Wise Words From a Stranger in a Bar

Traveling alone can be lonely, but it makes you reach out to people you wouldn’t normally talk to while safely ensconced within your usual cadre of companions.

I met a percussionist in a bar in Berlin, just a few years older than myself, and our conversation quickly graduated from small talk to big talk over several glasses of mulled wine. She played in several orchestras, and that was how she made her living, and the conversation I had with her, now more than a week later, is still running in a loop in my head.

She was talking about how music is her purpose in life, that to serve the music the best way that she can is all she ever wants to do, it’s what she was made for. I told her that I love writing, but I can’t make money that way, so I still don’t know what my purpose is. She simply asked, “do you love it?”

“Of course” I answered.

“Does it bring you joy the way nothing else does?”


“Does it make you feel whole?”


“Then there is no reason it cannot be your purpose. Of course, you need to make money, but what makes you money doesn’t have to be the thing that makes you alive. Some of us are lucky, and they are one and the same thing. But if you really love writing, if it’s your passion, your great love? It is your purpose. And never ever let anyone take that away from you.”

I think I just stared at her for a good few seconds after that little soliloquy. This was one of those moments, those shining glorious moments that change something in you. Suddenly I saw everything differently. I do love writing more than I love anything else. I’m fickle and have trouble sticking to things but since I was 7 years old I have written. I started of my own volition, and of my own volition it has been the thing that held me together. I knew this, but I could never see it as my purpose. A purpose was a career, something firm and solid and tangible that made money, put food on your table and clothes on your back. It was not a “hobby”. But why not? Even if I never publish, even if for the rest of my existence no one else reads a single poem I have written, a single line of prose, even if it’s all for me for the rest of my days, it can still be my purpose.

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