Life is weird. When we are young, we are convinced life will provide us even more freedom and joy as we get older. Our parents remind us to not get ahead of ourselves and enjoy time to play, but we carry on anxiously wanting to grow up and be our own person. What we realize later, is that our parents were right. Life was easier when we were making forts or climbing in the playground. The excitement of adult freedom is actually full of limitations, boredom, and responsibilities.
A couple years ago, I found myself struggling with the reality of life. I had just moved to a city away from home with high hopes that it would provide me a new canvas of experience. I yearned to find a career with purpose, a passionate partner, and a circle of friends that inspired me.
My everyday experience turned out to be full of anxiety, stress and heartbreak. I dreaded going to work, I was consumed in a toxic relationship, and I struggled to create a positive social circle.
It got so bad in the midst of my existential crisis I made a Google search; “What is the meaning of life?” Among a lot of other strange web results, I ended up finding the article The Most Important Question of Your Life by Mark Manson.
This article was a pivotal moment in my process of personal development because it helped me realize something I never thought about: what I would sacrifice in order to get to where I wanted to be.
We learn as we grow that life is not perfect all the time. It is full of setbacks, disappointments, and failure. Besides the lows, it is also filled with many plateaus. Times of mundane tasks, routine, and nothingness. However, it is important we remember the ebbs and flows make life what it is. It creates the texture of the everyday; a canvas of boredom and strangeness.
Surrealist art can teach us a lesson in this aspect of existentialist philosophy. It challenges the traditional landscape of everyday life by providing an artistic channel to transcend expectations. The co-existence of boredom and strangeness is fundamental in the nature of the everyday. Our experiences allow us to continually absorb new information and emotion because of the contrast. In this way the constructs of life are actually complimentary, otherwise our feelings become flat; the texture of the everyday is lost.
Albert Camus, a French philosopher, journalist and author questioned the meaning of life in his philosophical teachings. He believed life was intertwined with the absurd, and the more people tried to discover meaning, the closer we would move to a crisis of self. This crisis was caused by an inability to identify meaning even if it did exist.
These were hard words for me to swallow. As a highly conceptual person, ideas and questions are what fuel my brain. It feels like my existence would mean nothing; my hopes would not matter; my dreams would be transparent.
Maybe that is the point?
When we are constantly running towards answers, whether it is for happiness, wealth, or love, we neglect the delicacy of the simple essence the everyday provides.
It stems from what it means to be human (good or bad) including what author Sarah Bakewell describes as: “tiredness, apprehensiveness, excitement, a walk up a hill, the passion for a desired lover, the revulsion from an unwanted one, Parisian gardens, the cold autumn sea... the feeling of sitting on overstuffed upholstery, the way a woman’s breasts pool as she lies on her back, the thrill of a boxing match, a film, a jazz song, a glimpse of two strangers meeting under a street lamp.”
Everyday, we wake up and are welcomed to a new moment of culture in the everyday. A chance to breathe, play, cry and laugh. We are not given a blueprint but instead an endless mystery that we get to create ourselves. In that way we are still children, learning as we immerse ourselves into all the sensations, dull or bright that life provides.
I am happy to say I have not googled the meaning of my life in awhile. I have found contentment in gratitude for all the unknowns. When I lifted the pressure off of trying to figure life out and instead just focused on what made me a bit happier each day, my life fell into place in all the ways I wanted. I feel an ease in my everyday experience, even when I still often wake up feeling melancholy or exhaustion. I remind myself it is all fleeting and another sensation will shortly arise.
So yes, life is weird. The questions can be endless, and the answers rarely prove anything. But perhaps once we let go of our expectations and embrace the wonder, we can see our lives less for the big picture and more for the brush strokes that create each splash of colour.