I see many questions in your one question:

  1. How do I figure out what is right? and what is wrong?
  2. If I didn't have to feed myself and/or my family, what gives life meaning?
  3. Since I have to feed myself and my family, what gives life meaning?

I think all 3 have very different answers.

How do I figure out what is right? and what is wrong?

At a very young age, children don't know what is right and what is wrong. They go by what their parents, teachers, and other adults tell them. Culture and religion also has a big role to play as both of them affect the parents and the environment.

For a lot of people, this becomes deeply ingrained and becomes a very important part of themselves.

As a teenager, people start to question things and try to form their own understanding of the world. They try to understand the world based on their own understanding - and not from dictats given by parents/adults. This is an important phase in life and often teenager's have a different definition of right and wrong compared to parents.

You will go through this phase yourself and you have to figure out for yourself what is right and what is wrong.

Repealing Section 377 in India is an example of this. The older folks (40+) may not be comfortable with this ruling. However, I feel the younger people are more supportive of this ruling. These are the kinds of changes that society continuously has to go through to adapt to changing times.

If I didn't have to feed myself, what gives life meaning?

As I mentioned, very few people have gone through this journey in life and know the answer. I doubt you will find many such people who can answer this question.

Reflect back on Buddha's life or even Swami Vivekananda's life. Both of them searched for a Guru who could help them. The Buddha did not find one - but, he figured it out by himself. Swami Vivekananda found a Guru after a long search - fortunately, for him this Guru was able to help him answer this question.

To summarise, if this is your question, you have a tough road ahead of you to find the answer.

I have to feed myself and family, what gives life meaning?

This is a practical question that a lot of people can answer. One answer I can think of is the following:

As that answer mentions, you need to learn about yourself and understand what you like doing. Again, quite hard because lot of people dont know what they like doing.

Some ways of knowing what you like doing:

  • Can you do it for hours and not feel tired?
  • Do you feel satisfied doing it?
Serious Sam
I agree with the first point of the answer given. I too keep asking this often. What is the difference between right or wrong? The Bible tells that " An eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth" is not the right thing to do. Gandhian philosophy of ahimsa also upholds this. He is called a Mahatma because of his principles and thinking. We all have a perception of the right from wrong. But what is right by Gandhi may not be right for many of us. The opinion of what is right or wrong is subjective. It differs from person to person. Here is one famous "trolley problem" Suppose you are standing by a railroad track. Ahead, in a deep cutting from which no escape is possible, five people are walking on the track. You hear a train approaching. Beside you is a lever with which you can switch the train to a sidetrack. One person is walking on the sidetrack. Is it O.K. to pull the lever and save the five people, though one will die? For many, this is the right thing to do. Assume now you are on a bridge overlooking the track. Ahead, five people on the track are at risk. You can save them by throwing down a heavy object into the path of the approaching train. One is available beside you, in the form of a fat man. Is it O.K. to push him to save the five? For most, it is the wrong thing to do What is right and wrong is deeply based on our upbringing, the morals taught by our parents and teachers and as we age on the people we meet, the people who inspire us and our real-life experiences. Rational thinking, of course, plays a role in how we make moral decisions. But our moral compasses are also powerfully influenced by the fleeting forces of disgust, fondness, or fear. Emotions, like our love for our friends and family, are a crucial part of what gives life meaning, and ought to play a guiding role in morality. Some say absolutely not: Cold, impartial, rational thinking is the only proper way to make a decision. Emotion versus reason—it’s one of the oldest and most epic standoffs we know.
Sangeetha Pulapaka
The best advice I got was when I do not know how to react to a particular situation (when I am unsure of what the right thing is to do), is 'sleep over it!' I always find things appear much clearer after a good nights sleep. I feel that this helped me make the RIGHT decision. Whatever ( a person or a situation) is putting you in a position to decide will be there tomorrow as well. So, when in doubt do not act! Haste makes waste!
Thanks guys