December 5, 2012

What Makes Life Meaningful.

My friend M in October asked that question and I wrote her an email about it:
About a year ago, I went through a 6 months long, or more, existential crisis and so I've had lots of time to think about everything surrounding this.

My deal was that I felt like I should be happier than I really was and was basically in a funk and dissatisfied with things in general. I would think that a lot of people would say their kids make life meaningful and as someone who is still leaning towards not having kids, extrapolating from that is the general devotion and focusing your life and energy on a specific thing. It's not enough to have hobbies/activities that are fun, friends/family that you have good relationships with and love, or a job that is fulfilling on one level or another. All those things are important of course, but it's the passion and devotion to one or more of those specific things that I think make life meaningful. And you really have to take a step back instead of coasting through all of those things to evaluate how they impact how you feel about life. All too often people just hang out or slog through activities just because it's the next thing on their schedule instead of being like, I'm here, present in this moment.

Honestly, I haven't made that many changes to my life but kind of gradually, I just don't feel the same angst and being shut in a box that I had previously. Some of the changes that I did make were really insignificant but were perceptions that I had about myself and that other people had about me that I no longer wanted associated so closely. Like, Feiya is someone who doesn't like scary/depressing movies. I have a whole list of movies in that genre to watch now and have successfully watched several of them and surprisingly have watched a lot of suggested depressing movies already. Feiya doesn't like to drink her coffee black and hates whiskey. After several months of only drinking whiskey drinks and only drinking my coffee black, I've changed that. I think those little things helped me realize that I don't have to follow a script and that if I really don't want to do something, like have kids, it's okay, I can make those decisions. There's no actual red tape binding me from doing that.

But I guess that goes into more, what makes life enjoyable than meaningful. And from reading Maus and watching Life is Beautiful, Holocaust survivors are still able to find meaning in life, but I think that it would have to be a combination of small things, like seeing the blue sky, and big things, like I survived another day despite it all. I think one of the pitfalls that discourages someone from finding meaning in life is looking too far into the future, which is completely unknown and changable, and boxing themselves into a fantasy or predicament and no longer being able to see what's in front of them or believe that alternate futures exist.