Here’s an honest confession: I can’t stop thinking about the fact that my life is meaningless. And it’s making it hard for me to think about anything else or do anything else.
It’s distracting me from working and I’m almost incapable of even enjoying any movies or books that aren’t about existentialism. I almost even exclusively only look at existential memes. I mean? Come on. CAN I STOP PLEASE.
Yesterday, I shared a quote on my Instagram from the book Wild Mind by Nathalie Goldberg. One of which was this:
“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Don’t avoid it. It has all the energy. Don’t worry, no one ever died of it.
And then I realized that I should take my own advice.
What’s hurting me the most right now is that I’m trying to find a solid answer to why I should live, or why anything matters. At the same times, I know that there isn’t any real answer to that question. I am also struggling to find a reason for why I should even struggle to earn more money? Is it so I can live longer? Why? Time doesn’t even exist, so what am I supposed to live for. Also, why shouldn’t I just spend everything I have right now and do whatever I want and then just die?
And this also brings me to other questions such as: Why should I care about getting social acceptance? What does it matter if other people think I’m normal or not? Who even really cares about anything? Even if someone did care a little bit right now, imagine me dying, and then imagine 100 years passing: Who would still be caring at that point? Probably no one, because everyone I know would be dead.
I’m not sure anyone will even read this, or if it will be helpful or valuable to anyone else, but here it is. Perhaps, hopefully, someone who feels similar to how I’m feeling will find this and relate to it.
What is Existentialism?
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m stuck thinking about existentialism. Existentialism is the inquiry about the nature of our existence, meaning of life, and self-government. Good source for reading about existentialism: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Formal definitions of existentialism:
“Existentialism is a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the problem of human existence.”
“… approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determine their own development through acts of the will”.Oxford Languages
“all the themes popularly associated with existentialism—dread, boredom, alienation, the absurd, freedom, commitment, nothingness, and so on—find their philosophical significance in the context of the search for a new categorial framework, together with its governing norm.”Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
This last quote is interesting because as it says, finding oneself in existential questions can often bring out a sense of dread (from a non-existent meaning of existence), boredom, alienation, freedom (if nothing matters, then we are truly free), nothingness and a feeling of absurd-ness or surrealism.
I think I’m experiencing all of those side effects.
How did my existential crisis start?
My existential crisis started sometime during 2019 and 2020. I had experienced a lot of mental pain; a blend of fear, worry, grief, and sorrow. I essentially lost everything that I identified myself with.
I was in so much pain and spiraling downwards until I honestly started thinking to myself that I didn’t want to exist anymore. Mostly because I couldn’t take the pain anymore, nor my sadness, and it felt like it would never get better, because the months kept passing by and I was still stuck.
But then, when I actually started contemplating non-existence, it stopped me in my tracks. I really started asking myself the question, but in a non-pitiful way: Why should I exist? What is the meaning for me battling through this? Why is everyone else still choosing to live and struggle?
And that’s when I realized that I actually don’t know. I don’t know why I should exist, or why anyone else is existing. I realized that none of the things that I identified myself with before or tried to achieve (social groups and status, friendships, relationships, my body, education, job titles, money, achievements and so on) is any real reason for existence. I actually even had achieved most of my bigger life goals and wants, but still I was thinking about non-existence. So, clearly, those things could not be the reason for living.
Slowly over the coming months, my mental “health” got better. I became happier, more peaceful, and excited for life again. But I became a different me, one who can’t stand to live or do anything that feels inauthentic. Living authentically and in alignment with my intuition and values are the most important thing for me now. And I no longer identify myself or find much pride in things such as education, job titles or money. Although, I am happy for them since they provide me with a safety that is necessary to continuing living.
Now, I do want to live. But I cannot stop myself from thinking about the meaning of life. That question is the most important and interesting question for me to think about. While I can at times use meditation to stop thinking, my curiosity for finding the answer to the meaning of my life always takes over at one point or the other. It’s like the BIG ELEPHANT in the room. But I also know that logically, I will most likely never ever find an answer.
It seems that everyone else is telling me to:
- Stop thinking about it. Just distract myself with other things. But this feels like a very stupid and wasteful way of living my life. How can you turn a blind eye to the most interesting and important question in your life? Would I even want to live a life like that?
- Embrace and accept the meaninglessness , and try to find enjoyment in the meaninglessness by for example deciding my own new meaning to life. This sounds good, but it’s not really working for my brain, at least not yet.
- Accept that life is meaningless and always will be meaningless. Which often leads people to become nihilist, depressed, and suicidal. Which I don’t want to become of course.
- My personal reflection: Could I go back to how I saw reality before I started thinking about this? Would I want to even if I could? If I did, I’d probably once again find meaning in chasing titles, money, social status, or things like that. Do I really want that? Meh.
And then once again, I am stuck at an impasse. There apparently are solutions, but I don’t know how to get to them. I should probably go talk to an existential therapist but a part of me is afraid that such a person would only try to get me to think smaller again. Which is perhaps the solution, but I’m mentally ready yet to give up this question, whilst I know I need to.
What I live for now
Currently, I feel like the only meaningful things with my life (that makes we continue want to wake up in the morning are):
- Loved ones and talking to them, having fun, connecting
- Art and beauty. Oh wow, how much I’m appreciating art and other visual stimulations right now
- Creating things. Writing these articles, drawing, painting, photography, taking videos, making things for my Instagram page or this website is probably one of the strongest reasons for me to want to live
- Music. Gives my life the richness and excitement it needs
- Freedom to live authentically and do what I want. Of course I know I am very lucky, and I am so grateful for it. The ability to wake up each morning and be able to explore the world around me and all the things that exist is meaningful of course. And to know that in the future, I will be able to travel, live in different countries, read even more books, look at even more art and beautiful things, and listen to even more music; is of course very worthy.
- Hedonistic enjoyment. Good food, tasty things, experiencing joy, excitement, love, adrenalin, dopamin, serotonin, and other purely enjoyable things are of course better than not experiencing anything at all
Ah well, I haven’t come any further than this in my thoughts, so I can’t write about any conclusions on this topic. But one great things that have come out of all of this is that I’m at least living my life really authentically, freely, inhibited, and joyfully. I am honestly very happy to be alive, and I have become the exact person that I’ve always wanted to be. I have also become much less judgemental towards others (and myself). Although, at the same time, does any of it matter?
Anyway, life is meaningless. But at least it’s fun.