Life is Not a Race, It’s an Experience

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I’ve heard it before, but it wasn’t until recently that I really learned. Life is not a race; it’s an experience.

While growing up, I was never very competitive. And I didn’t compare myself to others. I mostly compared myself to the earlier versions myself. Getting better grades, earning more money, being more fit, possessing more knowledge, and having read more books. Perhaps I didn’t feel the need to compare those things to my peers because I was never behind. But, I did feel like I was in a rush. I have always felt like life was a race, to get somewhere, as fast as possible.

I didn’t exactly know where this race of life was towards, but I’ve always had this inner urge and pent-up energy to take action and do things as fast as possible.

I latched myself onto the world of self-development, read about Maslow’s theory of self-actualization, and always set high goals for myself. One goal after the other. As soon as I hit one goal, I was already looking ahead to the next thing to strive for. But I didn’t do it in a relaxed or enjoyable way. It has always been as if I’ve been racing against time, perhaps against death.

Sometimes people have asked me “Why are you working so much? Why do you feel the need to be productive all the time? Why do you have so many goals? Can’t you just chill?”. And my answer has always been, that I do not want to waste my life. I’ve always reflected a lot about death, the end of my existence, and what an ungraspable miracle that I exist. Every day, it is very real for me that my existence will come to an end. So, I am always planning what to experience next and accomplish next.

My excitement for life comes from the fact that I know that I won’t exist forever.

Why Would Life be A Race?

My mistake was to think that my life would’ve been a waste without accomplishments. My mistake was that I tied too much of my self-worth with the success that could be remembered.

I thought life was a race because I thought that the meaningfulness of my existence was determined by the amount of success I’d manage before death.

And my definition of success was those defined by society. Higher education diplomas, career titles, money, investments, real estate, feminine beauty, partnership, marriage, children. Those are all distinct goals. Easy to visualize, and with a clear path to achievement, because it’s the standardized set of goals taught to young people. I, unfortunately, bought into those visions too much, tying them into my meaning of life. Together, that resulted in me, feeling like I needed to rush into achieving all of thigs things before time ran out. And, you never know when your time will run out, so it became a race. A race to achieve goals that were not even my own.

What I Learned: Life is Just an Experience

After graduating from university, working at my “dream” job, and having saved and invested more than I had planned, I just felt empty. I was grateful, but I did not feel fulfilled. I did not really feel like all my struggles had been worth it. I realized that I hadn’t ever really taken the time to decide on my own goals, my own dreams. I thought I had, because I got to choose what major to study, what career to pursue, what financial goals to have. But I had never asked myself if I even wanted to have a typical career? Where and how I even want to live.

I had allowed myself to dream within the walls of societal norms, but those were a type of self-imposed prison of reality.

I don’t blame myself or anyone in particular for the restricted mindset I had. We only know what we know. I am only grateful that I did come to a new realization. It felt like an awakening from an illusion of reality. I felt like I was carrying so many false beliefs about life and what is possible. I became very interested in meditation, yoga, philosophy, spirituality (though I am not religious), and quantum physics. They all helped me further in forming a new understanding of reality.

Now, I still do have goals, dreams, ambitions. But they come from a place of seeing life as a fun game, a wonderful illusion by our brains. I am not taking life as seriously anymore, because there is no need.

My existence in itself is just an experience I am having, and it only ever happens in the here and now. Time is not linear, the past and future do not exist. Nothing exists but the present moment, and nothing really matters because we are all just energy with a conscious mind that is full of mental constructs. So, to take anything too seriously is foolish. To live life unauthentically is foolish. To race towards goals that I do not believe in, is foolish.

I am just a human being, existing, and experiencing life through my own unique perspective. My existence in itself only ever exists in this very moment that I experience. There is no rush to be anywhere else or to get anywhere because I can’t get anywhere. Although, I can make it an enjoyable and fun experience.

Whever you go, there you are.

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Wendy Zhou

UX/UI designer from Sweden. I write about design, tech, side projects, personal finance and cyberpunk. Contact: wendyzhou.design@gmail.com

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