At the risk of being perceived as overly dramatic and just plain preposterous, I would like to explore the small existential, quarter-life crisis that I frequently mull over these days. I don’t think that I am the only one either, as life crises are rarely contained to the middle-aged group, as folklore would have us believe. Yes, I’m 23-years-old and I’m wondering what the point of life really is. How does that perception change based on religious beliefs? Am I behind in making my mark on the world? Is the whole struggle futile and we should give up and just be? Do I need to go do some yoga and find my inner peace/chakras/whatever the hell it is that going to make me calm the fuck down?! I certainly couldn’t tell you. Ask some of my friends—I literally have this freak out every week and it’s only become more desperate as the years have worn on. Join me on this journey, darlings, and please excuse the pessimism scattered all over the road—my brain is kind of wired to entertain the “glass half empty” perception.
Contrary to what Douglas Adams would have us believe, 42 is not the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Believe me, I wish it were that simple; so much inner turmoil could have been avoided. In the more depressed phases of my life, the question of what purpose my existence served loomed darkly in my mind and frequently herded me towards severe suicidal ideation that verged on attempts. I felt that I was an advanced monkey among billions of other advanced monkeys that mill about on earth like ants, fling rocks and fire at each other, procreate, wreak further violence upon the earth, and the die. Kaput, dead and gone. If I am one among so many what is the point of my existence if I perceive my life to be only a burden on others? This thought plagued me and so often humanity disappoints with brute cruelty to other creatures.
If you believe in a higher power, then your purpose and drive in life might be different and already more focused than the average Jo. But, if you are operating in this life with the primary intention to achieve a better afterlife, then I feel that occasionally it becomes akin to teachers teaching for a standardized test—the primary focus is on reaching an endpoint, and that myopic view can suck the joy and spontaneity out of the journey. It’s also immensely stressful because, if you’re like me, you wonder if you’re doing it right. Or what if your belief system is wrong? Then you have spent your entire one life working for something that simply doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s a risk you’re willing to take and your faith is solid. But the raging cynic within me frets and criticizes the entire endeavor and wonders if it is really worth it. Doubt. I have so much doubt, and it seems to be an integral part to our very human existence. For me, the moment I stop questioning and analyzing will probably be when I croak, and I sure as hell ain’t there yet.
But, then I consider whether the purpose of life is to make a lasting impact on others. If it’s not, then there is simultaneously an enormous weight lifted and near chaos might reign if everyone thought that way. At our core, humans are animalistic creatures. If there is nothing to aspire for then I fear we would exist solely on the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy—shelter, food, clothing, and sex. Everything would boil down to the fight for the money and means by which we can acquire those four essentials. In a sense, it’s a delicate balance between being enraptured with all that life has to offer, YOLO, and responsibility.
Life is mundane and sometimes it just completely sucks. We spend years and years in school fretting, and/or surviving cutthroat jobs and for what? We’re always waiting for however many days, months, or years to pass by for this ONE thing to happen and then we get there, and there’s always another countdown. I wish there was a way to completely sidestep mourning time spent, relationships forged and broken, and life choices we blithely made in our youth. But there isn’t, and we are stuck with the here and the now, facing the state of our lives. Humans are remarkably resilient creatures, so the obvious question is, what do we do when feeling crushed by our relative insignificance in this giant universe? We can either be annihialted by the realization, or be stubborn and determined to make the best of this one life that we have.
While I’ve come to realize there isn’t a satisfactory conclusion to my dilemma, I currently refuse to be daunted by it. I am finding the things in life that bring me joy and make me grateful that I never ended my own life. Even though future generations will be plagued by the same insecurities, I strive to make their lives a little better and brighter with what I do now. I’m going to live and love passionately, because life is too short to spend pondering regrets and how tiny I am in the grand scheme of things. That’s what I’ll think of in the future when situations are bleak. In the words of a recent Grey’s Anatomy episode (season 10, episode 17), “Do you know who you are? Do you understand what has happened to you? Do you want to live this way?” If not, then don’t just sit there on your laurels mourning your existence! Get up and do something about it, darlings.
Have you ever encountered similar life crises? Tweet us @litdarling!
Photo credit to Bethan Phillips
Oh, and how could she forget? She has three cats which she loves to bits and pieces.