Struggling to find purpose: A journey of self discovery

They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know myself.

They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know myself.

My journey began like that of many others; determined by the standard education system and supported by my lack of self-awareness and knowledge. I had been studying without any real insight on the person I was. In fact, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. What does studying have to do with who you are, right? Wrong. It has everything to do with who you are.

They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know myself.

Education systems prepare us for the workforce life. Therefore, more often than not, it suggests you do what you are good at, as opposed to enhancing what we possess innately, thereby encouraging us to use our wings to soar to greater heights. I was good at business studies and accounting and eventually took those for A-level too. I loved working with my friends and solving past papers, so I enjoyed those subjects even more for that very reason. Did I ever imagine myself working in a corporate environment with other corporate driven people on a daily basis? I didn’t.

It was soon time to apply for university, and I had no clue what I “wanted” to do. I didn’t know what that statement meant. How do I know when I haven’t been exposed to all of what available? Do I just have to do one thing? I began speaking to advisors and counsellors in hope for them to show me some light. They couldn’t – because they didn’t know me, and I didn’t know myself.

As a result of time constraints and the lack of alternative inspiration, I applied to study Business Studies for the next 3 years of my life. It was a default choice because I thought, “well, I’m good at it, so at least I’ll be doing something I’m good at.”

2 years and 8 months into my Bachelor’s degree, I realised that what I was studying and the person I was were two very different things. My career choice did not show up on my personality-career match; it was almost on the other side of the spectrum. I pulled through the next two months half-heartedly and graduated reluctantly. For the first time in life, I knew this wasn’t what I wanted.

I began the search for jobs; sending my CV anywhere it could reach, desperate to provide positive answers to those that asked me what I was doing with my life. Reading the job descriptions wilted my soul every day, but I forced myself to apply, again and again.

The inevitable soon happened. For the next three months, I began to lose light in my brain and spirit in my soul from feeling hopeless and being without a sense of purpose. I had no motivation to wake up in the morning, because I didn’t know what to do with my day.

What was I meant for? Why was I feeling this way? Was I the only one going through this patch of uncertainty?

I started resorting to books, lectures and podcasts to keep my days somewhat productive. In the attempt to share what I was learning, I started making doodle notes. For the first time in a long time, I was enjoying something; I was exploring my creative side whilst listening to something good and fulfilling my ache to serve.

I’ve always done some sort of design work on a small scale in my life, and I used that to turn my hand drawn notes into digital notes. I was so excited about them and wanted to share them with the world so we can benefit together. This was what I wanted to do – share what I learn with people in a way that is fun to learn! With the incredible support of my family and close friends, I started making plans on what to read and illustrate and the ways that I could share them with everyone.

A few weeks later, I made a Facebook page and called it The Visual Age. A year later, Alhamdulillah, it has grown to have its own website; 12 series of learning graphics, ranging from Qur’anic Lessons to The Lives of the Prophets; free printable Kindness Resources and a platform to work with and offer its services (i.e. illustrations, resources and infographics) to educational organisations and institutions that want to adopt a more contemporary method of learning.

To those that are struggling to figure things out, I’m here to tell you that you will get through it, just like I did. Unfortunately, what we study doesn’t guarantee that we will end up doing it and enjoying it. Keep reaching out, keep looking, keep researching and you will find what really calls out to you.

My 5 humble pieces of advice:

1. Take personality tests to determine your internal makeup.

Although four letters don’t define or limit you, it gives you a little insight on what your core is. Examine your strengths, areas for improvement and what comes naturally to you. Are you a person that naturally performs better when moving around? Are you more driven to perform academically at a desk for many hours? Are you a person that naturally thrives on the development of others? Do some research on the jobs available for you and discover what calls you.

2. Be on the lookout for career paths that compliment your internal make up and personality

You will only be able to serve passionately and fully if your heart naturally flows that way.

3. Don’t feel rushed and pressured to make decisions based on the opinions of others.

Take some time to really explore what is out there that calls to you.

4. Understand that the world outside of school and university is very different in terms of the lifestyle.

Think about whether you would enjoy working in your potential career day in and day out for 8 hours.

5. “Respond to the call that excites your spirit”

If there’s something that you would love to do or you get excited about, take an action step towards it whilst the enthusiasm is still at its peak.

(Also check out my website, The Visual Age)