What I’m Here to Do

Whew. Well, that’s a relief. Oprah has made it clear she’s not running for U.S. President in the 2020 elections. Good for Oprah. The country — and the world — could use a person with her gifts in the Oval Office, God knows, but Oprah knows her purpose lies elsewhere. She knows her mind.

As she was quoted in a New York Times article this week (“Oprah Had Ruled Out Running for President,” Jan. 25, 2018): “I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so [running for President] is not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it.”

She added: “I have to say the core of me is about conversations. Exploring the depth of our human experiences. That is what I do. […] Whether I do that through dramas, producing stories with OWN [Oprah Winfrey Network], or one-on-one conversations that matter, I know that’s what I’m here to do.”

If only all of us were as well aware of what we’re here to do. Just think of what we, collectively, could accomplish in our lifetimes here on Planet Earth….

I’ve been thinking such existential thoughts lately because several people I’ve known and cared about have recently died. Two of my former Creative Nonfiction Writing students in Taos, New Mexico, Elaine Sutton and Elizabeth Cunningham, passed away in the past several weeks after long illnesses. And this week a dear longtime friend of a good friend and neighbor here in San Miguel de Allende, died suddenly of a heart attack. (See the New York Times obituary, “Olivia Cole, Award-Winning ‘Roots’ Actress, Is Dead at 75,” Jan. 24, 2018). Mortality and its messages have been on my mind.

What are we here to do? Or, to narrow the scope, What am I here to do?

Are such questions even definitively answerable — at least for those of us who aren’t Oprah? At times like these, I wish I knew.

Are we writers who write books (and essays and blogs), which few people read, doing what we’re here to do? Sometimes, I confess, given the fact that in today’s world there seem to be more writer-wannabes than willing readers, writing feels to me more like an exercise in futility than an expression of life’s purpose. It gets disheartening.


For months now I’ve been watching the slow-but-steady construction of a tall addition to a home across the street, next to my friend’s casa. From the patio of what I like to (facetiously) call my “penthouse” apartment here in San Miguel, I observe the men at work – six days a week, in the early morning cold into the late-afternoon heat – laying brick, hoisting columns, and, lately, creating a domed roof.

The foreman of the crew, who looks like the father of them all, is a true, old-time Mexican artisan, I can see. He knows what he’s doing. His confident body language says to me, unquestioningly, “This is what I’m here to do.”

The foreman of the work crew constructing the domed roof
Making progress on the roof

He and his men know they have created a work of art, a self-supporting vaulted ceiling made of bricks. Called a bóveda, the technique originated in Spain hundreds of years ago – no doubt Moor-inspired – and was brought to colonial Mexico with the conquistadors. Many of the lovely homes here boast this awe-inspiring architectural feature.

So, grasping at just about anything for inspiration, I’m now looking to these workmen. What am I here to do? Maybe just do the best I can do in whatever way I can do it. Day by day. Brick by brick. Until I’ve built a vaulted ceiling and can stand back and say, Ah, THIS is what I was meant to do.

30 thoughts on “What I’m Here to Do”

  1. Life’s purpose is a question I have wrestled with since 10th grade. It is sad that when I was young I thought I could change the world…and now I struggle just to change MYSELF! I don’t think there are clear answers to these big questions for most of us. I too believe it is brick-by-brick, step-by-step, putting in time doing what you can…..

  2. Bonnie — THANKS for these words. So basic and simple and so profound. How often I have questioned that prickly issue of writing for so few, feeling so un-heard often… Something I do know is: one of my life purposes is to live and love well, to be kindhearted and generous as much as I possibly can. Do we make our mark that way as we go? I think so. BUT…….. I still want to be listened to, regarded with respect…. Sorry for rambling, but you really set me off on a provocative train of thought! Gracias.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Mag. My goal in these WOW views is to raise questions and provoke thought — and not give answers. I certainly don’t have the big answers. But if and when I get them, I’ll be sure to share! 🙂

  3. A timeless and universal question I think not knowable for most of us until we return to ‘the other side’. I’m told we are here to learn and to teach which sounds about right. A clue for me, that it is the right path for something I’m attempting to do, is that it is not a struggle. Doors open as they say that you didn’t even know existed. Something like ‘build it and they will come’. And then I would add, if it is the right thing. Which doesn’t mean I don’t struggle at accomplishing some things, but if I’m honest with myself, the things that have made the most positive impact have been things I feel have been channeled through me. Let’s have a conversation about it on Sunday? A very timely topic in this era of negativity.

  4. Thank you, Bonnie.
    It’s so true that writers outnumber readers logarithmically.
    (I’m your admiring reader.)
    Jerelle (Rosita en México)

  5. Bonnie, if we simplify, we can consider touching one life could be a purpose. Think back, and realize how many lives you have touched through your teaching, through your writing, through your friendships. You have touched my life in all those ways.
    And there are children who have learned from your puppets, and those children will have children who will learn from their parents.
    Like you, I feel the loss of Liz; she touched so many of us, and we will miss her.

  6. Bonnie, you were meant to write, you were meant to inspire, your powerful words were meant to help heal others who have also traveled in some way through the dark places you have been and do not know how to emerge. Just keep doing what you do. I so look forward to your pieces. They inform, inspire, and make me stop for awhile and contemplate essential life questions. I for one am grateful that while I never really got to know you as a teen, growing up as we did less than a mile from each other, through your books and writings and our written conversations I feel I have found a true soulmate and a good friend. Keep the words flowing.

  7. Bonnie, someone finally bought that lovely double lot next door, and they’re building a two-story house. I hated losing the view of trees and open space, but it has been such a joy watching the mostly Spanish-speaking crews building the house. You’re right. There didn’t seem to be any existentialism going on with those guys. They know what they have to do, and they know how to do it! You do, too—and you’re doing it.

    But who needs readers? I write every day and never have any illusions about getting it published. That’s not why I do it.

  8. Right on again, Bonnie. How very apt in the wake of the New Year, the fraught time politically and our planet’s peril that we all ask once more, “what’s mine to do?” Gracias y ándele.

  9. This is lovely. I walk into my Sunday with these thoughts taking a foothold in my mind. Thank you for posting. This is something I needed to hear.

  10. Bonnie I think you are doing what you are meant to do. You are sharing and educating through your writing. Giving us who read some things to think about. Doesn’t matter if hundreds read or just a few. If you are helping just one discover new things or make changes, that is important and maybe what you are meant to do If we all changed one life, who changed one life, think of the ripple affect it causes ultimately.

  11. Thank you Bonnie for your writings. I love your observations of the workers. I too admire the hard work of builders, whether building with bricks or words.

  12. I’ve never questioned your role or purpose in life, Bonnie. I can understand why you might, a we all do, but rest assured, those of us who’ve admired, respected, revered you from the beginning thank our lucky stars for the gift of your presence in our lives. I value every lesson, each hug, and every shared moment, my friend.

    1. Thank you, dearest Michael, for your loving words. They feel like a BIG hug to me. I cherish our old-and-deep friendship too. Where would Bonnie Fare be without YOU?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.