“I don’t know who I am if I’m not a caretaker.”
I heard that statement while I was waiting my turn at a medical office the other day.
I couldn’t help but listen as the person continued to share her story to the receptionist (like bartenders, receptionists often serve as our everyday therapists).
“Ever since my father died—I took a year off to care for him—I have been beside myself wondering how to spend my days. I mean, I need a purpose in my life and all I’ve ever done is take care of someone or something.”
She continued, appearing to have solved her dilemma as she spoke. “I’m thinking of going back to school. I need to learn how to do something else, then maybe I’ll discover a direction for the future.”
The woman appeared to be “of a certain age”—a time when perplexing and critical questions pop up and demand our attention because the status quo in our life is no longer working.
The career counselor in me really wanted to chime in and say: “Bravo! Going back to school seems like a great idea to learn a new skill or try on a different behavior that might change your life. “
I resisted the urge to affirm her idea since I wasn’t really part of her conversation; plus, the receptionist kept nodding in agreement which seemed to be all the woman needed in the way of encouragement.
In that brief, but captivating interlude, I was an accidental witness to life’s most perplexing questions:
- Who am I if I’m not doing what I’ve always done?
- What is my purpose at this time in my life?
- Who or what could help me discover another aspect of myself that might lead to a new direction?
These thought-provoking questions require time and thoughtful reflection—in spite of the sense of urgency that often accompanies them.
You may come to your right answers alone or in dialogue with a trusted friend or skilled professional. However you choose to explore these questions, you might consider the recommendations of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke to support your inquiry: “…Live the questions now. Perhaps you will gradually, without noticing it, Live along some distant day, into the answers.”
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