The Power of Positive Existentialism
By Megan Koester / Source: Vice
I'm going through a bit of an existential crisis right now. I can't say it's my first rodeo, though. As a matter of fact, if I had a dollar for every time I've gone through an existential crisis, well, it wouldn't mean anything. Because money is a worthless societal construct, and we're all adrift on a sea of meaninglessness in which we'll eventually drown. Am I right, ladies?
I currently find myself at a crossroads--I'm not a girl, not yet a 31-year-old woman willing to accept the fact that the only constants I have in my life are crippling student loan debt, an inability to stop texting my ex, and an addiction to documentaries about eating disorders. (What can I say? They make me feel slightly less damaged!) I don't know what to do. I don't know how to do it. I don't know, period.
If you've never gone through an existential crisis, you've never truly lived. Questioning who you are, where you are, and why you're here is, IMWO (In My Worthless Opinion) a necessity for sentience. Some choose to ignore these questions, self-medicating with drugs, sex, complacency, television, or a combination of all four. Braver souls choose to tackle them head on.
Why did God (or, depending on your belief system, an unforgiving and Godless universe) place us on this big blue marble? Was it in His (or Its) divine plan for us to toil away at unfulfilling jobs until we finally expire, having spent our last days putting even more money in the overstuffed coffers of insurance companies?
I've spent untold hours asking myself questions like this--the answers have, by and large, been as crisis inducing as the questions themselves. I am but one person, an individual in that aforementioned sea of meaninglessness. There is nothing I can do, no selfie I can post, no status update I can write, that will make my existence any more consequential than that of your average mindless coed. I will die, as will (spoiler alert) you; in time, no one will remember or celebrate our existences. I used to find that sad, solemn truth terrifying. I no longer do.
There never has been, and there never will be, a cheat code for life. Instead of sweating the small things, the large things, or anything, I've decided to make my finite existence infinitely easier by embracing the tenants of positive existentialism (a concept I came up with, and therefore can't endorse heartily enough), which are as follows:
Your present psychodrama, your temporary financial setbacks, getting cut off in traffic--these inconsequential problems, at the end of the day, are meaningless. The alleged "love of your life" broke up with you? Boo hoo. You don't know how you're going to make rent next month? Join the club. Instead of fixating on your individual problems, view them on a grander, more universal scale. You are not the only person who has suffered through these issues. As such, said issues are as insignificant as your existence. Now doesn't that make you feel better?
You Aren't Special
A lifetime of being told you're special is enough to give anyone a big head. But what if--hear me out--you weren't? What if all the gold stars you received in middle school were as disposable, as worthless, as the shiny paper they were printed on? If we're all "special," none of us are. Think about that next time hubris rears its ugly head.
Existentialism Is Not Nihilism
Nihilism is the realm of the coward, the safe haven of the life experience-deficient petulant teen. Just because your existence will be forgotten when you die doesn't mean you have to be an insufferable piece of shit while you're still alive. You may as well be a decent person while you're still here--after all, you have nothing to lose by doing so. If anything, it'll definitely get you laid more.
Nothing Is the End of the World
Every slight you experience may feel like the end of the world, but clearly isn't. If it were, life as you know it would cease to exist. And yet still, in spite of the shitiness of your studio apartment, the world keeps spinning, with you in it. Funny, that.
Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself
This is, of course, easier said than done. There are few things more comfortable than wallowing in one's own self-pity; it's like an emotional Snuggie® that, at times, seems impossible to escape (even to go to the bathroom). It's important to recognize the futility in wasting your days ruminating over past mistakes and present tribulations, though. Nothing good will come of sitting in your bathtub sobbing. Something good might come of getting out of that bathtub, getting dressed, and moving on with your life, knowing that what you found so upsetting in the first place really didn't matter at all.
Recognize That I, as You, Am Full of Shit
I, while the author of this ragtag guide to a bullshit philosophy I stumbled upon after years of trial and error, am not an authority by any means. I am simply a person typing into the void. The beautiful, horrific void of air strikes and human misery and sunsets and beauty and nothing and everything that envelops us all. You needn't take anything I've said to heart. You, after all, have complete and utter autonomy. In a way, it's all you have.
So long as you're not hurting yourself or anyone else, I don't give a fwak what you do. Neither should you.
Related Article: Why Are You Whining About the Meaninglessness of Life?