Have you ever wondered about what the purpose of life is? This is a question that has been on my mind for as long as I can remember. From the day we start elementary school or, perhaps even earlier, we are told to work for the highest grades and attend the best universities. After that is done, we strive for the best-paying careers, a stable relationship, and maybe even a family. For whom and for what do we do these things? Are these steps all part of a fulfilling life? I doubt it.
Say that you’ve set an academic goal or a career goal. When you achieve it and claim ‘success’, what happens next? Wouldn’t you set another goal? Will you ever be satisfied or would anyone be satisfied with your achievements? It’s a never ending cycle, just like this cycle of questions I am asking you right now.
This realization hit me during my first year here at Ewha Womans University. I remember before I started officially attending this school, I was so excited and relieved that I got accepted to a prestigious university after years of working for this moment. However, once I started going to lectures and preparing for finals, I came to realize that I was feeling uneasy and stressing out about my GPA as I did during high school. Yet this time, I was studying without any goals because I didn’t see a reason as to why they were necessary. Simply speaking, I became aware that I am stuck with a never ending chain of goals as I’ve mentioned earlier. After I get a high GPA and achieve academic success, I must work towards getting a stable job, then perhaps think about establishing a family. The list goes on and on. Is going though all of these steps and being ‘successful’ really the epitome of our lives?
Most people, if not all, strive for success because they believe it will bring them happiness. It is true that success brings forth joy, but to what extent? Can anyone be fully and eternally happy? When we think about our lifestyles and bucket lists in this perspective, everything seems pointless. This may act as a breather for students studying for exams or doing job interviews. On the other hand, this thought may be completely useless and aggravating. Either way, I believe that it’s important to not just set goals, but to realize why these goals are set and what the purpose of them is.
I think the Korean action movie ‘Exit’ (2019) portrays these thoughts and phenomenon very well. In the movie ‘Exit’, characters Yongnam and Euijoo run from one rooftop to another trying to avoid the fatal white gas. For the whole of the movie, the two do anything in their power to run and jump to the next rooftop to survive. (spoiler warning) Yet in the end, what saves their lives is a helicopter in the sky. I believe that this is an effective analogy of how humans in our current society constantly run towards the next rooftop (goal) when it is inevitable that the white gas will catch on (death). Isn’t it tiring having to work towards your goal only for it to be followed by even more tasks? Where does all of your effort go when you die?
Discussing this topic may be quite risky because everybody has their own personal, cultural, or religious beliefs on the purpose of life. Whatever the belief is, I think we should place importance on it while we live our lives and do our everyday tasks. I myself am unaware of what the exact purpose of life is, but I believe that we should live life with purposes beyond academic and monetary success. I know it’s easier said than done, but this is definitely something worth trying.