I’ve never really been one for doing things just because I was told to do them. I don’t mean to suggest that I was rebellious or problematic as I was growing up. I wasn’t – in fact, far from it. I did as I was told, but because I often understood why I was told to do what I did. I understood that, if I was told to tidy up my room, it was because it would make finding things faster, and ultimately, make my life easier. I understood that if I was told to study, it was in order to get good grades, get into a good university, and secure a good future for myself. But as you get older, you start questioning the things you did, and in fact, the things you do every day. A routine is key to success; any psychotherapist could tell you as much. So I have one: I get up every day, go to class, do some revision (or try to), eat at least twice a day, watch an episode of Star Trek now and again, and so on. I have special routine just for weekends too: I go to parties every so often, visit my boyfriend in Edinburgh, catch up with my reading, talk to my family back home…. But as the routine becomes more normalised, you can’t help but wonder (and I know most people have thought about this at some point in their life) – what is it all for? (Yes, a clichéd question, but one that could have, and has had, deep psychological repercussions on many people).
Let’s backtrack. I said earlier that, when I was younger, I understood the importance of studying – to get good grades and get into a good university. Fine, well – mission accomplished. I am now a fourth year student in St Andrews, only one year away from completion of my joint Honours degree in Classical Studies and International Relations. So is that it then? Do I really have only one more year to go before achieving my ultimate goal – securing a good future, a good life? Well, no. First I’d have to find a job, you’d argue. Or maybe go onto postgraduate studies. Then I’d have to find a home, settle down, and perhaps, start a family, though the latter is less relevant to an increasingly modernist, non-patriarchal European society. Fine then, I’d say. A home and a job; what else? Well, you’d say, the job has to be your dream job. We all have dreams. Funny, though, how the only valid dreams relate somehow or other to power, money, and fame.
Dream the big dream, they say. You can be anything you want to be – well, anything, as long as it adheres to society’s confines. And to recap, they are as follows: go to school, get a boyfriend / girlfriend, go to uni, get fab grades, go to parties, get drunk, graduate, get an awesome job, and maybe travel the world before settling down, get married and start a family (latter two are optional, as previously stated). But if what you want is not to go to uni, you are looked down on, and tsked by your parents and friends. If what you want is not to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you are considered odd or ‘asexual’. If you are not too bothered about what kind of job you end up with, as long as you get by, you are said to be not sufficiently ambitious, and ‘giving up too early’. Giving up on what, exactly? Life? Is this life then? Jobs, grades, parties, relationships?
These questions taunt me, and I am sure, others like me, time and again. I try to ignore them, put them out of my mind. Tomorrow will be another day, I tell myself, a better day, a more fulfilling day, and all that jazz. But to no avail. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, it keeps coming back to me. ‘What is the point of it all?’
So what do we do then? How can we go on doing all we do, putting in so much effort, without knowing what it is all for, or where, if anywhere, it will all lead to?
Some will choose to accept the social constraints, and live their lives ‘as ought to be’ – in fact, many have known no other alternative, as since childhood, we are constantly fed that a good life equals a good job and lots of money. Others turn towards religion, and find the meaning their lives were lacking in just about everything, from the most unanswerable questions to even the most mundane aspects of life. And some (a minority, I would hope), unfortunately, delve (deeper) into depression, and figure, that the only thing they can do is to end it all now.
But I’d like to share what usually works for me when I become so paranoid about the pseudo pointlessness of my every day existence: I write.
Somehow, as they roll onto the page, the words give me sense of solace amidst all the incertitude. Then, and only then, can I truly stop thinking; stop worrying about the whats and whys. And then, when I see it all, edit it, and read it back to myself, I feel better. It may all be for something, and it may be for nothing. What’s important is that I have found the will to go on, not knowing, and not caring about not knowing. Just living every day as best I can.
So to everyone who is or has been in my shoes, this is the best advice I can offer: find your artistic outlet, and explore it to the fullest. Let it out, get it all down on the page. Write a poem, paint a portrait, play a song…In fact, do it all! Get those doubts out of your head and onto the page, and create something intangibly beautiful out of it all. Express yourself, I mean, truly, express yourself. A routine may be necessary, but so is making each day unique and different. I may not be able to attribute a meaning to my life as a whole, or determine why I am here or where I am headed. But I can certainly make each day worth it, and make tomorrow something to look forward to; not the same old, monotonous song and dance.
What ,then, is the meaning of life? I don’t know.
And thanks to having written all this down, I can say that with a reassuring smile on my face.
Image Credit – matsuki