I can never really pinpoint where these things start, but every so often I find myself lost amid a sneak attack of an existential crisis.
In general I tend to consider myself to be one that doesn’t subscribe to contemplating my existence or the greater purpose of one’s life. Of course, by “consider myself” what I really mean is that I “pretend to be” that type of person.
When I was younger, especially when I was in university studying things like philosophy and dissecting the works of long-dead literary geniuses and such, I contemplated things like meaning, purpose and destiny all of the time. This was in part due to the fact that it was, by virtue of being a student of the liberal arts, something that I was supposed to do. I was also of that age where obsessing over these sort of things is not only common but virtually a rite of passage.
I think that general uncertainty invites us to ask the “big W” type questions – y’know, the “whys”.
If I’m going to allow myself to be honest here on the Internet, my penchant for pretending to be above those existential sort of questions comes from a place of feeling exhausted by them. It requires a lot of one’s mental and emotional capacity to be forever concerned, afraid, enthralled in contemplating the point of being.
Maybe I wore myself out back in my B.A. days. Maybe I got fed up with writing and rewriting my personal theories. Eventually I guess I just chose to enjoy the ride and appreciate where I am in life.
For years, that way of thinking has served me well. And why wouldn’t it? While my life isn’t perfect, I still like to think that I’ve got a pretty good thing going on these days. But if there’s one thing life has taught me (and there isn’t – there’s actually a lot of things that life has taught me but this one thing just keeps popping up) it’s that nobody, even those who seem most comfortable with their existence, has it all figured out and I am certainly no exception.
All of this is actually an epic prelude to the actual point of this post, which actually has nothing to do with existential crises at all. If nothing else, I tell you all of this for the purpose of setting the stage.
For the past week or so, I’ve finally been allowing myself to give way to those bigger questions and thoughts of futures which I have, up until this point, been quite content to leave relatively unplotted. For the first time in a long time I’ve been forcing myself to think about things like five and ten-year life plans, personal passions and where I really want to end up, all without getting derailed by the matter-of-fact voice in the back of my mind that insists on reminding me that, no matter what I come up with, I’m just going to end up the same as everyone else one day – dead.
That sounds way more morbid than I assure you it is. As depressing as that little voice may seem, it’s really just a realistic way of reminding myself that my time is finite. This consequently raises the question: How am I going to make this, all of this, count?
This, dear reader, is the frame of mind I was in when I first watched this wonderful video by the incredible Ze Frank of YouTube lore:
(An aside: I believe it was one of my former students that introduced me to Ze and every time I watch one of his videos I can’t help but think that introduction may very well have been the greatest gift a student has ever given me.)
I will not lie to you – I get worked up every time I watch that video.
Watching it for the first time not only left me feeling emotionally invigorated, with my mind feeling, for the first time in a while, curious and brave enough to reach beyond its own comfort zones (something I should perhaps be ashamed to admit but instead I’m just going to own it and move on) but it also reminded me of a project I had started not too long ago only to somewhat abandon when inspiration failed me.
Do you remember the Gumption Manifesto project? I do.
When I say that I “somewhat” abandoned it, I mean that I started it. I gave it a legitimate and honest effort. But everything I wrote down just wound up sounding like a regurgitated “inspirational quotes” Pinterest pinboard.
And that’s not what I wanted.
I wanted something raw and honest. I wanted it to be me
Back-track to May when I received an amazing e-mail from my friend, Ivan Juresic. Ivan had stumbled across my post about wanting to write my own manifesto and felt so inspired by the idea that he sat down and wrote his own. He sent it to me and asked me what I thought about it.
I thought it was amazing. It was lyrical and funny and so very him. I loved everything about it and wanted to share it with everyone, just because it was so great. But he wasn’t quite ready to publish it so I promised to wait.
Today he let it loose into the wilds of the Internet so now I’m finally sharing it with you:
It’s not me, per se. I love it and I can identify with it in many ways, but it’s not mine. But it is so perfect in the way that it is so perfectly Ivan, and in that way it is everything that I had been hoping to achieve with mine.
So now, I’m feeling inspired again.
It probably goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that by asking ourselves those big, sometimes scary questions about who we are, why we think we’re here and what we want to make of ourselves, we learn more about ourselves. I had been squashing that form of self-discovery for so long that I don’t know how I ever expected to write that raw, honest and perfectly me manifesto.
But I’m asking those questions now and, as unnerving as it has been, it feels good.
I’m going to give the Gumption Manifesto another shot. Hopefully I’ll have something epic of my own to share with you all soon.