The irony of the "search for purpose"


On a search for purpose, I left for a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail the day after I graduated college in a VW van of a cute guy who I would soon fall passionately in love with. Having never hiked a day in my life, on the 5th day in the middle of desperately questioning if I passed a landmark for the 3d time, I spontaneously hoped that the cute guy would save me for a few days and we could romantically rendezvous before I hit the trail again. I had cell signal so I called him, and he was literally seconds from stepping outside of cell service in his raft-guiding town nearby. Synchronicity. The Universe had an interesting plan in mind.

I love really big and hard and fast. I love this about me, yet I can easily lose myself in relationships. After a spontaneous week delighting in the freedom of new friends and sights off trail, I returned to the A.T. and hiked the most terrifying, painful, and beautifully epic miles of my life through almost all of Virginia. As if thinking I was going to die on a regular basis wasn’t enough, the beauty and pain of nostalgic romantic longing added a special challenge to my hike. Over time the challenges of the trail wore on my spirit, and fantasizing of how sweet it would be to trade 20 mile hiking days for a passionate river romance, I let my commitment to my vision weaken, and after crossing the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania, I chose love. Sparing you the drama, he turned out to be sadly unfaithful and dishonest. Incredibly heartbroken I flew to Costa Rica to mend my spirit. While traveling, I proudly hiked the tallest mountain of CR alone, and summited the rim of two active volcanos in Nicaragua (#noregrets).

I returned to Gainesville, and after all that, I still didn’t know what purpose meant. After 3 more lessons like this one, I learned that purpose cannot be chased. I have spent most of my life repeatedly missing out on my reality by fantasizing about what I don’t have. Today, I am committed to devoting myself to the purpose that’s in front of me. It feels less adventurous but more fulfilling. Whatever patterns we have of denying ourselves will follow us wherever we go. Purpose is not a place. And it sure as hell isn’t a sexy raft-guiding boy with a cool VW (trust me lol). Purpose is a way of being. And being purposeful begins when we care about ourselves enough to inquire - how am I/ how am I not living in alignment with my deepest values and desires, right now?

Brielle Martinez