At some point you might wake up and realize that everything you’ve ever done to get what you want in your life hasn’t worked. Sure, you’ve made strides here and there; you’ve had small victories and counted some things in your life as “accomplishments.” But at some point, your soul is liable to get loud enough to drown out all the other voices in your head and make you stop and think for a minute that, ‘Hey – this life isn’t turning out the way I wanted it to.” And then you’re stuck with a much bigger problem than how to score a raise at your next annual performance review or what shirt looks good with what pair of shoes or what your neighbours might think about that shitty car you drive. Then you have to confront those damn existential, philosophical questions about being human that everybody hates and nobody makes the time to think about, let alone has any definite answers for. And then you’re really in the shit.
I suppose the first time I thought about any of this stuff was when I was approximately five years old. Walking down a sidewalk in front of some storefronts with my mother, I suddenly felt a bit dizzy, awkward in my steps and a bit removed from corporeality. A thought occurred in my five-year-old brain: ‘Of all the infinite numbers of souls that could have inhabited any of the infinite bodies in this world, why am I this particular soul inhabiting this particular body?’ Granted, I likely didn’t formulate such a proper-sounding sentence in my head at the time, but the question, which occurred as more of a realization, was awakened within me nonetheless. Whether I had some intrinsic knowledge of myself being an embodied soul in this world or I had picked it up from early conversations with my mother, I can’t be certain. What I do know is that since that moment I’ve never really stopped pondering this question, never stopped wondering what my purpose in life is or why I even exist at all.
It’s been the source of a lot of what some have coined “existential angst” for me over the years. It’s led me down dark roads of depression, addiction, anxiety, and even brief periods of psychosis. At other times, it’s given me a sense of purpose, made me determined, inspired me, and possibly been responsible for some of the best actions I’ve taken in my life. And still I can’t fully define this thing, this it, this gnawing force within me that seldom allows me to sit still and in silence, that won’t let me settle for the mundane or what I conceive to be a mediocre life. It calls me, it pulls me, and sometimes, when I haven’t been paying attention to it, it screams to me and can even knock me on my ass.
Is it my soul calling towards some preordained, God-given purpose in this world? Is it my ego telling me I’m not good enough, I’m not doing enough, that I need to do and be and achieve more in my life just so I can be OK? Is it fear and insecurity dogging my every step just to make sure I feel shitty enough to not have a normal life but not shitty enough to end it all? Unfortunately, there are no finite tests to determine exactly what is going on in the human psyche. There are no brain scans to date which can disambiguate the myriad of possible reasons and sources for various feelings, thoughts, beliefs and experiences.
So I’m left here with whatever tools are at my disposal. I have a voice to speak with, to ask questions, to share my experiences. I have ears to listen with and hear if others might be able to shed some light onto my confusion and help clear the cobwebs that cloud my judgment. I’m still not a great listener and I’m even worse at sharing what’s going on with me through conversation, mostly because I don’t know myself what’s going on half the time. Still, I have these hands to write with, these fingers to tap on keys and make characters, words, and sentences appear on a screen in front of my eyes. Sad as it may seem to some, the written word has always been my closest ally in times of darkness; writing has been by best friend in times of complete spiritual bankruptcy and isolation. And I haven’t seriously written anything in far too long.