The world, life, does not have to be so large. I love gelato. Plain and simple. Snorkling in the Great Barrier Reef, walking through the pyramids in Egypt, taking a gondola through Venice, and watching Paris light up from a Seine River cruise have all been magical experiences, but there is something to be said for walking into your favorite gelato shop and having them know your coffee order (even if it’s just because I’m the only person on the planet still ordering decaf). That moment seems far more tangible to me.
The fact of the matter is that the world is a large place, and when I tend to experience it on such a grand level, I can often become overwhelmed. Though I wouldn’t want to trade in my memory of Big Ben, choosing a new flavor at Tifa’s grounds me on a much greater scale. I used to be of the belief that in order to feel big, I must do big. I was in search of purpose, and simplicity was not a place I looked. I wanted to understand my place, and so I tried to find how I fit into the puzzle next to The Great Wall of China and Machu Picchu. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t. I constantly questioned how my life could have meaning if it was impossible to build another Leaning Tower of Pisa or free every child soldier in Uganda. With my black-and-white mind, my child self began to develop on the notion that I was of no importance if I couldn’t feed every mouth in Sudan. I stayed up late, bubbling with the anxiety that comes with the woes of Earth and how to solve them as a five, eight, twelve, etc. -year-old, and my every day seemed like nonsense.
My therapist and I click. Probably because we both like dressing for themed events, enjoy icing and painted nails, and can talk in theory for hours. Whatever it is, she gets my existential jibber jabber. Early on in my treatment, I sat in one of the small therapy rooms. I was having a breakdown and the earthy tones of the furniture were not doing it for me. “It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t exist,” I sobbed, vulnerably and hesitantly letting her in on what seemed like the impossible truth I’d been running from for a lifetime. I was in a prison I’d built for myself long ago when I discovered the answer to life I believed most dimwits were too ignorant to recognize: we are all a part of a game that doesn’t matter. I also believed no one would take me seriously if I let them in on it. She didn’t laugh. She listened. I was flabbergasted.
“What would having purpose be like for you?” she oh-so therapeutically replied. I couldn’t answer. The reality of it was that, even though I believed all of us were suffering for no end result, I didn’t want anyone else to give up. Others meant something to me, and that felt like enough. Even if that was there only mission in life, I was satisfied with it. I was the exception to the construct of my own beliefs. I couldn’t quite grasp the dramatic shift that would signify on my road, nor was I totally ready to discard the out I’d given myself in attempting to heal if I never had a reason to, so my therapist had me reading Man’s Search for Meaning.
In sum, Viktor Frankl describes his findings of survival via personal fulfillment, through the stories of his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl explains that a major theme displayed among the survivors was their hope in greater meaning for the road they were traveling; tragic optimism. Contrary, many of the deaths he witnessed followed a prisoner’s submission to hopelessness. Frankl developed logotherapy with his studies, concluding that a key source in healing is the need for a purpose. This could be found in three ways: performing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and an attitude towards suffering.
Today, I have had to really reconsider what purpose means to me and where I fit in with it. My heart bursts a little when I catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, but the Mona Lisa is way overrated and neither give meaning to my life, they just reward me for living (although maybe Pollack instead of Mona). It is literally jumping-for-joy when Tifa’s has the Cookie Butter-flavor gelato, and trying a sample of every new one from Blueberry Panna Cota to Whiskey Waffle Cone to Lemon Curd Pistachio, as well as soaking in the fact that everyone gets a kick out of the fact that I still get a kick out of the flavors, that brings me purpose. It is sitting outside on the coffee-stained wooden benches with people I know appreciate a for-once honest and authentic me, and having the relationship feel mutual that makes me feel secure. It is talking about things that matter to me and hearing what matters to someone else and laughing over my decaf coffee every Saturday that tells me I am worth something, even to just a handful of people in that moment. It is knowing that is enough that makes it enough. And that is all.