Your Impending Existential Crisis…

You may still be asking yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Medieval peasants probably didn't have an existential crisis
peasant
Have the urge to quit your 8-5 job? Ever wonder what your purpose is life is?

Ancient people didn’t have these questions. Before the agricultural revolution and the specialization of skills in society, humans didn’t think about such things because they didn't have jobs that were disconnected from their "life purpose." Their objective was live life as it came. Even after the invention of social roles, people still didn’t spend much time worrying about it because if you were born a peasant, you just lived life as a peasant. You couldn’t exactly dream about being a member of the ruling class.

Up until the twentieth century, most people resigned themselves to labels: worker, female, Methodist, German, or whatever. In the twentieth century, a small part of the population began wondering if there was more to life than living out a role, especially one that served a ruling elite.

By the twenty-first century, particularly in the West, roles had started to dissolve (which is causing much angst as firmly held beliefs about society, jobs, religion, and even gender are being challenged). So many choices of careers, places to live, mates, hobbies, and more. How can anyone choose? It’s like walking down the cereal aisle at the grocery store for the first time. Your mother asks, “Which one would you like?” and you become paralyzed by the choices... and you want even the ones you know are bad for you, or way too expensive.

Of course, some people are perfectly comfortable with the chaos because they know exactly what they want. They love roles and labels. This person confidently declares, “I love being a (fill in the blank). I love the stability of the status quo."

Great. That’s awesome.

But what about you? The person who gazes down the "Aisle of Too Many Choices" and stutters, "I want the Frosted Flakes, the Lucky Charms, the Granola, the Mini-Wheats, the Coco Puffs, and the Rice Crispies? Oh, what's the use? I give up. Just give me Corn Flakes. I don't really like Corn Flakes, but I grew up with them and I'm comfortable with them."

The overwhelming choices presented to us mean we have to sacrifice something in order to have something else. If you try something new, it's a risk. Suddenly, you don't know who you are or what you want any longer.

Take Hope. Confusion is Okay.

“When you let go of the belief that you should or need to know who you are, what happens to confusion? Suddenly it is gone. When you fully accept that you don’t know, you actually enter a state of peace and clarity that is closer to who you truly are…” (A New Earth by Eckart Tolle, page 90)

David Borden painting at his easel
David not caring about confusion
I find his idea liberating. Why do I need to define who I am as a role? I’m a father, a husband, an employee, a teacher, an artist, a writer, a beer drinker, a guitar player, a (fill in the blank). Why do you have to juggle these roles? Why should you have any confusion? 

How will the media or society label you? I heard the Austin Bomber referred to as a college drop-out. Really? Is that what defined him? Was that the most important role the media could assign to him? Did that label have any relevance to his horrible actions?

I think many people are confused about their roles for two reasons.


Roles are fictions. That’s right. I said it. We made them up. Before the agricultural revolution we didn’t have cashiers and taxi drivers and statisticians to count up all the cashiers and taxi drivers. Humans were just humans. We spent most of our evolutionary time hanging out doing human stuff, (such as foraging, hunting, cooking, napping, telling stories, fixing stuff, building stuff, and goofing off) instead of playing roles. Perhaps that’s why we have angst. We’re still trying to fit into roles that have only existed for a few thousand years.

What's the answer?

The answer is both simple and hard:
The simple answer is: stop wondering who you are, and just be who you are.
The difficult answer is: stop wondering who you are, and just be who you are.

Looking to become comfortable with confusion? Try a retreat. Learn more at the link below:

You can also find David on:

Twitter @dsborden

If you liked this article, you may also like the first in this series:


#confusion #existentialcrisis #happiness #decisions #tolle #joy #career #jobs #midlife #crisis


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