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This earthling is lost

A high school student feels that life is meaningless.

Our elder shares what he’s learned: Life is what you make it, not what other people say it should be.

 

Dear EWC

Hey there, I have recently been so lost in life. The expectation from others (the world and more importantly, my family and friends around me, have been dragging me to unseeable depth. I’m in high school right now and life seems to be utterly meaningless. If getting into a supposedly good institution means that I’ll have to give up part of my personality and ingenuity that I love so much, what is the point? Why in the world do I have to give myself up just to satisfy and make myself fit in the strict mold of what success looks like in this superficial and mundane world? Even if I do get into a good college, what then? I will have to be subject to even stricter standards as an adult and will most likely live a meaningless life that disappoints my own expectations. Why is being an earthling so hard? How do I mentally escape…

 

CraigJ replies

Good question. I don’t know that I can provide an ‘ultimate’ answer, but maybe something in here can help. 

Some of us find ourselves in a strange world, where we have a lot of information, opinions and directions thrown our way and we’re asked to take it all very seriously and do what we must, even if we don’t buy into the whole thing. School, history, religion, family life, social media, our peers and especially our parents all point us in some direction and we are really just supposed to agree and regurgitate it all back, blindly accepting what is said. 

The problem, as you have learned, is that there often isn’t any context to it all, so we don’t even know how to apply what we’re learning. And, commonly, we don’t have any say in the matter; questions are not asked, nor answered, and our thoughts and opinions are not relevant; this is just the way it is. So, people like you, who wonder, are left without direction, just expected to perform correctly and do what you’re told. 

So, where does this leave you?

To begin with, I think you’re ahead of the game. What you’re asking is very insightful and I believe correct in the scheme of things; more people should question what the point is and why we are asked to do the things we do. I don’t believe blind belief is a particular asset, even though it does seem to make things easier for the people who just go along with what is thrown their way. The only way to really learn is to continually wonder. 

Unfortunately, as you have found, the problem with this questioning is finding an answer, especially for the deeper questions. Just so you know, this is a lifelong pursuit, often resulting in the discovery of nuggets of truth along the way. I’m not sure there is any real answer out there, but the joy is in looking for ideas and thoughts you actually agree with, that ring true, that matter. 

Understanding this, how then are we to move through our lives, doing what we either choose to do, or have to do, in order to live in a world we don’t really understand? 

The answer is that there really isn’t any choice; you have to do certain things to get by, and the better you do these things, the easier your life will be, and the more time you will have to search for whatever answers you seek. In other words, even without total buy-in, you have to do your job; you have to be employable; you have to learn job skills; you have to learn how your society works; you have to be able to pay the bills. 

If you can find an area of work that utilizes your personality and ingenuity, all the better. Even though most of us may not always care about the ultimate goal of making money for a business whose owner we don’t know, or shareholders we don’t care about, it can still be okay. Plus, you meet a lot of good people. But this is not a necessity; even if you don’t find ‘self-actualization’ in your job, you still have to perform a task that society will pay you for. Just be happy if you are lucky enough not to have to perform many, many millions of the jobs out there that can truly be debilitating. 

I know this isn’t an answer you want to hear right now, but it is a truth. 

Now, the good news. In living through all this – in other words, living your life – you can continue to create and build your own internal reservoir of free thought that leads to wherever you want it to go. You note that you are ‘lost’ and that is as it should be for someone your age, who is inquisitive and who has depth of thought. How could you have a clear picture of the structure of life when you haven’t gone through a lot of it? 

The secret here, for you I think, is just not letting it get to you. As you note, there is a ton of superficiality and idiocy and mundane-ness out there. There are many things that don’t matter much, that people tell us are really important. However, there also is a lot to be found, that is true to you. 

I have wondered about existence my entire life, but have found more truth in just living than I could find in philosophy, or religion, or social media, or shopping on Amazon. I have found wonder in the natural world, far more so than on television, or constantly looking at my phone. I never cared much about how much the company I worked for paid out to shareholders, but I enjoyed doing good work and found lifelong friends and relations that continued after the work was done. I never really could accept all that religion offered, but I can still find deep insight in the teachings of the main protagonists. And I used to just accept the closeness of a family, but found great, surprising joy in helping build such a group.

The point here is that there is a difference here between who you are and how you form your internal self, and what you have to do in your life. If your ‘core’ is solid and joyful, and content, and filled with wonder, then your life follows suit, and then you can find meaning in just about anything, or everything. If not, then as you note, being an earthling can be tough.

I suppose the message here is that your life is what you make it, not what others say it is. This can be a big, tough job, but so it goes. Plus, I can tell you from experience that ‘finding yourself’ is just that – you doing this alone. Who you are and how you think, especially outside the expectations or ideas of others, is really a somewhat lonely task; don’t expect much company. 

As an aside here, I was much like you in high school, wondering what all of this was about and what mattered. When I got to college, however, I found I was interested in far more than I realized. Maybe I changed, or things just started to make more sense, however I went from just plodding along to actually being engaged. Maybe it will be so with you. 

I don’t think you’re lost at all, but just asking good hard questions, as it should be. It can just be frustrating working through it all. Just don’t lose hope, or let frustration bring you down. You’re right that there is a lot of nonsense out there, but as one saying goes, “life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”  Follow your mind and don’t let the chaos and discord get you down. Plus, try to keep a sense of humor about it all. 

I hope this helps in some way and wish you all the best. Let us know if we can help in any other way. Be well. 

Article #: 490955

Category: Other

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