The meaning of life doesn’t have to be an abstract idea. It can be as simple as cuddling with your pets in the morning, volunteering with wildlife conservatory, reading, cooking, or watching nursing home residents sing along to their favourite tunes.
In this article, people share oddly specific and heartwarming things that gives their life meaning.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
Taking care of my fish tank. I have a weird assortment of fish because I always try to get the ugliest, most picked-on one at the store and bring it home and nurse it back to health. Watching the color come back into them, their fins healing, and the way they get excited when you’re nearby because they think they’re going to be fed.
There’s something so soothing about it. My little underwater garden. These are animals that get the short end of the stick in society, and showing love to these tiny inconsequential creatures makes me feel good. I have one feeder guppy I found almost-dead, caught in the filters at work and now he’s happier than ever. It’s great.
I generally struggle to find the motivation to get up and go to the library to get some writing done. When I do go, I’m usually there for about six hours or so, but getting that first push to get out of the house especially in winter isn’t easy.
There’s an older lady there (in her sixties for sure; maybe early seventies, but definitely retired) who’s doing her MA in English Literature and occasionally sits at the same work table as me. She’s there from about 2-5pm most days, and for the past two weeks we’ve started talking about stuff. Sometimes it’s her course —I did an MA in English and used to tutor, so she asks me about stuff or for advice on her essays — and other times it’s just talking for ten minutes before we both get down to work.
I’ve started making sure I go to the library early and more regularly just to make sure I get an opportunity to chat with her when she arrives. I really look forward to it now. Writing is a solitary sort of a job, but it’s nice to have a friendly face at what amounts to the office — plus I’m now spending more time at the library because I’m getting there earlier, which is boosting my weekly word count. Win-win, as far as I can see. I don’t know about ‘meaning’, exactly, but it’s definitely something that makes my days a bit brighter.
I have a small barn with our twelve chickens- Every time I close them up, I count them off, to make sure everyone is accounted for. We’ve had problems with raccoons attacking over time, and it’s a huge relief when I get to twelve.
When I’m counting, which I do out loud, in a soft voice, several of the chickens look at me, as if to say, we are trying to sleep here, leave us be. I check for eggs, check to make sure they have enough water and food.
‘goodnight, girls,’ I say quietly,’ we love you.’ I turn out the light and hear soft clucking noises as I head out the door. Simultaneously very human they seem to me, and very much like chickens.
There are lots of things but I think the most specific one is my “alone time” with my son. He hasn’t been born yet, but every night after his mom has fallen asleep, I gently put my hand on him and give 3 little “I love you” pats and he almost always gives me a kick or two back.
It’s probably because I’m irritating him in his sleep, but he’s going to be waking me up every night for who knows how long pretty soon. So too bad, kiddo.
When I wake up in the morning and ask my dog “Gotta go outside?” and she groggily gets up, comes over to my chest and flops down, making sure she’s under the covers and laying on me as if to say “5 more minutes.”
In those first waking moments everything in the outside world just stops existing except me and my dog. The bed is warm, I have puppy snuggles, and we exist in just this warm, happy bubble before she decides it is in fact time to go outside.
Eating freshly peeled mangos like they’re apples. None of that cutting off chunks garbage. Chomp down on that sucker and let the juice roll down your face. Sure you might need to shower afterwards but it’s the purest sense of joy I consistently experience.
I volunteer at something like a suicide hotline, I like to call it a “just-short-of-suicide-hotline”. I don’t have a background in social work – training was provided. It’s not a suicide hotline, they’re typically called crisis or distress hotlines, meant for people who may or may not be suicidal, but need to talk to someone.
Mainly it involves listening. Listening to people who are sad, lonely, depressed, or facing something challenging.
Sometimes I have doubts about school and my career, I feel like I’ve taken on a lot. But with volunteering, there’s no hesitation – I feel like I’m helping people get through tough days. On one or two occasions I really believe I helped people who were considering suicide just by listening and letting them know how they felt mattered.
And sometimes I’ll do something as simple as help someone with anxiety take a deep breath, or remind someone with depression that they should eat something and take their medication – little things to help people cope.
After exams I’m going to be volunteering more for the season because I quit my job. I’m looking forward to it.
I enjoy making people feel included and noticed/valued. So I’ll always look for the person in the room who’s by themselves and chat them up. Sometimes it’s easy to notice someone who’s not very confident or doesn’t think anyone would be interested. Giving them a complement and maybe talking for a bit always lights them up. You can see the shock/disbelief when they’re pleasantly surprised. Such days are my favourite.
When I get home from college, I take walks with my dad at an old high school track field. We usually go around midnight and sometimes we’ll stop at the local gas station for a hot drink when the nights are cold. I like that even though he thinks fancy coffee drinks are silly, he’ll get one with me anyways. Spending time with him is what I look forward to.
Today I led about 85 residents of a large nursing home in a holiday sing-along. They were all gathered around the grand piano in the auditorium – mostly in wheelchairs.
My choir and I volunteer each year when the facility invites us to generate some Christmas cheer to a group of people who often feel sad or neglected.
Seeing their smiles and having them enthusiastically call out their favorite tunes or carols adds meaning to life – both theirs and ours.
I have a little code I made up called “vindictus” which is vengeance in latin, or at least I think it is.
Basically my childhood sucked, it was incredibly traumatic. I spent a lot of time angry because I never felt the concept of innocence or growing up like a lot of my friends. In a sense I wanted vengeance for my lost childhood. The thing is most people want to go about vengeance by somehow brining back the past and that’s impossible. The pain will never go away and things will have always happened. I realized that instead that it is better to make the pain of yesterday negligible compared to tomorrow’s triumph. So basically, my concept of vengeance is finding a way to become happy enough that I don’t care about all the bad things that happened to me. You can’t take away the sadness but at least you can become numb to it.
Cooking. It’s my job and my life outside work. The source and cure for most of my stresses really. I know it won’t be my job forever but there’s something about putting a knife to a chopping board, a pan on the heat, peeling some vegetables or kneading some dough that helps calm me down. It makes me feel a bit more whole. And I know that even when it’s not my profession anymore, it’ll be there for feeding all the people I love and care about, and that’s more than good enough for me.
I have a pace maker (neuropace RNS) attached to my brain to control my epilepsy. I had to undergo 3 brain surgeries and 2 years worth of testing where they went as far as shutting down my brain temporarily. Despite this, Ive still maintained a full-time job at an Inc500 company (minus brief periods of time), I bought a new house, had a child and never slowed down. I was back at my office with 30+ staples in my head keeping my skull attached. Ive done this to continue to support my wife who had done nothing but support me. I lived for years without handle, because I was the only one who had to deal with it, but now my wife and kid are the most important aspects of my life that I have to give 100% to.
My 3-year-old son doesn’t like public toilet hand dryers. I think the volume and the fact you’re in a small space scares him.
He usually forgets they exist until someone turns one on and every time it happens his little hand will shoot up to grab mine. A little bit of reassurance for him.
Reminds me that no matter how often I feel like I’m pretending at being an adult, this little dude thinks I can protect him from the scary things.
For me, it’s music. There is always a new artist to find and enjoy their music. It helps me focus. I am constantly playing music because if I didn’t have some sort of background noise I would panic. I stress out very easily and I found that it helps me pay attention to what needs to be done instead of letting any external things bother me. I found that learning guitar helps out a lot. When I have a bad day I try to go back to my room and either learn something or make up something entirely new. I might not be great but it is surprisingly relaxing. I believe that there is nothing better than hearing an amazing song for the first time.
1. Making people happy. This is a bit of a downside as I’m an awful gift giver, I always want to give it to them right away. It’s nearly impossible for me to wait until Christmas/their birthday.
2. Waking up to my cat. She’s almost always on my bed when I wake up, and when she sees I’m awake she gets super excited, chirping away, and needs pets before I get out of bed.
This might sound a bit weird but… for me it’s squishing my boyfriend’s face. I’m struggling a lot with depression and it’s been hard to practice opening up. It’s also been new having someone to trust. When I squish his face, it makes me realize that I’m changing and actually do the things I’ve always wanted to do. Plus, he looks really funny so it makes me laugh even when I’m not best. He’s still there to help me be better.
For me, just realizing that everything actually exists. Walking around outside and just marveling at how this entire world is the way it is because of years of change and human endeavor. How the leaves are full of insanely complex beautiful structures that grow into these breathtaking forests and manage to keep our planet habitable. How people are just sacks of flesh moving around and being awkward and trying to be happy and get rich and whatever. What gives me meaning is experiencing it, and learning in it, and meeting all the quirky people that give it value.
I volunteer my free time to care of sick seals and sea lions. It’s a messy and smelly job (and can be dangerous too). I have had seal poop/blood/vomit in my hair, busted my butt on seal poop, and dealt with large pissed off sea lions at close range. That said, it’s super rewarding to see a patient be released after treatment. Doesn’t get more rewarding than that to be honest.
My lower income apartment complex and my cats.
My apartment complex is near a university, and is cheaply priced for the area. The apartments are snug, and only one bedroom, but comfortable fit a few people and some animals. We have every kind of person you could imagine living here, and while sometimes it can be sketchy, there is so much culture, respect and kindness from everyone. I’m proud to live here. The simplicity humbles me and brings me joy.
My cats bring me absolute warmth and joy as well. They help with my depression and anxiety, and I don’t think I’d be mentally as sound without them.
I have a tiny glass birdbath figurine that means a lot to me. It was a gift my then girlfriend and I got my grandmother for Christmas one year. She allowed us to live in her house through college rent free and bought us groceries. She was battling late stage lung cancer and I withdrew from college due to depression and to help her around the house for the last few months. She died to cancer before she could see me propose to said girlfriend and before my now fiance graduated from college. That birdbath reminds me to be as kind to the world as she was to us.
I know this will get buried, but I’m an EMT and firefighter. Saving lives is awesome, but anyone can do that. I don’t really feel like I’ve made a difference, because if it wasn’t me on the truck it would’ve been someone else.
What makes it for me is showing someone who has been marginalized, or who we ‘don’t really need to be there for,’ some respect and dignity. Homeless people, anxiety attacks, suicide attempts, that kind of thing. Somewhere where a little bit of compassion and a human touch is what makes a difference.
I think a lot of EMT’s and medics get caught up in the medical side, and the fire side and forget that, at the end of the day, are job is to be helpers.
I feel incredibly lucky that I get to help someone every time I go to work.
Recently I met my boyfriend’s daughter for the first time. She’s almost one.
They showed up, both wearing band shirts (same band). I said “And who is this pretty girl?” She said “Hi! I’m [her name].”
I extended my hand and she quickly jumped in my arms! She gave me a hug and laid her head in my shoulder. Her little hand taping in my arms like she was just caressing me… I could not believe how well she was with me. I told her “Wow, that’s a great hug!” She lifted her head and gave me the most beautiful smile ever! Just two little bottom teeth… And laid her head back in my shoulder.
Her hug and the way her father looked at both of us, holding each other and swinging side to side, just gave so much meaning to my life.
Books. Reading, writing, editing. Collecting them, running a small reading group to get people involved with spooky lit.
I’ve been in the editing trenches off and on close to ten years, and I only recently got a day job in my field. It’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. Starting to work on my first actual book, as I haven’t been published yet. Next step is to go back to school for my Ph.D. in English. (Hopefully!)
As Sherman Alexie said, “Books will save your life.” I’m hoping I can open that door to other people too.
Books are the friend you didn’t know you had.
My son doesn’t have feet. He’s two and had his feet amputated in July because they were non-functional due to missing fibulas bones. No ankles. He wears prosthetics and gets around great. Today I took him to the store to pick out a pair of new shoes.. he’s two so I showed him some pairs and he seemed unenthusiastic…
Then he saw these little fox slippers and HAD to have them. I was hesitant because his prosthetics don’t have ankle flexion at this time and I worried the slippers would slide too much and trip him. But wow… he walks and jumps and stomps like a pro in them. Just seeing him do this simple, normal, kid thing brought tears to my eyes. I sure bought them for him.
This may seem odd but let me explain. I love animals, and I’m kind of a lonely person. My family is all kinds of messed up, but when I’m alone with my hamster, the one thing that looks forward to seeing me everyday, it makes me happy.
He does this thing where he runs to the side of his cage and he won’t go back to sleep unless I say hi to him. He’s tamed, and when I pick him up and pet him sometimes he licks my hand, it’s super cute. He’s my little buddy, and although hamsters don’t have long life spans, I have a feeling he’ll always be with me whether he’s alive or not. He’s saved my life multiple times. I’m suicidal and I don’t really think at times I have much of a reason to live – then I look at my little buddy and it reminds me he’d die if I died. He’s so precious to me and I love him a lot.