There comes a point in your life when you start questioning whether the path you’re taking is leading you to where you want to be. This self-awareness is inescapable—everyone goes through it and in various stages in their lives. No one is ever too young or too old to be wondering if what they’re doing has a purpose. Sadly, not everyone ever gets out of that headspace having learned what the answer is.
I’ve questioned my life path many times over the years. I’ve gone through many detours before I got to where I am today, happy to be pursuing my passion as a career, knowing that I’m among the privileged few to ever be that lucky. But even I get terrified, asking myself: “What if I lose that spark? What if I eventually realize that I’m meant for something else? What if I lose my way and I never find my way back again?”
And just when these doubts and anxieties started to overwhelm me the most during this particularly rough year, Pixar’s “Soul” came at the perfect time.
“Soul” is a touching, poignant, life-affirming film that teaches us the concept of human purpose. It follows Joe, a middle-aged band teacher with a dream of becoming a jazz musician, who finally landed the opportunity he’s been waiting for all his life. But an accident brings his soul on the path to The Great Beyond which he runs away from, determined to get back to his real body. This brings him, instead, to The Great Before, where he meets a cynical yet-to-be-born soul named 22 who struggles to find her “special spark” that will earn her way to Earth. He then embarks on a quest to help 22 find her purpose in order for him to make it back to the land of the living in time for his big gig.
But in his desperation to chase his dream, Joe finds the answers to life’s greatest questions that he never thought to ask.
We are all so eager to live our life the way we imagined it—successful, wealthy, and fulfilled. The scary part about that is realizing eventually that it isn’t as spectacular as you thought it would be or suddenly facing a road filled with uncertainty, not knowing where to go from there. This is the dilemma Joe confronts and is something I’m familiar with. That crippling fear of finally getting what you want but still being unsatisfied. That thought of “I’ve made it. Now what?”
And then there’s 22, who sees herself as less of a person just because she doesn’t know what her purpose in life is. She is haunted by the scorn of the souls around her who have tried so hard to inspire a spark in her but have failed time and time again. It reminded me of those days when I would constantly question myself about what I want to do and who I want to be, and being so frustrated with myself when I couldn’t come up with a solid answer. After all, without a purpose, how would you know how to live?
The pressure of finding your calling. The dread of realizing it, but still feeling lost. In the end, “Soul” taught me what truly matters, and it isn’t about discovering what you want to do to make life worth living; rather, it’s about simply enjoying every moment that we’re alive.
If we’re always searching for answers and meaning, we lose sight of the joys, opportunities, and blessings that come our way. If we’re constantly focusing on what we haven’t done, we forget all the things we have that have brought us to where we are now. It’s a lesson that we hear all the time but struggle to actually do. We all want to feel fulfilled in a way that if we died today, we would have died happy. But “fulfillment” is more than having everything you could ever dream of. “Fulfillment” is more than having your whole life figured out.
A fulfilled life is one where you wake up not knowing what the day will bring, but making the most out of every minute.
“Soul” moved me in ways I cannot completely express in words. And perhaps that’s alright. I will carry what I’ve learned from this touching film close to my heart as a reminder for days when I feel lost that it’s okay and I will be okay because everything will fall into place in time. Just enjoy what you love, find things to be thankful for, and LIVE.
(ALSO READ: What Happens When Your Passions Start Changing?)
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