In first year college, I was introduced to the idea of having an advocacy. I felt a certain pressure from not having any, so I randomly sought one. Eventually, I landed on literacy. I did an English research paper on it, and ended it there. Yes, I loved reading and felt that everyone deserved the chance to love it too, but I did nothing about the feeling. There simply was no call.
I did become president of the university library’s student arm, but it still wasn’t my purpose; I was jealous of my roommate who had found hers, in special education. We partnered for senior year thesis and we pitched two topics: special education, and depression. We went for the former, but some days I wish we had gone with the latter. Only so I could say I acknowledged my calling as soon as it came.
See, I had befriended the concept of depression as early as second year; mostly its symptoms and how closely they spoke to me. In third year, I started referring to myself as having undiagnosed depression. And in fourth year, I found a foundation that catered to this cause, and felt the missing urge to be part of it. They never returned my email.
It was a few more years before the mental health advocacy bloomed everywhere, and I tried again. I joined several movements catering to mental health. But since senior year I had already felt the longing to spread awareness about it–I just didn’t know where to start.
But that’s what really starts an advocacy: a calling.
Last year, I joined Buhay Movement. Buhay satisfied my search for purpose, but I still longed to do more. I reached out to Tala Philippines and joined the Youth For Mental Health Coalition. I went public with my (now diagnosed) mental illness, and slowly reformed this blog around it. I joined events. Gave talks. Even built a dream around it: to become a mental health professional.
And the call hasn’t stopped. It answers every “What is your true purpose?” quiz and article ever built. I’m willing to hustle and sacrifice for it, commit to and suck at something for it. It informs every decision I have moving forward. My 8-year-old self would happy-cry if she learned how much I had done for the sake of something important—and sob knowing I had to struggle to get there first. If I wanted to be remembered for just one thing, this is the one.
I found my purpose, really, by taking something that was deeply personal to me and finding people who were affected by it too.
Sometimes it takes a few years to find your purpose, and sometimes it isn’t even an advocacy. But if you explore (inside and outside) enough, it will choose you as a worthy messenger. Mental health chose me while I was young and, although I couldn’t be happier, I know that the call will never be fulfilled. Because it’s an endless urge to fight for something important, something that may outlive me.
If you’re still looking for your purpose, know what it really is: a longing. Find that, and make sure you never stop following it.