During a recent family session, 15-year-old adolescent Leïla (not her real name), exasperated and eye-rolling, asked her mom and me: “What’s the point of doing well in Language Arts [i.e., finishing and turning in her final project] when dad says that being a writer or an artist is not a real job?”
“Dad is wrong, hon,” her mom answered, saving me 15 minutes trying to say the same thing without making her dad look too bad.
Leïla added a cleverly theatrical: “Life has no purpose!”
I started with an automated response (therapists do that too), but stopped mid-way through: “Life does have a….”
She was visibly surprised that I agreed with a statement intended to disarm and to create a neat diversion from the core issue: please, turn in your homework! Damn it! You are a brilliant kid, a skilled writer, a good person. Show yourself to the world…starting with your teacher.
I extended my silent pause a little longer before I clarified my statement (I can be theatrical myself, I once was a drama major!):
“Life has no set purpose, you are entirely right!” Another pause to let her enjoy her smallish victory, before I added my own grand finale:
“No set purpose! That’s why humans invent purposes, that’s the fabric of Humanity! That’s how we become writers, teachers, librarians, nurses, doctors, artists, and sometimes therapists. That’s why we invent, create, craft and build entire universes. You are absolutely correct, there is no set purpose in life. Therefore it’s best to make one.”
One last theatrical pause: “What’s the best purpose you can make for yourself, in this life? What is your purpose?”
“She wants to be a writer!” Leïla’s mom said after a long hesitation.
“Being a writer is a good purpose,” I concluded. “A good purpose!”
Author, Therapist: Michel Bordeau