This might get kind of deep and is not the regularly scheduled cute fluff.
A family member accused me of having the same existential crisis that they are having, and I said that was wrong. What the heck is an existential crisis anyway? Apparently, a moment where you question if your life is worth living and if anything you do in life really matters.
According to Zapffe (and Wikipedia!), humans have 4 ways of dealing with this;
- anchoring (being attached to the first bit of information offered, an idea they can use to focus their attention consistently, like society, God, etc.)
- isolation (“fully arbitrary dismissal from consciousness of all disturbing and destructive thought and feeling” according to Wikipedia)
- distraction (focus on an action or something else so you don’t think about it)
- sublimation (re-focus the worry onto positive things, like creating art or other useful endeavors)
In this case, if I am having an existential crisis, then I think I am handling it quite well. But sometimes it does sneak into my brain, does any of this really matter?
In the big picture of the universe and existence and all that, no, it doesn’t matter. I am a blip on the radar of the universe. But that does not mean I should not enjoy my small existence, or that I should not use my life, however insignificant, to do something good.
I want to have a good life! I want to eat tasty things and visit neat places and have a cozy and safe place to live and be around the people I love and who make me happy. I want to buy cute things and wear pretty clothes. I want to provide a good life to the cats I take care of, and maybe even have a family someday, and provide them with a good, happy life too.
I want to help further human knowledge about science, and even if I graduate this year and end up in a soul sucking job as a medical writer, then at least the past 6 years of my life doing research were not a waste. And even a job as a medical writer (note: I am not seriously considering this as a career, but it is something I know is available, but I don’t really want to do it. At least not at this moment in my life) would not be fruitless either, because it would involve translating data and results into a form that other people can more easily understand. That isn’t really something fun, but I think it would be helpful and the idea of furthering human knowledge makes me happy.
Even when things look gloomy, and my family is being awful, and it feels like I will never graduate and I worry that everyone is disappointed in me for being unpublished while the new kids already are published and I worry I can’t find a job because I am still unpublished and I just want to cry…I have to remind myself that it will be okay. Not everyone’s life is going to have a huge impact, and I am probably always going to be a “nobody” whose existence will not matter very much in the grand scheme of things.
But surely I matter to my friends and loved ones, and maybe even my co-workers. Pretty sure I matter to my cat, who kept bugging me this morning to feed her. I like to think that when I interact with strangers and am generally polite and considerate, I am able to make their day a little bit better (or at least not make it any worse).
Anyway, time is limited for everyone, and that scares me sometimes because I will be 30 in a few years. That seems so old and I feel like I haven’t done enough with my life yet. I mean, graduate school is kind of a big deal, but I though I would have traveled more by now. I was reading something yesterday about planning trips to Japan (ah yes the weaboo inside breaks free!) and budgeting for it. I want to do that! I’ve wanted to go visit Japan at LEAST for a decade! But I kept making excuses. I can’t afford it cause I would want a few grand so I could do some hard core shopping, I am scared to go alone, I don’t speak/read the language, I can’t take time off work/school/lab etc etc etc. Ah this kind of got off topic, but the point is, life doesn’t matter so may as well do something fun.
(Of course, the doing something fun has caveats. Murder sprees are not okay and if you think that is fun, please see a therapist. Drinking yourself to death may seem fun to you but it is not fun for your loved ones so please don’t. Please take care of your health so you can get the most fun out of life.)
Do something that makes you happy, but don’t hurt other people in the process. I think to me, that is the meaning of life.
I am not precisely sure which of the 4 coping mechanisms I fall under, or perhaps if I fall under all 4. But I do think I am dealing with this existential crisis better than my family member, and we are most definitely 100% NOT the same.
And damnit, I am going to go on a shopping trip to Japan one of these days. At least once in my life.