The Crossroads of Life

Orin SimFebruary 20, 2024Finding MeaningFeatures
The Crossroads of Life

Artwork by Nikita Zinoviev, age 16

Some days, you just feel like you are running in circles. You ain’t going anywhere.

Some days are like that, when everything just blends into this one, hot mess and you wonder: what’s the purpose of all of this? Why am I doing what I do? Sometimes I have an answer, but most of the time, I don’t. I wonder what’s the meaning of today’s events, and if I’m feeling a little bit more bold, I wonder: What’s the meaning of life?

The first step to try to even comprehend this massive question is to take a look back. Since the beginning of time, humans have always asked themselves this very same question. It’s what led to great journeys and hardships, and it’s what led to magnificent success in life as well. We crave to discover purpose and meaning, whether that is the astronomical projections of the solar system, or the simple answer to the question “why is there cheese in my egg sandwich?”

But another thing to also consider is that everybody has their own opinion. For thousands of years, humans have made speeches, published literature, delivered religious messages, and pursued the question through logic and science. So what is the truth? Perhaps, this differs for everyone, or perhaps there is only one universal meaning. It’s hard to tell. And every person has their own thoughts on this arguable question. But humans constantly look for clues to answer this universal question, because it provides a goal, and the motivation to keep living day by day. In the end, we want to solve one of life’s greatest mysteries. We want to be able to yell: AHA! And in recent times, more and more people aim to use the power of storytelling to try to answer this question and guide the audience with them.

So how do they do that? First and foremost, storytelling is a tool that can be used in a variety of ways and is one of the most universal and relatable ways to send a message. Consider this: a good book that delivers a powerful message through characters and events has themes that stick to you longer than one graph on a PowerPoint. Storytelling is a powerful way to persuade, captivate, and relay your ideas to the world. All kinds of media explore the “meaning of life” with their own perspectives from filmmakers and authors.

After all, there are millions of films, literature, and articles on this question. Books such as The Outsiders, Life of Pi, and even the Harry Potter series explore this question in their own respective ways, just like movies like Toy Story, Forrest Gump, and Inception. And the reason storytelling is so effective is that it offers messages and perspectives on life that are unique to the storyteller.

For example, the movie Soul, by Pixar, is a great family film to watch on a Friday night. But on the other hand, it also delivers powerful messages. Joe Gardner, the protagonist of the story (voiced by Jamie Foxx), has an almost obsessive passion for jazz. Throughout the film, he and the audience believe that his passion, his “purpose” in life is jazz. But in the end, Tina Fey’s character, 22, shows him that regular, everyday life is a form of inspiration. The spark in her life wasn’t a purpose she had to accomplish for the rest of her life. Her spark was just finding meaning in everyday ordinary things. Joe discovers that there isn’t one purpose in life. You can take a different fork in the road, or find a divergent goal to pursue. The message the film tells you in a subtle way is that there isn’t just one path you can take. There are many. But whatever path you choose, you have to live by it in your day-to-day life to the fullest.

Another great piece of media that explores this question of meaning is a popular and well-known book called The Giver, written by Lois Lowry. One of the most prevalent themes in the book is the search for our purpose on the planet. You might think the answer is work or simply “order,” but in Lowry’s opinion, that isn’t the most gratifying way to spend life. Lowry showcases this message through the eyes of the protagonist, Jonas, who is caught inside a dystopian, one-dimensional society. When Jonas gets a special opportunity to see the other purposes in his life that he wants to pursue, purposes like freedom, joy, uniqueness, and love, the hunt for these qualities drives Jonas’s actions. In The Giver, Lois Lowry makes her statement that these beloved, universal qualities in the world are worth fighting for, and that’s the meaning in life she wants to hold true to.

In the end, the point is that you can find your own road to choose from. When your days just feel like long, endless cycles, you have to choose what fills you with passion, and what life has to offer you. According to Professor L. J. Russell, there isn’t just one meaning to life; there are many that sustain the fuel of motivation in life. You might ask: Well how do I find these meanings? This is the question I found myself stuck on at multiple points in my life. It’s always hard to navigate through this, but my personal answer is to go out in the world and try to experience as many things as you possibly can. Try to find reasons to wake up in the morning and feel like there is a plethora of things to do. Because along the way, you will discover motivation to keep going.


Fujiikawa, Jenn. “Disney and Pixar’s Soul Will Have You Contemplating the Meaning of Life.” Disney News, December 16, 2020.

Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Russell, L. J. “The Meaning of Life.” Philosophy 28, no. 104 (1953): 30–40.

Serkebayev, Abay. “What Is the Meaning of Life and Why We Seek It so Desperately.” LinkedIn, June 15, 2023.

Story League. “The Power of Telling a Story.” Story League, August 21, 2023.

Van Treuren, Phil. “Three Ways to Find Purpose: What’s The Meaning of Your Life?” Stoic Simple, November 29, 2023.

Orin Sim is a 14-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska.