Remember that feeling of optimism when you were a kid, of being able to look forward and speculate about all the wonderful things you were going to do with your life? Then the years went by and you started looking back, wondering why you didn’t do all those wonderful things. You vowed to start making every day count, but more years went by and the next time you looked back at your life it seemed that still nothing much had changed.
Once you reach a certain age, every minute that ticks away reminds you that you’re closer to the end of your life than the beginning. Maybe in a moment of epiphany, you do something drastic, believing that you’re taking your life in a whole new direction. Sometimes these changes don’t turn out the way you think they will. Sometimes those changes turn out exactly how you planned, but you realize that it’s not what you really wanted.
When things are going well, we tend to avoid looking at the bigger picture – we’re content in our lives and become complacent. We continue on without giving anything much thought. However, when things aren’t going the way we’d like, we question everything:
What should I be doing?
Why should I be doing it?
What’s the right way to do it?
Why is that the right way?
What will make me happy?
Who am I really?
Why am I here?
Where do I want to be?
Who will read anything that I write?
Who really listens when I speak?
Will my ideas even matter?
What have I done to make a difference?
Who will remember me once I’m gone?
Who cares about me now while I’m here?
Why should I care about anything?
Most of us try to live a full and meaning life, but we’re usually so busy in the day-to-day living that we lose sight of how much of an impact we have in this crazy world. For example, there are times when I intentionally set out to inspire and influence people, but nothing seems to happen. Other times, I hear from people who I’ve inspired, yet I had made no effort to do anything at all but get through the day.
Typically, the only time I’m aware of the impact I make on others and in this world is when it’s negative, or when I imagine that it’s negative: I’m in the way. I’m a burden. I’m costing someone money. I’m an inconvenience. I’m a disappointment. I’m not doing enough. I’m doing too much. I make too much noise. I’m breathing. Maybe it’s normal to notice only the bad things when you feel like people and life is bearing down on you and a better, happier way seems impossible.
It’s time for another epiphany: Change my attitude and be grateful for everything. Think good thoughts and good things will happen. Surround myself with positive people and negativity will disappear. Give without needing to receive anything in return. Be selfless. Be thoughtful. Be kind.
Does all of that really work?
Yes. I can attest that focusing my energy on positive things like gratitude has indeed worked for me in the past. However, lately I find myself becoming more cynical about it. My life has taken so many steps backwards – instead of making “progress,” I’m closer to bankruptcy and homeless now more than ever, no matter how much I focus on creating positive vibrations. Help seems elusive. Happiness seems elusive. Hope seems elusive.
In my effort to live a minimalist lifestyle, purging the non-essential “stuff,” I find myself still clinging to all the things that are packed away in storage because they are somehow a part of me even though I don’t have a place of my own where I can put them. Part of me just wants to give it all away and forget about it and move on. Another part of me says, “No way! I’ve invested almost $9000 in storing it already. I can’t just throw it away! There’s family history in there. Legacies. Photos. Memories. It’d be like throwing myself away.” So I continue to feed the money pit, yet I’m no happier for doing it.
I’ve gone down many roads. Some I enjoyed and would repeat if I could. Naturally, there are other journeys that I wish could be forgotten. I’ve done all the things that I was “supposed” to do: I went to school, got a job, had a family. I’m good at what I do to earn a living, but I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t want to “work.” I’m tired of it. I want to “do” and “live.” I want to experience life, not just muddle through it. I want to travel and learn about the various cultures in this world. I want to hear stories and tell stories and laugh and cry over all of them. I want to love and be loved. I want to do something that I love so that it’s never “work,” and I want someone to be willing to pay me for it. I want to live, but I want my life to count for something.
And so I'm left questioning everything.
It’s inevitable: we all get older and die. Life then becomes about what you do between birth and death. Am I simply existing - taking up space - or am I living and thriving? But what do you do when everything just seems pointless and you can’t change it? What do you do when you feel alone even when you’re surrounded by so many people? Do you opt out of life or continue on?
As you get older, you tend to notice death more often. News of celebrity deaths brings my own mortality to the forefront, especially when those celebrities are people I’ve looked to for entertainment throughout the years. Recent news of Robin Williams’ suicide hit me harder than I wanted to admit. I can’t even imagine getting to a point where I’d want the misery to just end. His death has made me take a closer look at my own life.
While my life may not be so bleak and desperate that I’d want to end it, I do still question the point of it. How do I make a difference? How can I help others? How can I help myself? How can I be happy? How can I be where I want to be? Why should it matter? Life may not get easier and I may never find my true happiness; however, the day I stop asking questions about life will probably be my last day in it.
The questions may never be answered, but maybe finding the answers isn’t what’s really important. Perhaps it’s just enough to ask.