If we are honest with ourselves, we all long to find the meaning of our existence. Many of us spend a lifetime looking for that mysterious “purpose” for our lives. We look for it in our vocations, relationships, hobbies, possessions and pursuits, only to realize that, while those are essential parts of our lives, they fall short in giving us that deep, rich, fulfilling meaning we yearn to experience.
The search for meaning was a journey I knew well. What was mine to do had always eluded me. Growing up, my parents impressed on me the importance of finding my purpose, or as they framed it, “God’s will for my life.” When I asked how to do this, no one could give me a definitive answer. I spent decades looking for my purpose in anything and everything that resembled what culture defined as success, only to run into dead ends at every turn.
It wasn’t until a few years into my gender transition that I experienced another invitation to reconsider my purpose. It came during a time when every aspect of my life – relationships, job, living arrangements – had turned upside down. I was realizing I needed to develop new support communities to help me navigate the challenges I was facing around my transition.
One such community was a women’s group called Harnessing Your Divine Feminine. While attending their fall retreat, I met a woman named Elizabeth who presented a workshop called, “Get Your Sexy Back.” Given that I was in the midst of coming to terms with who I was as a woman, the title sparked my curiosity. As Elizabeth walked us through her presentation, she asked, “What do you see as your sexiest attribute?” We went around the room vulnerably affirming what we had always wanted to own. Many women “got their sexy back” that day. For me, it was only the beginning of understanding my feminine essence.
Still uncertain of what my “best” looked like, I committed to explore further in life-coaching sessions with Elizabeth. During her initial assessment, she asked, “What are you wanting to learn from our time together?”
I immediately responded, “I want to find my purpose in life!”
So began our journey. Inevitably, in the days leading up to each appointment, I would experience a painful upheaval that we would then unpack during our session. Elizabeth used these occasions to teach me a technique that was new to me. The beautiful art of getting out of my head and into my heart. She did this by asking, “And how does that make you feel?”
In the past, I hadn’t acknowledged how I was feeling about situations, relying solely instead on my mental faculties to process challenges or questions. With Elizabeth, I learned that silencing the voices in my head by identifying my feelings allowed me to work through the emotional charge around the situation and hear from my heart the truth of each experience.
Any life coach’s goal is to give power back to their client. They believe that we know the answers to every question or challenge in our life, even if those answers appear to be obscured or hidden inside. With each session, I learned to listen to my heart and take back my power.
A year in, I finally showed up at an appointment without any major upheaval to process. Elizabeth suggested we spend the session reflecting on our time together. As I began recalling the lessons learned and progress made, I broke down in tears. I had learned so many new things about myself, gaining fresh insights into my truth. Consequently, the way I showed up in my life had been changing, unfolding in ways I had only dreamed were possible.
Then it dawned on me: As I learned to live from my heart, I didn’t have to go looking for my purpose. My purpose found me.No longer was I searching for that elusive meaning to life. My being and doing had become rich with fulfillment.
Our purposes will each continue to evolve and unfold. Mine includes furthering the cause of transgender rights and supporting individuals in the early stages of their transitions with the same personal perspectives and encouragement that others graciously offered me.
Rather than being bound to what I think my purpose should be, I let my heart be my guide. I’ve learned to trust that small voice within. It will not mislead me. If you’re looking for “what is yours to do,”look no further than yourheart. It already has the answer.
Gabrielle Claiborne lives in Atlanta. What is currently hers to do is Transformation Journeys Worldwide, a transgender-focused diversity training and consulting firm that helps companies and organizations better understand, interact with and integrate trans and non-binary people. transformationjourneysww.com
This column originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue below, and pick up your hard copy around town.