Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is the elusive “meaning of life”? These are some of the questions that I think many of us – myself included – find ourselves wrestling with.
Ultimately, I believe that these thoughts are common for many of us, and come from a natural desire to make the most of the time that we have. But they’re overwhelming and terrifying, especially when you have absolutely no idea how to answer them!
I certainly feel that way. I think – for me – that this stems from my acute awareness of my own mortality. I am acutely aware of the fleeting time that we call life, and I feel an immense amount of pressure to “make the most of it”. I fear the day when I look into the mirror and am greeted by an old woman, barely recognising myself in my reflection. I know that this sounds somewhat dramatic, but it is a future that I dread.
I don’t want to have any regrets, or feel like I wasted a single second. I want to look back on my life with pride, joy and contentment, knowing that I did all I wanted and achieved all I could whilst I was here. Of course, this dream for (and fear of) the future means that I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself in the present.
Sound familiar? How can anyone enjoy what they’re doing now when they’re constantly striving for an almost impossible dream?
This fear and pressure to make the most if life can manifest itself in almost all aspects of life.
- Career. What do I want to do? What am I best at? How do I create the most impact whilst I’m here? How can I make the world better for others? Do I want to make the world better for others, or just enjoy it myself while I’m here? How will I be remembered? Who will remember me? How do I give my very existence purpose?
- Relationships. Do I want to live in the moment and enjoy what we have right now, or make decisions based on our potential future?
- Day-to-day life and decisions. Does this make me happy? Would something else make me happier? Will this be a waste of time? Will this help me find my purpose in life?
All of these questions ultimately ask the same thing. What will make me happy?
I’ve tried to work this out in a number of ways, and perhaps rely too heavily on external factors and others to help me. Whether it’s getting a new job, relationship, flat or haircut, the pattern is the same. I tend to fixate on one thing and convince myself that – once I have this – I will find happiness and contentment. Of course, the result is always the same; once I have the new job, relationship, flat or haircut, I feel exactly the same and find the next thing to fixate on.
I’ve considered finding a religion, travelling to a remote island to ‘find’ myself, or going back to studying in order to start again. But I recognise that these are just more external factors that I may find myself fixating on in an attempt to find happiness, comfort and a purpose.
I hope that this is a relatively natural side effect of being human. Especially as a 20-something millennial, I feel like an existential crisis is almost inevitable. I hope that – with time, age and experience – I will find a purpose, and begin to accept that life will come to an end for all of us. In the meantime, I have a feeling that I will continue my desperate search for a purpose. Perhaps we all will?