Struggles to Find Purpose in my Life

Austin Jones with hat

By Austin John Jones

For me, purpose is subjective; it’s based on how I feel. If I feel like I have a specific purpose in life, that motivates me. But sometimes I think purpose is a human idea someone made up to give me comfort. From what I can tell, people who feel like they have purpose get up every day knowing that their purpose is to do whatever they feel is right. And if they feel what they think is right, then they act on it so they can cope with everything life throws at them, one moment at a time, each and every day. I know that makes it sound like having a purpose is a struggle, and for me, sometimes it is.

For me, purpose is very much based on how I feel every day. Some days I feel so happy that I feel like I can take on the world. Other days I feel like my entire existence is pointless and a waste of time. When I woke on the first day of August, I did not want to get out of bed. I did not want to go to work. I did not want to do anything. But I called up my girlfriend. She told me to get out of bed. I did all my morning routines: brushed my teeth, took a shower, took my pills, got all my gear ready, got my water jug to keep me hydrated, and I went to work anyway. I felt like I was a zombie the whole Uber ride. Before I went into work, I went into my local Starbucks. All the staff at the Starbucks I go to knows me well. They are my friends. I asked for a venti ice coffee with THREE SHOTS of espresso. Didn’t do anything at all to make me feel better. I didn’t even get a buzz. I still felt the same.

I went into to work. I got into the back office, laid on the floor and played Hearthstone until it was time for me to clock in. I helped my co-workers do the pull-sheet for the orders for the day (I work at a game store that sells trading card games and have to pull cards every day). Then I went and got lunch. I had sushi and steamed gyoza at Niban, a Japanese restaurant where the whole staff knows who I am as well. Then I got a call from my wonderful girlfriend. She was worried about me, but I honestly felt indifferent towards the feeling I had been feeling the whole day.

Honestly, I think this is depression I am dealing with. Feeling like I have no purpose is a symptom of depression. But when I have only lived 28 years, and about eight of those years I have struggled with these mixed feelings of uselessness, no purpose, sadness, happiness, rage, hatred, goofy even at times . . . I feel like a very confused and strange person.

Austin Jones - A prison of the mind
Austin John Jones “A Prison of the Mind”

I love my girlfriend. And I never intend to make her worry about me. I don’t want her to worry about me because I am fine. I really am. There are just days that I just don’t feel like I want to live on this earth, but I know that it will be worth it if I keep going. I just have to be brave and strong. My girlfriend told me that. She said “be brave.” She is a very sweet and caring person. And I know she wants the best for me. And I want the same for her. I want us to have a great life together. Even on the days that I feel like I am so negative, or sad, or depressed, I know it will be worth it if I keep on going. And that is what drives me through the feeling of hopefulness. I know things will get better.

I’m going to be a father one day. I want to have children. That is my purpose at this point in my life. I want to have a family: a wonderful family that I love and care about. I would die happy knowing that I had left behind something greater than something I could ever be. That’s what keeps me going: love and family. So during those times when I struggle feeling like I don’t have a purpose, I try to remember what my goals in my life are: love and family.

 * * *

My name is Austin Jones. I am an artist, art teacher, gamer, and a storyteller and writer. I love my community, I love my friends and family, and I am on the Autism Spectrum. My favorite game to play with my friends is “Magic the Gathering.” My favorite video game to play is “Spiral Knights.” I am a Guild Master of my “Spiral Knights” guild: Altosk. I am an avid “Hearthstone” player. My favorite food to eat is Mexican food–specifically, shrimp and California burritos. I went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and graduated with a degree in Illustration.

Visit Austin’s website.

2 Comments

  • Struggles to Find Purpose in my Life…

    The age-old purpose of life; the rebranded and forever stale “…what are you going to do with your life? It’s precious ya know and you don’t have much time — threescore and ten. So get on with it and do us proud.”

    I am still figuring that out Austin! I have no clue about my purpose in life. You think you got it bad. I’m sixty-five years old and I still haven’t figured it out.

    But I do know this…I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
    A pawn and a king
    I’ve been up and down and over and out
    And I know one thing:
    Each time I find myself flat on my face
    I pick myself up and get back in the race

    Because that’s life, and there is no denying that it is a ride. It the journey and what we do, don’t limit yourself please, too one thing for that seventy years. Do everything son. When you get bored change.

    We Asperger’s are both a gift and a curse, we light up the room and sometimes bring it down, but the one thing we are not is mediocre. We are intense and thorough, creative and the world worse bummer; we are an angel and then a demon. We love and are ecstasy and sometimes the loneliest person in the world. We are Castor and Pollux.

    There is no reward at the end of this. The reward is living a life fulfilled. The reward is not living by that old standard of having a purpose, the purpose is to live every day, to take what that day is when you wake and do the best you can with it…

    Remember we are not broken, we are different Austin.

    “[…] took my pills, […]”

    I don’t take pills, I keep a clean diet short of gluten and casein and neurotoxins like food enhancers and excitotoxins. Restaurants are a nightmare for me if they use things to get you addicted to their taste. I am mainly vegetarian and try to stick to organic and clean.

    ” […] lived 28 years, […]”

    Twenty-seven or twenty-eight is a trying period for all young adults. So don’t jump ship and succumb to the fatal. Lean into it, bath in it and find your place in it.

    I had my time at that age when everything is up in the air. Others seem further ahead than us late bloomers, but we are not so linear in our thinking. We have more connections to thoughts and soo…

    “I feel like a very confused and strange person.”

    You are strange, that’s is what makes you wonderful. You’re an artist man, we are supposed to surf the edge of reality.

    It sounds like for me, you are bored with life. And boredom is a matter of a creative block. Doing some imagination exercises and expanding that space between your ears. Break out of the rituals and invent new ones.

    Are you working with your art, because it is important for such a big brain? If you are tired of it create a new one. Do you know that you have roughly 65% more neural connections of your pre-frontal cortex that most? That makes you think on a deeper level about and on the most obscure of topics. Reinvent art — if its stale. Start throwing paint around on a surface, or find new tools to do. You are an inventor.

    But above all be safe and be you. You are doing just fine. It gets boring sometimes.

  • Dear Austin,

    I love following your writing, life experiences, and thoughts.

    I am 56 years old today, and I have been struggling with the hardships of being on the spectrum all my life, much before I knew what the problem is. I made it earn a D.Sc. in electrical engineering, work for 17 years in IBM research, marry and have two children who are now aged 13.5 and 18. They are both brilliant and successful children, way above the average, with no signs of being on the spectrum. I was very successful with my research and created by myself alone a new research direction and solution within IBM, which gave IBM several hundred million dollars plus I wrote dozens of scientific papers and patents.

    However, this enormous struggle had high mental costs, and I had to push myself beyond limits, often having frequent mental breakdowns and depression periods. I visited psychologists regularly most of my life (not now) and am on antidepressant medications for over 12 years now, though the amounts taken during the last four years have been gradually reducing to almost zero under medical guidance. In theory, I could go down to zero but decided not to take this final step yet for safety reasons.

    Five years ago, I lost my job, and I am not earning any money ever since though I had enough savings to live with the same level of family expenses I had before. I was not able to find a new job due to an extreme depression in which I was suicidal and almost committed suicide (stopped almost in the last moment). I still have savings for several years to come. Four years ago, my wife and I separated informally, making it formal only last week.

    What helped me keep going through all that is my faith, both Buddhist and Jewish but also beyond these both, being a very personal spirituality. It has been so most of my life, though it was only in the background and underground – it was very personal, just by myself with myself, with no community and official practice. It was personal meditation practice plus reading among the deepest classics slowly but steadily. It was deep in my individual core of being. During the last ten years, I do pray weekly in a Jewish reform synagogue and feel connected to the congregation. Though I am less able to connect with persons for long on the individual level, it is amazing how well I can connect to communities on the spiritual level. During the last four years, I connect amazingly well with New Age communities in writing, though not with the persons on the individual level. This kind of spiritual connection does make me feel connected. It does work for me.

    Five years ago, when I lost my job and career and wife, I gradually realized that what kept me going during my whole life before was my spiritual faith. When I was at the bottom of my depression my wife advised me to go to a Zen Buddhist monastery (Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in France) in which I was several times before for short periods, but this time to stay for months till I recover. This was a brave move, and it worked beyond imagination. I fully recovered from my depression and had no recurring depression or anxiety ever since. I decided to write a book about Buddhism and Science which, YES, gave me a solid purpose in my life. I started writing it in the monastery during fulltime daily meditation practice (Much more than the practice visitors often have there). I have been working around the clock on this book during the last four years, more than full time, often through the night till the morning, and now it is fully finished. This purpose in life has been so effective that during the last fours years I am happy regardless of all I am going through, and my happiness is solid, stable, firm, realistic and long term. During these four years, I lived like a monk (no women, mostly in solitude writing or meditating): I did it back in my country, Israel, living by myself, not in any monastery setting and no congregation except my Friday prayer. I also traveled to India and lived a focused one year in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery: Just practicing, writing, eating, and sleeping. Full time.

    Moreover, I felt I am gathering much strength, and eventually even found a new girlfriend I am with now, though we live separate. My relationship with her is deep with physical and mental love plus a spiritual level, but I feel I can also go back to living alone like a monk if I want. I feel free. I keep having a good relationship with my ex-wife and have an excellent relationship and interaction with my children. I live in a small rental apartment very near my children and ex-wife and interact with them a lot though basically live on my own. My practice is all I truly need in life now. My home is my practice.

    For me now, purpose and faith are everything. I am looking forward towards a new career based on my book, lectures and potentially also alternative therapy (I found I can help people effectively with my faith with what can be called Buddhist Psychotherapy).

    Purpose and faith are what kept me doing the impossible all my life. Once I felt I lost everything, I decided to focus only on this faith and purpose, which brought me everything back (as it feels and looks now). Purpose and faith can take us beyond the ups and downs of daily life and enable long term planning and recovery. Eventually, you do get wisdom and insight that other people need. I know it and wish to make a living from that now sharing my faith through books, lectures, and therapy.

    All you need is faith.

    Love,
    Dr. David Goren.

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