No one else can tell you your purpose. It is something that you must discover and determine for yourself.
That doesn't stop others from trying to tell you what's best for you and who you should be, however. Your family probably has a few opinions, right? Or maybe it's your friends or your teachers or your church who try to steer you in a particular direction "for your own good", of course.
I went to a very conservative Christian college (how I ended up there is a a story for another blog post, lol). During the time I was there this particular church made an announcement—more of a decree, really--that a woman’s primary purpose was motherhood. Period. Women had a divine role to bear and rear children.
This announcement came in the 1980s. At the time, at age 19, I assumed I would get married and have children as that was clearly what was expected of me. And yet as I listened to the message that my purpose in life was to be a mother, I began to cry. I was sitting in the back of my religion class with my best friend (who absolutely wanted to be a mother) with tears streaming down my face while everyone around me seemed to calmly absorb this information.
This was a visceral response. While I wasn't consciously aware of these feelings, on a gut level I had a sense that motherhood was not for me.
It was more by circumstance than choice that I didn’t give in to the pressure to marry young, have children early, and “not curtail the number of [my] children for personal or selfish reasons”.
But after that day, I began to open up to the possibility that there was an option for me *not* to become a parent and that perhaps I could create a very meaningful life without following the accepted formula for success and happiness.
And what if I had lived according to others' expectations?
I don't know. I think I have the capacity to be a good mother, and yet, I cannot imagine feeling fulfilled with that as my primary role. Neither my partner nor I have any regrets about our decision not to become parents.
In my world, it wasn't common for a person to be childless by choice. And definitely it made it easier that neither my family or my partner's family ever put any pressure on us to have children.
I have clients who made some big choices based on family or cultural expectations. Clients who went to medical school, or stayed in their home town, or married someone that fit in with their family's ideal and then at some point came to understand that it wasn't really the choice they wanted to make.
It can cause confusion, resentment, or even despair when a person realizes that they placed other people's "truth" above their own.
It's difficult to come to terms with the idea that you may have spent years or even decades on someone else's path. It may cause you to question if you are even worth going back and picking up your own path. You are. No matter how long you followed others' plans for your life, you are worth the effort of picking up your own path from wherever you are at right now.