Existential Depression

Looking back on my life as far as I can remember there has always been this burning sense of “what does it all matter?”. I saw people around me working jobs they hated and living highly stressful lives, which seemed utterly pointless to me. Why would I put myself through this same experience for a token of exchange? Even as a child I saw this unhappiness eating away at people and they would often lie and try to present their lives as complete. Something within me told me that this was not true at all.

Narturally the burning question of “what is the meaning of life” began to creep in. Everything I read, everythign I looked toward was pointing in the direction that it is all utterly pointless, money didn’t equate to happiness and happiness still didn’t necessarily give life any more meaning than despair. I have since come to learn that within those states of despair were hidden answers to the meaning I so desperately sought. When you are in that state though it doesn’t seem like it has any purpose whatsoever, the endless suffering at the hands of lifes biggest questions perpetuates the deeper you explore. Concealed within though, was my identity, finding my own answers for meaning and with that the idea that yes life is pointless, but that is only for the lack of any real authority on defining that meaning.

A million scholars, teachers, scientists etc could all agree with one another on what the meaning of life truly is, but then another million could argue against that meaning. Which lead me to realise that the only person who has any authority is the individual, the self, because the environment within which that meaning is found differs for each and every one of us. Some will find that the meaning is to be happy by themselves, others may find it to be athletic or intellectual prowess, the point is that there are too many variables for any one person to define it.

I found my own meaning in the wake of my own despair, the funny thing is it sometimes eludes me and I go searching once again for it, I have never written down any clear definition of what life is about for me. This means it is never set in stone and as I grow and my mindset follows suit that the meaning shifts and alters with time. This is something I have referred to before as the ‘Flow State’. That is to merely go with the flow of this life and embrace each moment as it comes, everything we learn about should be to prepare us for dealing with the things that often blindside us. Whether that is heartbreak, the loss of a job, realising we are not where we want to be etc. It is easy to get hung up on any of these things, but there are skills and techniques that we can learn in order to prepare us for dealing with them.

I will give a recent example of how exactly I put some of this into practise. On Wednesday 6th of February I was on my way to a University interview in Brighton, roughly a 90 minute drive from where I currently live. around 45 minutes into the journey my car breaks down on a motorway and I am forced to pull off the road and leave my vehicle for some support from Highway Authorities. The walk was probably a mile back the way I came. My initial response was not to panic or wish that it wasn’thappening to me, but to get excited that it was in fact happening to me. Life had suddenly thrown me a curveball that I had never had to experience before and here I was, trotting back along the side of the motorway, happy about the circumstances. Madness you might say, I think so too, but it was an opportunity that I hadn’t been presented with before and therefore something completely new to learn about. I just shook my head at myself that this was my response to such a situation.

As I am sure you want to know what happened I will continue the telling of what others have told me was ‘a nightmare situation’. Highway patrol were waiting for me as I got to the SOS phone on the motorway and beckoned me to their car whilst they held up 4 lanes of traffic, I was not embarrassed, it was somthing out of my control and so I hopped in their car as they helped me back to mine. I managed to get my car off the road just a little bit down the motorway and into a safer layby where I had no idea what I was going to do, I had no breakdown cover to speak of and I had no idea where I was. This is where I told the highway people what my situation was, that I had an interview the following day and that I needed to get there. So they said to go to a local hotel, park up and then stay there the night and get the train down in the morning. So I ended up at the hotel, speaking to one of the lobby staff who allowed me to use thier car park for free until the following day. I got the train into London and back down to Brighton in time for my intervew the following day, with people along the way being more than helpful.

I have since heard back from the Uni who’ve offered me an unconditional placement, which now gives me a choice of which uni I will be attending. This makes all of the extra effort so much more valuable, the reward was worth all the events of that day (including th 6 hour wait to get my car towed back the following evening).

I suppose what I am trying to say is that life is going to throw some curveballs from time to time and learning to shift your perspective, even if it causes great pain initially is one of the more powerful things you can do in this life. I have certainnly shifted my mindset on a regular basis as I was not happy with the conditions I felt condemned to have forever. I no longer feel like the person who would have broken down in tears at the first hurdle, and there was never any shame in being that person. I find that now I needed to be the person who broke down at the first hurdle in order to become the person who finishes the race. Some of us would rather avoid the hurdles altogether, but you don’t learn anything that way.

Lets hope that the hardships come again so I can face the challenge with the same level of excitement as I did this. I would also love to hear back from you if you have gone through a trial by fire that you were surprised how well you handled it. Leave a comment below with your experience of going with the flow or how trying to find meaning in ths life lead you to your own existential crisis.

Brad RumbleComment