To find yourself, you first have to lose yourself: some thoughts behind an existential crisis

This post has been hanging out in my drafts folder for quite a few months now. Finally publishing it and happy to say that I’ve come a long way past this crisis. Enjoy!

I recently discovered I want to talk about topics other than simply geographical travel but also travel of the mind and spirit. In this post, I want to discuss a topic that I’ve been restlessly obsessing over for the past few months and sure, it may seem cliché but I’m convinced it is so for a reason: having an existential crisis and why I am happy that I’m having it.

OK.

I have come to the conclusion that I’m a bit lost.

OK.

I’ve heard it plenty of times from family and friends. Fine, mostly family. This is a combination of things. I have always had a tricky time making decisions – as you can tell from the name of the blog, FOMO constantly trickles into my daily life (it’s not just a travel thing). The tricky part is that ever since childhood I’ve been blessed/cursed with an insatiable curiosity for well, most things. Which doesn’t narrow anything down, right? I remember back in high school when we had to select our courses for the first time as new subjects were introduced. I wanted to keep studying all the natural sciences as I found them equally fascinating.

“You can’t do them all, stick with two”.

I did them all.

The next year, though, I was forced to slim down my schedule (reluctantly of course) because frankly, the program didn’t allow me to take exams in all those subjects. This is something I still struggle with. I’ve come to realize that I see my life taking on so many possible routes. Routes that would make me content and even happy. But that’s not the goal. No, I want more than that. I want my career to fulfill me and to align with a sense of purpose.

Time is the biggest investment we make in our lives

Think about it. The majority of the energy and focus you spend is directed by your career. How can you be fulfilled then, if you keep letting a paycheck steer your way?

There is a problem (albeit a quite beautiful one) that has arguably only seriously hit millenials as of now. In a time of interconnectedness like never before we are bombarded with possibilities left and right: living in different countries, making swift career moves or maybe exploring the in-between – the growing fad of a “digital nomad life” (the list goes on). It gets overwhelming. But what is happening at the same time, I think, that with this oversaturated menu of options, we’re getting more picky. We want our cake and we want to eat it too (wohoo, another food pun!). In other words, a good pay check is not enough. We want the whole package. We want to feel like we’re “making a difference”. And no, this doesn’t have to be all Greenpeac-y “saving the world” type of thing, it just means we want our work to have a meaningful impact. To resonate and drive positive change, not just to sell.

This is where I am at right now. I’ve bounced around several different jobs within the marketing/ advertising space and genuinely loved the actual work I’ve done. But it got to a point where I realized I didn’t care enough about the actual product I was dedicating my 40+ hours a week to sell. No. Let’s rephrase that. Scratch the “enough”. I didn’t care because the product didn’t align with my values. At times, it even went against them.

And sure, many of these thoughts have been spurred by me socializing around people who ARE aligned with their life’s purpose. Nothing gives me more inspiration and anxiety than that. It gives me hope that I can find it for myself, but it also frustrates me that I haven’t done so yet.

The shoulds and the wants

We’re all prisoners of our social schemas, and of our families’ ones, too. Of course, they’re there to protect us, guide us and support us but what happens when we realize that our values differ from theirs? How productive is it really to listen to other people at that point?

Here’s another piece that’s been challenging for me. I value other people’s opinions too much. Not in terms of everyday things like what I wear and what music I listen to but in terms of my life goals. I listen too much to my family and the people around me, which is not always productive. I’m starting to shut it out a bit, and it’s not easy. Hearing things like “how can you not care about what I think” or “you’re being selfish” really stings. But in the end, the selfish thing would be to listen to them 100%.

Why? Because if you keep listening to other people you’re basing your life decision on someone else’s perception of what well-being and a meaningful life for you looks like. This “someone” has inevitably had different experiences from you which likely leads them to embrace different values. Why then, would you listen more to this person than to your self? Oh, and the selfish part! Well, if everyone did this (which I’m sure an overwhelming number of people already are) that means that less and less people strive to actively find their life purpose and reach their full potential. In a way, this ultimately deprives the world at large of all of this potential since you simply want to feel at ease by pleasing others. Now, THAT’S selfish.

If you’re just chasing a pay check, you’re killing your dreams before they’re even born

I’m happy I’m having this crisis. It means that even though I’m happy and content with my everyday life I want so much more. I want to do more good, contribute to the public discourse, help people and the environment. The big question is how. But at least, I’m not suppressing this disconnect between the path that I’m on and the path that would be a better suit for me. I know they’re not in sync, and I’d rather have the crisis I’m having now in my 20s rather than in my 30s or even worse: never. The importance of taking a step back from your life, doing some introspection cannot be emphasized enough. The tricky part now is figuring out my main goal. And sure, I have an idea. A vague one at that. But at least it’s an idea. It’s a North Star at this point, not a blueprint.

To close off, I’d like to share this thought-provoking video by Erin Janus. Check it out- she makes some interesting points here.

Thanks for reading – and feel free to share your thoughts!

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