There is common question that most people ask at some point in their lifetime: Why I am here? This question seeks an answer that will give the asker purpose. We want to know why we matter and how our existence makes a difference in this world. I think it is important to look back upon our childhoods as the place where we began to form our values, opinions, fears, passions, self-worth, ideologies, and trust thresholds. Though at the time when we were children we didn’t realize all that we believed in or why, now that we are older, we can look back and make some connections as to why we are the way we are.
In an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, your newly created avatar is directed to go visit your class trainer. If you chose to be an undead warlock, for example, you might be sent down into a crypt to find a robed skeleton hunched over a pile of books. When he notices your presence, he begins a conversation with you and tells you about your abilities, gives you a simple quest to complete, and provides you with a simple weapon or spell to use to assist you. Here, you begin your first training exercises. As you practice your new abilities, you begin to gain a bit of affinity for your class role: your contribution. You slowly start to envision how your special abilities can be used, and at the same time, what your abilities can’t achieve. As you complete a set of small training exercises, your mentor rewards you with in game currency, better armor, and/or experience points (XP.)
IRL, our parents, relatives, and teachers all play the role of different “trainers” in our lives. Some of these trainers what to teach you how to be something you are not, while others see how to bring out and shape the innate predispositions you already display. These influences greatly shape our thinking and confidence. We believe we are smart or not, good or not, worthy or not, accepted or not, and valued or not due to how these mentors relate to us. If we were treated well, we slowly began to believe in ourselves and our abilities. If we were treated irresponsibly, we slowly began to develop insecurities, doubts, and fears.
Looking back on your own childhood experiences, how did your trainers treat you? Which ones helped you flourish in confidence and sense of value, and which ones impeded your self-assurance and progress? Ask yourself how those influences may have shaped your thinking. These influences have something to do with the answer to the question: Why am I here? If you have had some significantly positive mentors in your life, your mind will generate some possible answers to this question. If you have had some significantly negative influences in your life, the answer to this question may be harder to acquire.
These considerations are important as you begin to make decisions about your future. As you take a step back and look at your life from a bird’s-eye view, what have been your patterns? What is it that you have found that you consistently repeat? If you look closely, you discover that you already do what you are. That is because when we were young, we were either affirmed or discouraged when we began to take risks. These affirmations and discouragements shaped us. They made us believe a certain perception of reality about the world, others, and ourselves. Now that you are older, the real fun begins: you get to decide which ideologies, values, fears, etc. are worth holding on to and which ones need discarding. They were all just humans, just like you. Some got it right and some didn’t, just like we all do. You may discover that after playing for a while, that an “undead warlock” just isn’t your style – you aren’t gaining an affinity for that kind of experience. So, you make a decision to roll a new character. Perhaps it is a Dwarf warrior or an Elf druid. Whatever the case, it is important to know yourself and the influences that have shaped you in order to choose a life that you can be passionate about: a life that brings you joy as you navigate the game. You can’t go back and start over like you can in a video game, but you can do something similar: you can make a decision today to make the changes that will set you on a new course – one that makes you passionate about XYZ.