The Existential Crises of Living in Constant Change

by Anne Dorko

The stars shine bright in the night. It’s hot out, the humidity and heat means that my shirt is soaked with sticky sweat.

The search for meaning haunts the active mind. What did today bring? What will come of tomorrow? How did I arrive here from yesterday?

The questions are pointless, as they can never be answered. It doesn’t stop me from wondering what the answers would be, if they could exist. The what if, the opportunities around every corner, the corners missed due to fatigue and misdirection.

I think back to half a year ago. It feels more like a lifetime.

My life was on a precipice. Everything I knew, my habits, my lifestyle, my world, it was all about to change.

I had felt the wind, I knew it was coming. It wasn’t exactly a surprise.

But then, the storm hit. My entire circle of friends began to change. The way I spent my evenings changed. The way I spent free time changed. I was learning how to build my own life on my own. I was taking baby steps into discovering who I am when left to my own devices.

A few months in, I reached for the Total Restart button.

Suddenly I was 1,300 miles away, virtually alone in a completely new city.

Enter: Existential Crisis

Existential Crises

Who am I when nobody knows who I really am? Who am I when nobody I know has a preconceived notion of how I should behave? Who am I when placed entirely out of my comfort zone?

At the beginning, I spent a lot of time writing contemplative blog posts in coffee shops. I spent a lot of time exploring my new city alone. I spent a lot of time wandering, and meeting new people.

Through work and other circumstances, I reached out and began to make friends. But when you have only just met someone, that bond is fragile at best. Who can be trusted? Who is genuine? Who do you click with?

Who can you reach out to when your car breaks down? Who can you call to hang out with when you’re having an existential crisis?

You begin to perfect the way you tell your history. Where do I come from? How do I identify myself? What is important to me? At the beginning you feel unique and original – but after time the stories all begin to blend together and start to fit a pattern.

Your entire life becomes an elevator pitch in an attempt to entertain and attract people you’d like to have in your life.

You don’t realize how much you take the people in your life for granted, until every person in your immediate life has nothing more than mere weeks of interacting with you to gauge whether they want to continue to get know you.

You say yes to every social engagement, if only for the sake of the fact you’ve become acutely aware that all you really have for certain is today. Experiences, people, pursuit – these are the things that make you feel happy.

After all, happiness is the goal. It’s the journey and the destination.

The end result: Who I am.

So, I look back at myself six months ago, and then I look at myself today. I may or may not have changed, but I have become entirely more self aware. I can confidently state who I believe I am.

I am a strong, charismatic person with a penchant for getting to know new people. I am an advocate for self-discovery. I am addicted to the thrill of change. I am a natural leader, and tend to become an emotionally stable refuge for my friends.

My exact goals and aims may be fickle with the changing winds, but my underlying motivation and drive remains the same. The end goal is constant.

My daily habits and desires are as inconsistent as the ever changing weather, but my overall life patterns are relatively predictable.

Most days, I would rather run myself into the ground by making the absolute most of that day than stay in bed wondering about where my life is headed. (Granted, occasionally it’s okay to stay in and veg out to a favorite TV show.)

This is who I am.

I have stayed up altogether too late on countless nights, experienced fatigue, ridden out emotional roller coasters, tortured myself over my inability to see through every project I begin, and questioned my motives in relationships and love until I all but hated myself… all in the pursuit of, well, everything I ever wanted for myself.

The road is not glamorous. The road is rough. The road is filled with fallen stones, ridden by traps, and infested by those who would tell you that none of this is worth it.

The only person who can tell you whether it’s worth it, is you.

Does mediocre work for you? Are you content not knowing what else is out there? Are you comfortable not knowing whether you could start all over, if you really had to? Do you know who you really are when you remove every expectation ever placed on you?

Seriously: Who are you?

If you can answer that without a doubt, that’s good for you. If you don’t know who you would be if your life was stripped of everything and everyone you know, it might be worth figuring that out.

I say it’s worth it.

Change is the only constant. Happiness is the only goal. Embrace these things for what they mean in your life, and go figure out who you are.

First published August 30, 2013

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