We often discuss the idea of purpose, particularly after midlife, because that’s a time for new directions. The theory is, you’ve done the required stuff in the first half of your life. Now, hopefully, you have more choices. What direction now? Will you start a new business, volunteer, or enjoy some well-earned rest? The answer depends on what drives you.
I’m driven by a love of writing, and a desire to share my perspective on positive aging. A friend is driven by a passion to help others, and she spends so much time running a community pantry (as a volunteer) that she traded in her sedan for an SUV that would haul neighborhood donations. Another friend volunteers on so many boards she’s about to have a nervous breakdown. One friend golfs four days a week! She is living fully, according to her own definitions, and is happy. We are all driven by different experiences over our lifetimes, and different needs.
Even though Angelina Jolie is a bit young to be featured in AnyShinyThing, she fascinates me as to purpose.
This woman could do anything or nothing. She’s famous, rich, married to Brad Pitt, and has lots of kids to keep her busy. So what’s she up to, in her “spare” time?
Jolie is a special envoy of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). My old job, as Bill Maher would say. She is tasked to expand the advocacy campaign of the UNHCR and engage in high-level mediation in complex emergency situations. She travels constantly to war-torn places in the world, to help and observe displaced populations. She has gone on more than 50 missions to refugee camps, and “traverses the same perilous dirt roads that relief workers and doctors and foreign correspondents do. In these settings, there are no red carpets, no Donatella Versace gowns.” (I’m quoting Janine Di Giovanni, the war correspondent who profiled Jolie for the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine.)
According to the article, “…she has no real diva side.
She often arrives at meetings early and sits quietly, waiting with a book or notes. There’s no entourage.
She packs lightly and often travels with one bag — a valuable lesson from working for humanitarian organizations and having to jump in and out of helicopters in remote locales. She is unfailingly polite and is loath to complain about being tired or feeling sick.” Jolie traveled to The Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013, shortly after her double mastectomy. “If she was in pain, you never knew it,” says a colleague who was there.
Why is she so driven? I wish I could ask her.
For whatever reason, this is what Angelina Jolie feels compelled to do, and if she, or I, or you, can’t explain our motives, it’s okay. The point is to live to your limits, regardless of age, gender, or life circumstance. Whether you’re stretching your mind or body, go at it with everything you have, with the greatest appreciation, gratitude, and utilization.
You only get one life. At the end, you can die happily, knowing you didn’t squander the gift.