By Eddy Smith
Imagine a world where the daily stresses of life become so overwhelming that escape seems like the only option. This stark reality hit me during a recent conversation with a young member of our society, opening my eyes to an often-ignored yet crucial aspect of adolescent development. We tend to dismiss the struggles of our youth as simple rites of passage or typical teenage angst, but I discovered that these issues demand much deeper understanding and attention. The young man shared with me a troubling insight into his life, revealing that his days are so filled with stress, he feels driven to use drugs as a refuge from the unyielding barrage of his thoughts. In that moment, I caught myself underestimating the gravity of his situation, almost scoffing at the idea — how could life’s challenges be so overwhelming for a teenager that numbing themselves becomes a necessity?
However, upon later reflection, I was struck by a sense of profound empathy. I endeavoured to view the world through the lens of today’s youth, to truly walk a mile in their shoes, and I was humbled by the realisation. The world we have fashioned presents innumerable challenges, and it is the youth who bear the brunt. There are myriad factors that might drive someone to seek solace in substances – to understand this, we must start by embracing empathy. Yet, I resolve not to condone this young person’s coping mechanism without challenge. It’s all too easy to become engulfed in the daily grind and forget that each day should carry its own weight, its unique purpose. We must remind our youth – and ourselves – that despite life’s relentless pace, finding meaning in every day is not just possible, but essential.
In our eagerness to guide the younger generation, we often stress the importance of seizing opportunities, achieving academic success, and emulating the accomplishments of past trailblazers. However, in this well-intentioned advice, we frequently overlook a crucial element: explaining the “why” behind our expectations. Without understanding the purpose or the reason behind their endeavours, even the smallest obstacles can seem insurmountable to our youth, leading them to question the very essence of their efforts: Why bother at all? This lack of purpose can be particularly daunting, leaving many young individuals, especially young men, to mechanically move from one expectation to another without a sense of direction. This can take a significant toll on their mental and emotional well-being.
The idea of purpose isn’t just a lofty philosophical concept; it’s actually something quite practical and grounded, especially when you look at it through a biblical lens. Take the story of creation in Genesis, for example. It’s not just a narrative about the origins of the world; it offers us a glimpse into the idea that life comes with a built-in sense of purpose. When God created man, he didn’t just leave him to wander aimlessly. Instead, he gave man a job to do — to care for the Garden of Eden. This wasn’t just busywork; it was a meaningful role, providing man with a sense of responsibility and direction.
This biblical account resonates deeply when we think about our own lives, especially for the youth who are just starting to figure out their place in the world. It’s not enough to just tell them what they should be doing; it’s far more important to help them understand why they’re doing it. Finding one’s purpose isn’t just about ticking boxes or following a set path; it’s about discovering what genuinely resonates with you, what makes you feel like you’re contributing something worthwhile.
So, when we talk to young people about finding their purpose, it’s not about preaching from a pulpit. It’s more about sharing the wisdom that everyone has a unique role to play, a concept that’s as old as the biblical story of creation. By finding what makes them tick, what gets them excited to get up in the morning, they’re not just fulfilling societal expectations; they’re tapping into something much deeper – a sense of being part of a larger story, just like the first humans in Eden. It’s about connecting with something that gives life meaning and direction, which, in a way, is what those ancient stories have been trying to tell us all along.
The pursuit of purpose is not just a lofty ideal; it’s the linchpin of a life well-lived, the antidote to the pervasive anxiety that threatens to consume our daily existence. Recognising our innate capacity to create and rebuild is vital, especially in a society where the prevalence of brokenness can make such an endeavour seem Sisyphean. Yet, it is precisely this ability to rise above the fray that defines us. To the youth of our nation, I implore you to reject the narrative of despair. We are all capable of living abundantly rich lives, wealth not just measured in material gains but in the unearthing and nurturing of the unique talents each of us possesses—our personal “acre of diamonds”.
Turning away from the fleeting comfort of substances is essential, as these are mere temporal fixes. While they serve their role in easing physical ailments, the deeper maladies of the mind require a more profound form of healing, one that cannot be found on any herb or pharmacy shelf. True healing, the kind that nurtures our spirit and strengthens our sense of self, isn’t something that can be externally prescribed. Instead, it needs to be cultivated from within, through a conscious journey towards a purpose-driven life. It’s imperative that we advocate this principle, striving not just for mere existence, but for a life imbued with intention, meaning, and fulfilment.
Life, with its myriad unpredictable twists and turns, will undoubtedly bring pain, struggle, and moments of doubt. There will be days shrouded in feelings of insignificance, where our efforts appear futile and our dreams distant. It is during these challenging times, as Friedrich Nietzsche insightfully pointed out, that having a “why” in life becomes our most reliable anchor. This “why” — our ingrained sense of purpose — is the force that imparts meaning to our actions and equips us with resilience in the face of adversity. Nietzsche’s enduring wisdom, ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,’ resonates across generations. This powerful truth urges us to discover and cling to our “why”, allowing it to guide us through life’s darkest moments and provide the strength to weather its harshest challenges. Our “why” not only helps us navigate life’s inherent sufferings but transforms these experiences into opportunities for growth, learning, and eventual triumph.
For those wrestling with the burdens of depression, addiction, or the myriad challenges life throws at us, it’s important to recognise that you are not isolated in your struggles. Across the world, countless others are facing similar trials, bound together by a shared human experience. This collective struggle offers a wellspring of strength and comfort. It is essential to remember that these overwhelming feelings are not insurmountable. The journey towards healing begins with acknowledging the need for help and then courageously seeking it out. This could mean joining a support group, finding solace in spiritual communities, or pursuing professional therapy. Every step you take towards help is a move towards recovery. You are an invaluable part of the world, and your unique contributions and perspectives are crucial to the fabric of our society.
Each challenge or moment of uncertainty should be viewed not as a call to retreat but as an opportunity for growth and resilience. Your moment of breakthrough may be closer than you think. Truly seizing the day involves engaging with all facets of life — its joys, successes, and also its struggles and setbacks. This means being fully present and receptive to life’s lessons, transforming every experience into a valuable learning opportunity. Embrace a mindset where every setback paves the way for a comeback, ensuring that no obstacle can diminish your sense of purpose. This approach not only keeps your drive for fulfilment alive but also turns every step, even the missteps, into meaningful progress towards your goals.
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