**** This is a continuation of “What to do when your life feels meaningless” Go here to read part 1 *****
All of us, at some point in our lives, ask ourselves “Is this all there is?”
My grand plan, my grand purpose, my work and my time… everything that I’ve worked for culminates in.. this? The life I’m currently living?
Shortly after we proceed to feel like we’ve be really shafted by someone or something, that we’re victims of fate and that we can’t believe we bought into some great cosmic lie.
And then we self-medicate.
Most of us dull the pain of our shitty, seemingly meaningless existence by doing one of three things according to the Flow master, Dr. C:
#1 “As this realization slowly sets in, different people react to it differently. Some try to ignore it, and renew their efforts to acquire more of the things that were supposed to make life good — bigger cars and homes, more power on the job, a more glamourous life-style. They renew their efforts, determined still to achieve the satisfaction that up until then has eluded them. Sometimes this solution works, simply because one is so drawn into the competitive struggle that there is no time to realize that the goal has not come any nearer. But if a person does not take the time out to reflect, the disillusionment returns: after each success it becomes clearer that money, power, status and possessions do not, by themselves, necessarily add one iota to the quality of life.”
#2 Others decide to attack directly the threatening symptoms. If it is a body going to seed that rings the first alarm, they will go on diets, join health clubs, do aerobics, buy a Nautilus, or undergo plastic surgery. If the problem seems to be that nobody pays much attention, they buy books about how to get power and how to make friends, or they enroll in assertiveness training courses and have power lunches. After a while, however, it becomes obvious that these piecemeal solutions don’t work either.”
#3 “Daunted by the futility of trying to keep up with all the demands they cannot possibly meet, some will just surrender and retire gracefully into relative oblivion. Following Candide’s advice, they will give up on the world and cultivate their little gardens. They might dabble in genteel forms of escape such as developing a harmless hobby or accumulating a collection of abstract paintings or porcelain figurines. Or they might lose themselves in alcohol or the dreamworld of drugs. While exotic pleasures and expensive recreations temporarily take the mind off the basic question “is this all there is?” few claim to ever have found an answer that way.”
Three superficial coping strategies
So some of us #1 go deeper into the purchase-consume cycle. We try to chase more flashy cars and pretty girls. We chase money. We buy stuff. We work our way up the ladder to earn more. We keep our mind occupied that way.
Some of us #2 attack symptoms to keep busy. If it’s our health that first gets our attention, we become fitness fanatics. If it’s our work that’s miserable or we don’t have enough money, we become workaholics. If it’s dissatisfaction in our dating lives we bounce around from person to person.
#3 is retreat. Some of us get tired of the struggle and don’t see any clear way out. We retreat. Know a friend who plays world of warcraft / madden all day or who smokes weed all day? Retreat. They’ve given up on changing their circumstances.
It’s an easy temporary fix, a pill for the symptoms. But like all pills they only work for so long unless the underlying conditions are addressed.
Which story are you living?
Some of us truck ahead, attack symptoms, or give up.
For me it was a blend of #1 and #3 — which I think are the most common. Tell me how familiar this story sounds:
So you get your first job out of college. Get your place. Maybe get your new car.
Assuming you don’t go back to school or get married, you probably get into “WTF” mode.
WTF do I do now? For me, I ended up just doing what everyone else did: I started partying more (Since, gee, I had to use the money I earned, right!) , buy tons of shit I didn’t need, and focused on increasing my earning potential.
Friends reached the same point and started doing drugs again.
Other friends again reached the existential crisis point and started playing video game after video game. Life for them went like this: Video game ==> work ==> video game ==> sleep or this: drugs ==> work ==> drugs ==> sleep ==> drugs ==> work etc. They’re both pretty much the same.
The problem is that most of us never get out of the cycle. Most of us exist in this sort of “existing” phase where we are merely coping and reacting to everything happening around us. Rarely do we escape the cycle and find the opportunity to truly thrive.
Planning your prison escape route
“Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who to learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”
Sack up and do something about it. (Balls, metaphorical or otherwise, may be all that matters. Remember?).
Here’s how not to suck like your friends around you. Here’s how not to buy into the lie and illusion society has crafted for us. And here’s how to begin crafting your escape.
#1 Realize that you’re coping with existence (existing) and not actually improving it (thriving)
You have to consciously sit down and realize “you don’t have to do mind-numbingly boring, soul-crushingly shitty work.”
You have to consciously sit down and realize that wasting your leisure time is shooting yourself in the foot. That your leisure time is the time when you can (and should) be digging your escape route.
You have to consciously sit down and realize that after the getting smashed on Friday night, you wake up exactly where you started the day before. That’s fine. Unless of course you don’t want to be where you were the day before.
You have to consciously sit down and ask yourself what the hell you actually want from life, and if what you’re doing now is getting you any closer to what you want. That goes for your job, for your work, for your romantic partners, for your friends, and anything else.
#2 Decide to go balls to the wall digging your escape route
Complacency will screw you. Comfort will screw you. Your friends will screw you.
Sit down and figure out what about your current lifestyle makes you feel so discontent.
Is it monotony and routine?
Maybe you just got back from traveling and are having an impossible time settling down back into “ordinary” life.
Maybe you’re like a lot of 20 somethings bouncing around in jobs because you’re chronically stuck in shitty ones.
Maybe your friend group sucks (or doesn’t exist because you moved after college).
Whatever it is, whatever is making you drink yourself retarded on Friday, or retreat into video games and drugs, or continue to chase the flashy cars and pretty girls but stay depressed the next day, figure out what the hell it is that is getting to you.
Read the manifesto and figure out what you don’t want, what you want, what the “why” is that you live for, and what you’ve really wanted to do with your short time.
Anything is better than not knowing “you’re stuck”
It may seem overly simplistic and too vague. The advice to “think about what you actually want” given to people who are stuck in the rat race (or life) in some way or another.
But the truth is that the vast majority of us live in a dreamworld carefully sculpted by others with no intention of us to ever realize we’re dreaming.
The true is that most of us will pass year after year just as deep into the cycle in which we were born, and never realize it.
And the truth is that only by becoming *aware* that you are stuck can you become unstuck.
Most of us have given up and don’t even realize it
Right? Look around you. How many of your friends are just sitting and occupying their piece of land. Paying 300, 500, 1000, or 10,000 a month to rent a place just so they can exist. And they work jobs they suffer through just to pay for that rent, which is just to exist on a piece of land.
Years literally pass and nothing has changed. They haven’t learned anything new, they haven’t traveled much or added any value to their life, they haven’t changed anything about their circumstances or life experiences.
Maybe they got a promotion or two. And maybe they got their first vacation and finally saw Europe. Whelp, time to wait another couple years to do that.
The hell? Does nobody see how utterly insane and mindless this lifestyle is?
Does nobody realize the insanity of paying just to exist on a plot of earth, or working a job just to pay to exist a plot on the earth just for the sake of existing?
I realize the circumstances change for people who are married or with kids. This is not for you.
For the rest of you (us) — if working your job just so you can have an apartment is so that you can be declared a “financially independent adult” so be it.
For those of you who couldn’t give two shits about having an apartment and working 50 hours a week to pay for it with your 2 week trip to Thailand every 2 years, wake up and start doing what you’ve always wanted to do.
Just in travel expenses alone, ditching a $500 or $1000 a month apartment gives you enough to buy a ticket basically anywhere in the world.
Traveling the world is not as unrealistic as it seems.
If what you’re current living is “not what you signed up for,” grow a pair and starting doing what you’ve wanted to do the whole time.
Most of us cope and try and drink away the symptoms of the “is this all there is?” feeling. But when you think about it, do you really have a choice?
It’s either now, or forever asking yourself “is this all there is? is this really the culmination of my whole life. This?”
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