Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why you can call me Sartre, and I can call you Al

For the last ten years, I have at any given moment been pursuing one or more of the following: a degree, a job, an apartment, a date. And not just simply pursuing, but chasing with single-minded determination. When I was on the chase, it didn't seem to wholly matter if I was unhappy with my life, because there was always hope for the next big thing: When I finish this degree, then my real life will start. When I get the apartment of my dreams, I will plant a window herb garden and wear vintage aprons and bake things, because that is the kind of person I want to be. When I get a new job I will at last feel personally and professionally fulfilled. And when I find someone to love me, none of the rest will matter, because secretly and although I will never admit it (whoops), that is the most important thing of all. 

So not only was there always hope for a better future, but each of these things in and of itself is a project with great powers of distraction. Grad school is all-possessing and all-consuming and leaves very little time to focus on much of anything else. Job hunting is a project that will eat up as much time as you allow it, with apartment hunting not far behind it. And dating, both online and off? Lord knows that's a project with powers of distraction. So what happens when suddenly, for the first time in your adult life, the projects and distractions grind to a halt and you're just simply...existing? When there is no next big thing, and nothing to work for or look forward to, when all there is is a long unspooling forever full of right now? And what happens when all of that happens and you still have no herb garden, and you are still professionally unfulfilled, and you are still wearing a groove right smack in the center of your couch because there is still no one to share it with? But, really, your apartment is fine, your job pays you money, and you are, for a multitude of reasons, so done with dating. Technically, everything is fine. Technically, you have no reason to complain. And technically, every perceived issue that you have falls readily under the umbrella of (though you loathe and despise the term) First World Problems. Relatedly, have you ever noticed how people love to tell you how many people are worse off than you? And though it may be true, that's really not ever the issue, is it? And anyway, if we're not supposed to compare our lives to those of people we perceive as better off than us, thus making ourselves miserable in the process, why are we supposed to feel chagrined by our relative comfort in comparison to the less fortunate? Can I ask you just one more rhetorical question? (Kidding.)

In short: I am projectless. I am bored. I have no reason to complain, and yet I do. What are you up to? How do you keep yourself from going crazy with the overwhelming existentialness of it all?   

          

20 comments:

  1. During those times I like to watch full series of shows that I've always wanted to watch but never did. That way you have a project that lasts a really long time, you get so caught up in the characters' lives you forget yours is so unfulfilling, and you are never sad when you have to go home alone because it means you can get farther along in your project. At some point it all ends and you move on to the next show. During all this you are living your "existing" life and something might get good while you are so wholly focused on something else. I'm currently watching Felicity, Season 1, Episode 5. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am also watching Felicity (season 2). :)

      Delete
  2. I have the exact same thoughts most of the time. I keep waiting for my "real" life to start, but I think it already has and I'm passively watching it go by, not ready to think that "this is it". I'll be unemployed again in a month or so, we have an apartment, but it's temporary (when will I be able to settle somewhere and have a house and a yard and more than one dog!!), and I just don't feel settled in France yet (it's ONLY been 7 years lol).

    So I think what you so eloquently described in your post (way better than I could have), are feelings that most people experience at some point and are completely normal. The thoughts of "is this it?"

    You need to find yourself a project (it's how I get through). A pet? A trip?

    Thanks for your comment on my giveaway blog btw :) Can't wait to answer your question!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I firmly believe that you are right now doing exactly what you are supposed to do, only you don't realize it.Search deep inside yourself. I'm not a big fan of Oprah but she calls it following your bliss. Only you can decide what makes you happy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You can always plant an herb garden. Why not start now, in your adequate apartment?

    Also: learn a new skill (piano! embroidery! canning!), read Russian literature, and either drink a lot or plan out your own novel (wait until your second novel to combine those last two).

    Do not read Sartre, or contemplate people who are worse off than you :-) Bonne chance!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, one more: volunteer with children, eg Big Brother/Big Sister. If you still want a family but are taking the long way, it's nice to have some practice. You might love every minute and wish you could take them home, or decide you're fine being Cool Aunt Rachel. The kids benefit either way! Encore, bonne chance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally on the same wavelength with ya. I was a Big Sister in Boston and it was awesome, and so I recently decided it would be good to do it again here. I sent an e-mail to the organization over a week ago and...nothing. Unfortunately that seems to be the norm whenever I've tried to volunteer with different organizations. They don't always seem to be too motivated to get back to you.

      Delete
  6. I second the herb garden and the volunteer work. If one organization doesn't get back to you try another--maybe United Way--they have lots of opportunities in different areas. Good luck!
    p.s. I volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children that need a voice in the court system. Challenging, but fulfilling.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Think Peggy Lee and The Talking Heads sang about this subject. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you'd like some of my projects (aka: shit), just let me know. I'd be happy to unload some (aka: all) of it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rachel, I guess we are on the same wavelength! I know there's a place called Horizons for Homeless Children in Boston; maybe there are similar orgs in DC? I hope BB/BS gets back to you! If not, then they're just BS :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Everything is subjective, re: first world problems. Plan a vacation!

    ReplyDelete
  11. "I am projectless. I am bored. I have no reason to complain, and yet I do."

    I have been goal-centered all my life and yet when a goal was reached, I was still not satisfied....always restless, needing another goal. I am now retired and although there are times when I feel content and satisfied with the slower pace in life, I often find myself lost, purposeless, not knowing what my goal should be at this point in my life....

    ReplyDelete
  12. I felt as though I had a real life. A boyfriend, an apartment, a job, two cats. I was seriously considering starting an herb garden... And then I lost everything. Now I have lots of projects, including job hunting and apartment hunting. But it all seems frighteningly meaningless. So staying active and engaged are important to me. I go hiking, alone. I exercise a lot. I spend time with people I like, who keep me entertained. I watch a lot of television. I go out drinking and dancing. In general I try not to think too much.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey lady. Sometimes it's OK just to exist. Not to watch life pass you by, but to sit and take a break from all the wanting and rushing and searching. Maybe this is just preparation for your Next Big Thing. The yin before your next yang, the calm before the next storm, etc.

    Good luck lovely. As always, I encourage you to consider moving to Austin as your next project. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Ok time to chime in, i mean what the fuck dear? i don't understand any of that other shit but i do know an awfully lot about existing, or existential nihilism or maybe just being happy with a plate of beans and rice and a roof over my head, i think it was Yoda and i think i've told you this before "always the mind on where you're going and not where you are", i've never been one to look forward to anything but been perfectly focused on the three inches in front of my face for the last 25 years or so, i don't know if it's a man/woman thing but i find it funny how so many women need something to look towards or occupy their time instead of just being, like Pooh, you know just is, dig? I ain't trying to be a dick you know but i've been reading you for a long time and you seem like a damn fine human being albeit a bit confused about some things, so fuck it all and just be for once, and not like for a month for like a few years, you only go around once so you might as well quit worrying about shit and enjoy it right? And for the record i think it's kick ass that you're volunteering with kids cuz when i look around i see a lot of kids who need it and you seem like someone who could do a world of good, alright back to my cave.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Can I ask why you are not baking in a cool apron? or planting the herb garden? Why not now? and volunteering will definitely help. But speaking as someone who has A LOT going on right now......this is a feeling I often have and I have projects. I think a lot of us need to learn to JUST BE and enjoy the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Seriously, why DO people act as if ONLY THE MOST MISERABLE PERSON IN THE WORLD is allowed to complain? That makes no sense.

    I find I struggle a bit when I don't have anything to ANTICIPATE.

    ReplyDelete