Lately I’ve been feeling as if I’m missing something in my life. Be it excitement, adventures or something I cannot put my finger on and describe. Certainly these aren’t easy times, as the pandemic fucked with everyone’s plans and goals, but I wanted to talk about something more, in many layers.
As the year ends and many people start their vacations, even if quarantined, life and work slows down a lot. Like each year I have more time to reflect, read and think.
The first layer I want to address is the excitement and passion to work. I don’t believe I ever felt driven to start working early in the morning, the second I woke up. The pure ecstasy of work itself, the giving into flow. I’m not saying my work is meaningless or dull, rather that it is something of a tool to survive. Sure, some parts of this type of work excite me a lot – the getting to know the needs of clients, helping them and seeing them succeed – but others, such as coding and fixing bugs, planning the projects – are too simple to even excite me.
During the pandemic, my life ended up being a daily routine of waking up, working out for a bit, working on client projects and then maybe, if I have something to say – write. Then, of course, winding down, eating and sleeping. With little interaction with other people, the lines between each day started to blur. And that gave a feeling that time is running oddly fast, with few memories in between, with not even tiny sparks of change to remember.
A while ago I tried looking for a book on living a more adventurous life. I didn’t find one on my own exactly, but as if requested, one youtuber I follow mentioned a book that drew my curiosity immediately. The book is aptly named A Million Miles in a Thousand Years : How I Learned to Live a Better Story.
The basic premise of the book is that the author started rewriting his life in accordance to story building rules (even tropes), such as adding conflict, growth, the heroes journey etc. The question given by the author was would my own life, if made into a film, be a good or a shit film. If I remember correctly, the first example given was of a guy looking forward to buy a Volvo as his immediate life goal – surely reading about this happening would move few hearts deeply.
“I was watching a reality show on television about this time, and I wondered what a show might look like if a camera followed me around. I wondered what people would think. That is, setting aside my daydreams and wants and thoughts and revealing my life through an objective camera lens. The thought was humbling. In truth, I was a person who daydreamed and then wrote down his daydreams. Sure, there were other characters, friends and business associates, but I wasn’t living any kind of sacrifice. My entire life had been designed to make myself more comfortable, to insulate myself from the interruption of my daydreams.”
I did not agree with a lot of the book, both in terms of dragging religion into the equation, and the glorification of travelling and similar escapades, but some points did stick with me and at least raised the question of what is indeed the meaning of life (for me).
I now admit that I didn’t like my story and the stories I tried before – and I think its because I forced most of them to happen to me, rather than experience them. I travelled the world, hoping that story would be life changing – it was not. Participating in instagramable activities did little to create stories I would remember either. While my own story didn’t seem to fulfil my deeper internal needs, I would latch onto stories in books, movies or games.
I friend of mine recently said that, in his mind, I was one who’s more interested in the internal questions and experiences, rather than something external – such as swimming with dolphins and seeing some spectacular place. All these external activities remind me of small distractions, rather than actual comprehension of myself.
“I don’t mean to insinuate there are no minor climaxes to human stories. There are. A kid can try to make the football team and in a moment of climax see his name on the coach’s list. A girl can want to get married and feel euphoric when the man of her dreams slides a ring on her finger. But these aren’t the stories I’m talking about. These are substories. When that kid makes the football team, he is going to find out that playing football is hard, and he’s going to find himself in the middle of yet another story. And the girl is going to wake up three months into her marriage and realize she is, in fact, still lonely, and so many of her issues haven’t gone away. And if both of these people aren’t careful, they’re going to get depressed because they thought the climax to their substory was actually a climax to the human story, and it wasn’t. The human story goes on.”
Something in the way the world is setup right now never clicked with me. Things that motivate people highly, especially material things (such as cars, luxury etc.), don’t phase me at all. I believe few people second guess the stories they’re experiencing, whether they will lead them to some greater understanding or frustration.
I tried my best to do the same. To play out the story of being a manly man, a provider, who simply works, rarely questioning something deeper. It is a simpler story to live.
But that story just doesn’t click with me. Maybe I’m just different, and even while being coached I felt the barrier of “This is not me, there is something bigger than me, something I have no words to describe yet.”.
At the time of reading that book, I ran into a quote I would repeat in further discussions, still unknowing its significance to me. The quote is by Victor Frankl, a psychologist and concentration camp survivor, on the meaning of life.
“But Victor Frankl whispered in my ear all the same. He said to me I was a tree in a story about a forest, and that it was arrogant of me to believe any differently. And he told me the story of the forest is better than the story of the tree.”
I did indeed always think that I needed a good story (or passion, or however you describe that (life’s) purpose) and me not having one was a fluke in my psyche – as if something was wrong with me. When I got lost more or unsatisfied with the story I was walking, I would get lost in other stories, like Cyberpunk few weeks back.
Seeing the world through different eyes, getting experiences that were so far off from those that are possible in the current world and even near future. I felt that that story (and it was a great story) might perhaps “complete” me somehow. But it didn’t, I was not seeing something and needed a fresh perspective.
At least up until Christmas, when that layer, the necessity to have a story itself started crumbling down.
P.s. up until I work through the next layer, I leave you with Jim.