up in the morning, for your heart to gallop and your cheeks to flush. It’s an excuse for expressing yourself across the waves of the internet. It’s a reason to be the one to speak.

Not everyone wants to be the same something. My obsession might be your greatest bore. What’s your life-long quest and holy grail might be meaningless to me.

And then you want to be something more.

It doesn’t necessarily mean fame, it doesn’t mean changing a million, a thousand or even a hundred lives – although many do. It simply means that your life adds meaning to something somewhere, and then somewhere more. Always a little more.

In practice, being something worthy takes time. Meaning takes work to create. And patience.

A childhood dream

From when you’re a child playing dressing up it’s implied that you ought to know the name of your something. But most people don’t, and many who do change their mind.

In primary school I copied my best friend, the Noph. She wanted to be a vet.

In secondary school, in some sort of citizenship lesson, I was sat down in front of a survey on a computer screen and told I had to fill it in. The wise computer informed me I should be a technology teacher.

Aim higher.” The schools careers advisor wanted to push me. He told me to find out about being an academic. Professor Kate stood at the front of a lecture theatre talking symbols?

No, thank you.

The university careers advisor scratched his head and told me he couldn’t tell me what I wanted to be. He could tell me how to become many things. He could tell me how to get an internship. He could tell me how to get onto a Masters or a PhD course. He could tell me how to get a job in banking.

I know my something isn’t a physicist. But it used to be.

How to catch your something / How to find your purpose

I could see my something playing a game of Where’s Wally with me. Every time I thought I’d found it I’d turn the page and have to begin the search again.

Finding somethings, and finding love probably have a lot in common. When things ever get tricky with boys, the Noph throws me a piece of wisdom from a book we’ve both read (It’s not an exact quote as I don’t own the book, but wisdom isn’t dependent on exact phrasing).

Treat them like woodland creatures.

– Sarra Manning, Unsticky

I think it applies to men and my elusive sense of purpose equally. You have to stay alert. You have to keep watching. You have to be there to see it, but you have to be patient and you have to be gentle because it’s very easy to get carried away with ‘supposed to’, forget to listen and miss everything.

One purpose was never going to be enough for me. I’m hunting Wally’s whole family, not just Wally himself.

I don’t know how I’m going to change the world. I don’t know how I’ll describe my life when I reach 100. But all that fuss of feeling there should be a specific goal has dissipated.

I am something, and for now, even though I don’t know how to describe it or define it, I’m happy.

Listen, when I was a little girl I used to spend hours looking for ladybugs. Finally, I’d just give up and fall asleep in the grass. When I woke up, they were crawling all over me.

– Katherine, Under the Tuscan Sun (film)