Shang-Chi: Legend of the Ten Rings, introduces us to Katy Chen, (played by Chinese American actress, Awkwakfina) Shang-Chi’s best friend of ten years, and valet parking colleague. Katy first appeared in Shang-chi’s life when she saved him from a bully in school. The two of them share a refreshingly platonic friendship right through the film. Something rare in most films between the lead male and female characters, yet urgently needed.

Right through the film, Katy has a deep desire to discover her life’s purpose and live up to her potential. Of course, being Asian, there is added pressure from her family and friends. Yet, she also seems very content with her current life circumstance and the reality of the abilities or lack of. This tension is well summarised when she meets the warrior-villagers of Ta Lo and says,

“I just love how you guys know exactly what you wanna do, and you spend your whole life getting really good at it. I wish I was more like that. It’s like every time I get moderately good at something, I just quit and start something new. But I just know my own limits, and I’m not gonna waste my time chasing something that will ultimately be a disappointment for me. That’s not me.”

Finally, it was in Ta Lo (spoiler alert) that it seems Katy discovers her life’s purpose, archery. She ends up playing a key role in the final act with her newly discovered ability as she saves Shang-Chi’s life again, and in doing so the whole village and our universe as well.

We all have this innate desire, a socially-constructed notion, that we need to find our unique life purpose and make a difference in this world. There is also added pressure from close family (read Indian parents) to do something that will make them proud. Culture and society tell us that one day, through hard work or chance (or both) we will discover our life’s purpose and through that leave our legacy. But some, like Katy, overwhelmed by these expectations, choose to be content with mediocrity.

Yet, if we do siphon out the socially acceptable understanding of purpose, we may see that Katy is already living her true purpose. Her role in the whole film was to be Shang-Chi’s friend. Here, she exceeded all expectations. She saved his life from bullies and dragons. She unhesitatingly accompanied him, not thinking of the danger she could be in. She used her driving skills to help her friend when needed. In reality, despite her lack of any superhuman abilities, we couldn’t imagine Shang-Chi going anywhere apart from Katy.

Sometimes, our purpose in life may not be something that we need to look for, work towards or stumble upon by chance. Sometimes, our purpose is found through who or what is already present in our life. And all it requires of us is to be faithful to that person or task that is already there. We often look at purpose as an individual pursuit or task. Often, real impact comes through faithfully playing our small part alongside others. Katy’s role in Shang-Chi helped redefine purpose as something that could be relational. Or even being a faithful, loyal and integral part of someone else’s purpose. Our purpose could mean being a really good friend, co-worker, parent, spouse, neighbour or even a role that hasn’t been defined as yet. But doing it to the best of our potential.

How do you now see your purpose in the present phase of your life?



Joshua George