What Is Your Life About?

I recently made a mistake, one that I have been making since I was very young. Someone asked me about the book I am currently reading. Was I enjoying it? And what was it about?

By way of answer, I started to provide the basic plot of the book. Afterward, I mentally berated myself for making the basic mistake of conflating the plot — what happens — with what it is about. The point.

But then I started to realize that in my life, I often do the same thing. There is the everyday plot of my life: I got up, had breakfast, went to work, etc. These are the things that happen over the course of the days, weeks, and years of my life.

However, these events are not what my life is about.

It is true, of course, that the two can be related. In a novel, the plot can help to highlight the point of the book. It can be used, along with characterization, symbolism, and other writers tricks — to illuminate the purpose. But they are certainly not the same thing.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you define success?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


During the weekly meetings Michael and I have to discuss our lives and come up with the week’s questions for Intellectual Roundtable, too often I fall back on the plot of my life during our conversation. I did this thing. An event happened to me. I went here, read this, talked to so-and-so. It is an easy shorthand, to summarize the week that was.

Which, then, raises the question: What is your life about? How often do you think about the meaning, the purpose, the larger picture, of the book you are currently reading. Or, indeed, of your own life?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? What gives you purpose? What are you reading right now?

5 thoughts on “What Is Your Life About?”

  1. On a meta-level, my life is about trying to bring my best self to the aspects of my life that are most important to me. As a meme making its way around the internet these days notes, I know that my best self can change each day. And that’s okay. Secondly, on a meta-level, I want and need to balance the things I commit to. I like what my life is about; I’d hate to be at an imbalance too often, as that would be one of the most significant contributors to burnout happening in one or more of the things I currently find essential.

    Getting to the substance of the matter, my first priority is to have the best relationship with Rebecca possible. This is achieved mainly through meaningful, daily communication. Frequent walks together, sharing what happened during our workdays and why that’s important, being there for each other during tough times: these are just a few ways to keep our great relationship going strong.

    Second, I have devoted my career to ensuring people possess safe and stable housing they can afford. In a more targeted sense, I want to play a role in ending homelessness. I fear that people don’t understand how within our reach this goal is. It’s mainly a problem of political will.

    Third, I want to play a role in ending the discrimination and stigma attached to mental health issues. I think the generational increase in the prevalence of mental health struggles and the willingness to talk about it will actually be the big push that makes this happen. But still, I want to play my role. And about that balance thing, I need to attend to my mental health while being a part of this movement.

    Fourth, I want to play a role in protecting the earth’s food supply. So few understand how close we are to significant disruptions and collapses within the food system. I do a small number of personal things to achieve this. I give to seed-saving organizations and purchase seeds from those who sell heirloom seeds. Next, I grow food solely from heirloom seeds. And last, I share photos of my work to show how easy growing real food is and how beautiful heirlooms can be. Admittedly, I need to get a bit more political in working to make an impact.

    Lastly, I want to be the best friend and colleague I can be. Listening, bringing humor to appropriate situations, cheerleading regarding successes big and small: these are just a few of the things I do to be my best self in this arena.

  2. In broad strokes, I want my life to be about: always learning how the world works; seeing from the point of view of people and things that are unfamiliar to me; thinking about things from an unusual perspective and bringing together disparate fields of knowledge.

    And laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

  3. People, music, movement are what exhibit themselves most clearly when I was asked by one of the unemployment offices in training here in Minnesota to fill in an age-related task oriented grid. Starting as a child and up through Junior High and high school, then college and on and on ~ during each Epoch of my life I was to fill in the passtimes, activities or employment that I enjoyed at those times. And lo and behold in every single Square it translated back down to people, music or movement. In my 70s that leads me to wonder what am I doing organizing fair housing? Are people in music and movement hidden within the logistic of more fair housing? ie: more. Of it and more fairness therein. Well, yes!! of course they are because housing and people are almost one in the same, a hand in a glove but also music comes to mind when we finally hear our stories told truly, with integrity and our movement is like marching ~ so when we hit the streets with our posters that’s that. But interestingly enough it’s not musical and it’s not a dancing. Or is that???

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