Like many 23-year-olds, I have no clue what my purpose in life is.
Also like many 23-year-olds, I’m convinced that I’m the only one who doesn’t know this information yet.
When in doubt about something, my go-to instinct is to read a book. Like the dutiful English major/Hermione Granger fan that I am, I’m certain that any answer I need can be found somewhere in the nearest library. So naturally after graduation this past May I picked up quite the haul: The Defining Decade by Meg Jay (a book about 20-somethings which I shoved down everyone’s throats because it was that enlightening), Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht (a good kick in the ass for young job seekers), The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (a great kick in the ass for creatives), and, most recently, You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.
I suppose any of these could be considered self-help books to some extent, but You Are a Badass undoubtedly falls into this category. I didn’t even realize I was falling into the self-help rabbit hole until I was already well in. It’s like The Defining Decade, Leave Your Mark, and The Creative Habit were actually gateway books to the more seriously inspiring You Are a Badass, and now I’m at risk of receiving a self-help intervention.
I’ve never been called a particularly positive person. Realistic, yes, and, dare I say it, cynical. Then last winter I started experiencing frequent panic attacks and everything changed. To combat the mounting anxiety growing within me I launched a full-scale mental crusade that involved me saying yes to every form of self-help. Activities that used to make me cringe, like meditation and talking about my feelings to a professional, became parts of my routine. I wrote in my journal with conviction, altered my diet, and did yoga in my basement. I mixed medical remedies like anti-anxiety medication with more holistic methods, like aromatherapy and essential oils. Basically, I opened myself up to any and all suggestions for bringing my mental state back to normal, and it worked.
And now I guess I’m the girl who reads self-help books. But not just regular self-help books, cool self-help books that have swear words in them. I’ve been thinking about the self-help stigma, and I think it’s there because reading a book doesn’t correlate to taking action in the real world. There’s an Emerson quote that has stuck with me – “Meek young men grow up in libraries believing in their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.”
Reading isn’t enough; you have to go out there and act on what you’ve learned. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I read these books, limiting the time I spend reading and increasing the time I spend applying to full-time jobs, improving this blog, and working at my part-time job. Still holding out for that moment when I’m reading and all of a sudden I know exactly what my life’s purpose is and all the details of my career path, though.