What Is a Meaningful Life For Me?

The question about the sense of life comes to the mind of every human being eventually. Different conditions of life, hardships and challenges, moments of joy and excitement influence the human thinking in different ways. That is why one person might start thinking about the meaning of his or her life being a child, whereas another one will come to such an idea at the age of 70.

Each life is unique and we cannot blame anyone for not knowing the meaning of life. Of course, it is good when an individual asks himself about the sense of life during first two decades of life when his worldview is being formed. This question is existential; in other words, it motivates a person to search for the source of happiness and keep doing things that seem to be valuable. It makes people reflect on the deeds done as well as ponder on their plans. The answer to this question might change the direction of life radically.

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Since the ancient times, people have tried to find out some objective meaning of life that would satisfy each human being on Earth. So many answers have been offered that it is impossible to remember and mention all of them. When Christianity emerged, people said that life became meaningful when one dedicated it to God. Inventors and scientists of the age of Enlightenment claimed that the sense of life was to become free from religious beliefs and to use one’s mind fully. The political leaders of all times have told people that the meaning of life comes only when one becomes a patriotic citizen of the country, ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of Motherland. One might wonder whether all these statements are true or false.

Observing life of people and my own life, I have concluded that each of such statements makes sense but there is no objective meaning of life that could work for all people. A belief in the same sense of life can exist only in totalitarian society, where people have no right to think differently. In normal society, each person has a special opinion about things and actions that can make his life meaningful.

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Some people aspire to have a family. They cannot imagine their existence without family relations, the celebrations of family holidays, mutual support among brothers and sisters, the feeling of joy for small everyday achievements of family members, and so on. They need to be a part of a group based on love and understanding given from parents and other close relatives. If they do not have a big family, they search for the ways to create an extended family from their friends and like-minded people.

Many individuals dream of fame and social recognition. Their idols are famous musicians, singers, and politicians who are loved by the whole world. They believe that one day the crowds will praise them for some outstanding results shown in science, arts, or business. This goal is often tightly connected with career success goal. That is why such individuals make significant efforts during studies and working process to demonstrate their skills and knowledge and to be remembered from the best side.

Many people of my generation see the sense of life in traveling. I have several friends who are obsessed with the idea to visit hundreds of countries all around the world as soon as possible. They watch traveling shows, save money, follow other travelers in social networks, plan their future trips, and so on. I feel that only traveling will make their life meaningful as they claim that the usual flow of life is too simple and too boring.
Apart from these multiple “meanings” of life, there are many others. On the one hand, it is good to have some goals for life that keep you motivated to survive in daily routine. On the other hand, such people sometimes become too radical and lose happiness because they cannot gain from some small things in life. Their big “meaning” of life makes them forget that there might be other things they could enjoy. That is why I try to stay away from radical claims. I think that meaningful life can be any life spent with a feeling of satisfaction from each day. Not every person will become a scientist or a politician, change the world, or travel to all continents, but everyone must be able to appreciate all things life gives them.

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For example, many people who live in the developing countries face difficulties while providing food for families, overcoming diseases, and getting education. These things do not make Americans worry much because they have full access to basic things. That is why they search for the meaning of life in the bigger goals, taking food, comfortable living, education, health as a given. If we asked children from Sierra Leone or Cambodia what meaningful life is, they would say that meaningful life is a life with a chance to get an education. American children see the meaning of life in other things, or, what is worst, they do not think about meaningful lives at all.

I think that people start asking themselves about the meaning of life when they get into problematic life situations. When all is fine, one barely reflects on philosophical topics. The book “Angela’s Ashes” is one of the best examples how people make pushes to survive and remain humane. The family of Frank McCourt did not experience any life pleasures or adventures, but their lives were still meaningful. They experienced the struggle for survival, and it made them strong. The meaning of life came to their home every time they could just have a meal together. As McCourt writes,

When Dad brings home the first week’s wages Mam is delighted she can pay the lovely Italian man in the grocery shop and she can hold her head up because there’s nothing worse in the world than to owe and be beholden to anyone…

The mother of little Frank, Angela, used to take food from the grocery shop without paying money because her husband used to spend his salary in the local bars. She felt very bad about owing money to the Italian man because other mothers did not experience the misery of poverty to this extent. We can see that simple happiness used to come to the poor family of Frank with the salary of his father because, as he said, “when Dad brings home the first week’s wages on a Friday night we know the weekend will be wonderful” (McCourt 23). Angela was unhappy most of the time because her husband used to drink too much while his children stayed hungry at home. However, when money used to come, it seemed that she was the happiest person on Earth, and her life was the most meaningful one. She knew that her family would not go to bed hungry if the father of her children went home directly after work. She dedicated her whole life to the family; that is why her life was full of sense when she knew that she could provide food and clothes for her children. It was possible to see her losing the sense of life when her daughter died: “Your lovely little sister is dead, Frankie. Dead. And where is your father? Drinking. That’s where he is… Oh, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help me this night. I’ll go mad, so I will, I’ll go pure mad” (McCourt, 1996, p. 37). The world of a person can be broken very easily when the foundation for a meaningful life is the existence of people one loves only. There is no one who can resign himself to fate when this fate takes relatives or friends away. It proves that meaningful life is a very fragile thing as it comes from nowhere and goes nowhere.

Still, the book “Angela’s Ashes” demonstrates that there is always hope left even in the worst situations. Angela went through a million of challenges but she raised her children and never gave up. Her strength inspires me because mostly I see people who are ready to give up when something goes wrong. Many modern people do not know what tragedy and poverty look like. When there is some small problem in a relationship, studies, or finances, they think that their life will never become meaningful again. Despite this, I am sure that everyone can overcome hardships if there is a will to do it.

One of the precious examples of people who have won the battle against problems is a friend of my mother. She got pregnant at the age of 16, and her family wanted her to have an abortion but she could not even think about killing a living creature inside her. Her boyfriend left her, and her parents were ashamed of her. She started working very soon after the birth of the daughter because no one wanted to support her except for some of her friends. She found strength to stand for her future child alone, to give birth, to overcome financial difficulties, and to raise a wonderful human being. Such women inspire me as I keep wondering how a teenager can go against the will of the parents, survive, and prove the whole world that she is right.

Another example of an inspiring person is my grandfather whose parents were very poor when he was a child. He started working when he was 8, selling balloons and drinks at local festivals and holidays. While his friends were playing football in the yard, my grandfather saved money for books he needed for school because his parents could not afford them. He dreamed about a good job but tried many different jobs to earn money before he could start studies. Many of my peers do not appreciate education and social status because they take it as a given. When I lose motivation to learn new things, do homework, and go to school, I always remember my grandfather who had never disdained any kind of job because he wanted to make his life meaningful through paid education.

I believe that every person is a creator of his or her life. All of us are able to make their life meaningful by fixing the priorities and making efforts to reach the top of success. There is no general definition of a “meaningful life” that would work for all human beings. We are small social universes full of different aspirations and senses. It is amazing to see people who enjoy each moment of life; this joy should actually be a meaning of life whether we reach our big goals or not. Life should be about living in happiness, not suffering. Things that make our lives meaningful might be different but all of them should bring happiness and satisfaction.

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