Searching for purpose in an uncertain world

If you follow me on Instagram you most likely saw my post about how I’m feeling. I explained my thoughts about feeling exhausted and fed up with the world. Confused about my purpose and what I should be doing to help an ever-crumbling planet. Our planet. Questioning all of the things that I have been doing leading up to this moment. Trying to help the world, through my full-time job at a global nature conservation organisation, through my wildlife photography and sustainability videos, and through this blog – was I really achieving anything?

I was so fed-up with seeing companies jumping on the trEnd of sustainability and using it as just that, a trend. Fed up of social media celebrating superficial successes of conservation content (likes, comments and whether you’re featured in the Explore tab) rather than the impact of our words, images and art. Fed up with individuals using a paper straw and thinking their responsibility was covered, and the millions of others acting like it’s not their problem to get involved in saving the world. But we all live in this world. On this planet that is crumbling around us as a result of our actions .

I didn’t know what to do anymore. What to think, what to say, how to feel.

So I took myself to a Greek island with my family. We spent 16 days on the beautiful, secluded and safe (in these times of Covid) island of Kefalonia. After 2 exciting work trips and one birthday trip cancelled earlier in the year, I was so incredibly grateful to have this escape, at a time that I could feel myself crumbling along with the world. Time to think, time to be calm, and most of all, time to just be.

It’s so crazy in this world that we need a specific time, and even a specific place, to just be. To BE. To just sit in silence, and observe our thoughts, feelings and mind.

After a few nights, the ever-present nightmares began to subside, my body felt better and my mind felt clearer. I started to recognise and immerse myself in the things that I actually enjoyed doing and that my body thanked me for doing. Those moments and activities where I felt free. Real freedom in those small moments. Playing cards with family, floating in the ocean, reading in the evenings, stretching my body, observing nature. I was still trying to uncover my purpose, but I felt better about that process.

Sometimes it’s strange and hard to understand purpose because I think perhaps we want too much. This is strange and hard to unpick when working in wildlife conservation because as you observe wildlife, you learn that every species knows its purpose. The purpose of the majority of wildlife is simply to reproduce. To spread their genes and ensure that their species continues on this planet.

Let’s take the example of one of my favourite insects: the praying mantis. A lot of people know that when the praying mantis is mating, the female will often bite off the male’s head and eat it. But did you know that the male gives his head willingly; he doesn’t fight or struggle or push her away. And the reason for that is because the male’s head is extra protein for the female. And if she has more protein, she is able to produce more eggs. So you see, the male gives his own life willingly, because he knows that by doing so, he will have more children, more of his genes are spread, and his life purpose is fulfilled.

The life purpose of humans has arguably changed over recent centuries. The life goal of every woman is not simply to have children, believe it or not (!!). We humans, as a species, want to make an impact on the world, want to raise awareness for causes, want to explore the world, want to grow, want to change systems.

So, if we are to look to nature and see that we are one of the only species who wants more, are we wrong to do this? To think this? To want this? To feel this?

I don’t think so.

Because we are also the only species to be actively ruining the world. Without going into too much detail, we are the only species on the planet to take more than we need, leave things worse than we found them, and overexploit, well, pretty much everything.

So, we need to fix this. But what can we, as individuals, as humans, actually do? This was the problem, the challenge, that I was facing and struggling with. And this is the conclusion that I came to:

No single action changes people’s lives. There is no one thing that I can do or say or show you that is going to immediately make you live more sustainably and only ever use sustainable palm oil, reduce your meat intake or never kill an insect again. Hey, I’m not even doing all of those things. But what I am doing is my best. Doing my best based on the information available to me and what I am choosing (where I can help it) to consume and fill my mind with. Each decision, thought and action of mine is based on a culmination of things I’ve seen, heard and read. Things that I’ve wondered about and understood. Things that I’ve found exciting and heartbreaking and interesting. Understanding why I’m making those decisions that I make every day, thinking and understanding, rather than just doing, from the seemingly small daily things, like what to have for lunch, to the way that I treat the wildlife around me.

I cannot do any single thing to heal the world, and no single individual can save the planet, but what I can do, and what we can all do, is keep learning, understanding and informing others. With the knowledge that we have from others, with the creativity and comprehension of aspects of life in our own mind. We cannot fix everything, but it sure does feel good to know that you’re making a positive impact on people’s lives, rather than a negative one.

This trip made me fall back in love with the things that truly matter to me and make my life feel richer, my heart warmer and my mind calmer:  observing and understanding nature and then educating others about what I’ve learnt and why it’s important, spending meaningful time with my family without distractions, and simply being. Being quiet, being observant, being me.

So I am going to continue to spread enthusiasm and curiosity and understanding about nature, but now with a newfound excitement and a reduced pressure on myself to fix everything all at once. 

When I was speaking to my close friend Emma about the way that I was feeling, she wisely said to me: “I believe that we are all here for a purpose and it shouldn’t have to be a hard or stressful thing to figure out but you will naturally begin to do what you were created to do when you are at peace with yourself and the world around you and doing things not for your own gain.” And I really believe that’s what it’s all about.

I’d love to hear what you thought about this article. Leave a comment here or direct message me on Instagram. Let’s chat 🙂

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