During the winter break I had a nervous breakdown from the lack of meaning I started to feel in my life. With the dreaded approaching graduation, I started the painful decision-making process of post-graduate endeavors, and as I pondered on the subject of how I was going to spend the rest of my life, I began a vicious, perpetuating downward spiral of depression trying to instill some indiscernible purpose within everything I had worked for these past four years. My grades, my experiences, my professors, my thesis — I dwelled on how all of it measured up to the lump sum of existence during my college career, and the anxiety that at some point in time that I am going to have to write a conclusion to this chapter to my life and introduce the first sentences of the next chapter that is the terrifying, proverbial “real world.”
I screamed to the sky with endless derision, “you’ve given me insight, education and instilled within me an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Why the hell have you decided to take it away from me now? Has everything I worked for in this chapter of my life only going to fade away with the monotonous, droning life that consists of a 40-hour work week, all for the sake of a fatter paycheck?”
And that is when I decided to say “screw that.”
However, it is not my refusal to be consumed by the mainstream 9 to 5 that separates me from the silent majority seeking to secure six figures in their salary. It is the will to continue to progress as a human being in my post-graduate life, despite the world’s efforts to mold me into a suit-wearing yuppie that only thinks about senseless commodities.
Allow me to elaborate.
When I traveled to India exactly one year ago, I visited a dharga. For those of you who don’t know, it is the equivalent to a third-world hospital where followers of the Islam religion go to either achieve a mystical form of enlightenment, or go to be blessed or healed by some miraculous divine intervention concerning an extremely detrimental physical ailment, be it terminal or otherwise. As I walked through the entrance, I saw a woman, horribly disfigured with skin that seemed much too tight around her emaciated skeletal frame, with an overwhelming multitude of blemishes and burns covering her body, chanting what I believed were Islamic catechisms. I gazed at her with a combination of heart-wrenching sympathy and grotesque fascination.
She had been a victim of an acid attack.
At first, I had no idea as to what had caused her physical deformities, but I was not afraid of her. I wanted to reach out to her. There was no revulsion, no disgust, only that I wanted to know her story. I cannot say that at that moment I experienced my revelation to instill purpose in my life by trying to positively impact the world, but it definitely became a prominent milestone that led to the ultimate conclusion.
After witnessing that, I realized I could never live a life such as the one that includes a large house, flat-screen TVs, three cars in a too large garage and constructing my own desensitized microcosm in suburban America. Granted, I do not scrutinize those that wish to live out that life, and I hope that whosoever chooses that lifestyle is eternally contented in what they do, but it is simply impossible for me to ever experience that life without experiencing what the rest of the globe has to offer me, and what I can return to it in the same fashion.
I realized that it was through this that I had found the meaning in my life as I face the closing acts of my college career, and I also faced the fact that I will never be truly contented with the world if I never make my impact on it.
So in order to truly instill purpose in our lives, we must first shape ourselves through experience and self-examination. If we are to conform to living out our lives in deliberate auto-pilot, then we are starving ourselves of the self-awareness that allows us to feel, to breathe. I plead to you as a fellow human being to take time to look into yourself and ask the big questions: “Who are you, and what do you want out of this life?”
The answers will not come easily, but if it were that simple, then discontent would be a mere remnant of the self, rather than the immortal dilemma of humanity.