Existentialism is overrated

We’ve all come to a point in our lives where we have to confront the question, “What is the meaning of life?”, or maybe something simpler, “Why am I alive?”, or “Why should I keep living?”

When you’ve witnessed great suffering, or experience the numbness of pleasure, there seems to be nothing further ahead. Does it get any better, does it get any worse? And at that moment, you probably begin thinking about what you’ve been spending so much time on in the past weeks or years.

Sometimes, we get stuck with the question, and it isn’t easy to answer. For some existentialist philosophers, perhaps the meaning of existence goes only so far as your needs exist. But what if you wanted or needed nothing? What if, at some point of great suffering or great pleasure, death finally lost its sting, and the unknown presented itself as a better reality than what you currently have?

Are you willing to philosophize, to the extent that you’re willing to risk your life?

It sounded cool back in college to think about these things, to spout out names and words about existence and how reality is manufactured and how we’re all part of some system. But when I actually went through the reality of death, the possibility of it, while lying on a hospital bed for the first time because of some stupid sickness, I suddenly felt very small and insignificant. I wondered how fortunate I was to receive medical care, and if other people in the world even had other people tending to them when they really needed help. At this point, pursuing the why of existence came to a halt because mine could possibly come to a halt and that would simply be that– an obituary.

I obviously survived that sickness, making a promise to redeem my pointless angsty life by making a difference in wherever I was placed. It was from that sickness that I also learned that life is not about dwelling on the meaning of it, but making relationships that create greater meaning out of it.

Years later, because I had lost track of my vision and instead made pleasing people my goal, I had found myself at the same dark pit. Only this time, I had myself to contend with. The reality was that I had friends and family, but this was a reality that my distorted mind had presented differently: I did not matter, I never did. Somehow, I believed this, thinking that I only had myself, and that I can only take care of my choices and my life.

It was at this point that I wondered, if atheistic existentialist philosophy was really what I believed in… I really wouldn’t have anything to live for. If it made me happy to just die, then why prolong life? If it made me happy to be alone, then why bother trying to be with others? It was an endless cycle of trying to find some meaning where there was none to be found. A pit of self-pity that I needed to get out of, because I had lost my purpose. I had been betrayed by someone I had trusted, and realized that I did truly know who they were all along. And for some strange reason, the world just did not matter anymore, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had accepted God years ago and it did not make sense for me to take my own life when He said it wasn’t time. I was begging Him to– why else should I be around?

But He stayed silent, and showed me, at my pace, why I needed to live. I wanted revenge, I wanted to hurt, I wanted to throw away everything. But He reminded me each day, through unexpected interactions, through messages from loved ones, about what I was missing out on. He reminded me that, on my own, He had already given me worth.

(If you’re reading this and can relate. Know that you are enough.)

I did not save myself that day, because left to myself I don’t think I’d be here. Thankfully, it wasn’t up to me. Since that day, life has been better– day by day, little by little. Pieces started falling into place, realities were unraveled to me, and I realized that I had almost wasted my life for such a useless thing.

Of course, to say that life is so much better does not mean that it is devoid of difficulties or of rainy days and broke days. But it has been better because I have come to accept all these realities as part and parcel of the journey to becoming an authentic human being. All the darkness and the light, and how I can decide on which one takes over me. I have come to acknowledge my darkness, and if I acknowledge my limitations and ask for help, I can keep it in check.

 

So there you are, a little survivor story. You’ll know it’s a survivor story because it doesn’t use the suffering as a focal point.

Your suffering is not the best part of your story, it’s your determination to improve and recover. And you can’t do that without acknowledging that pain or need for improvement.

 

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Becoming by Owning

 

 

 

Dear online shopper,
take these things I once owned for a discounted price
along with my hope, free of charge,
that they will do for you what they could not do for me.

“Reason for selling”
by Raydon L Reyes

 

The past year has been an inventory of the past decade. You know how some TV shows have that odd episode that recaps the past episodes you just watched– and after thirty minutes you wonder why one whole episode was made just to tell you what you already know?

It feels like that.

Now that I’ve entered my third decade, I can’t help but recall all my hesitation and idealization about where I should be and who I wanted to become. At thirty, I feel much younger, and it’s become easier to decide what to prioritize. Maybe it’s because I spent my twenties trying to fulfill obligations and being someone else for others, that I forgot my own priorities. It’s also been a realization of how I got by with a lot of help from friends and a supportive family.

One of the biggest realizations I had in the past few months is that I can create a safe space for myself, and that other people cannot insist to be in my space. I can choose who enters my space, and I mean this not just in terms of daily encounters but also what kind of relationships I exert my time and effort for. It’s a little strange to arrive at this only now, but as a yuppie trying to make it, I almost believed that I had to entertain everyone and make them feel welcome– regardless of rudeness.

In any case, with the second quarter of 2017 rolling in, I still have a lot of things that I need to let go of, mostly things that were an idea of who I wanted to be. Just this week, I’ve been reviewing the books that I haven’t read and no longer plan to… A toy typewriter I bought by mistake… Some clothes I never wore… Notebooks I never used… Pens that just went dry…

It’s amazing how many of these things felt like they fulfilled their purpose just by being possessed. I forgot to actually use them to become what I imagined to be. The process of becoming takes a whole lot more time and dedication that social media posts and photos justify. And sadly, for at least a year, I honestly believed that social media was the empowering tool for the youth to be heard  (it’s just a tool, and people are highly forgetful).

While there are days when I wonder why I even spent so much time for a cause that I wasn’t sure of, the good thing that I can see out of this is that it’s taught me to search for authenticity. At the end of the day, the commodification of authenticity might be the point of social media and online business– the pursuit of becoming by owning.

 

 

Why Write

I might have gotten off the wrong foot on why I should have a blog. This was something I had easily maintained back in high school and college life, but immediately stopped when I had began working. Mostly, I stopped blogging because I didn’t want people to easily read my thoughts, and maintain a professional relationship with them. On the other hand, I still wanted people to know what I thought.

In the end, I just had a quick attempt and a few (half-assed) blogs somewhere along my working years. Reading through them tends to leave me feeling hollow, though. As if I was not encountering myself, but a bot. Being someone who has a lot of opinions on various things– both the mundane and the abstract– writing about safe topics slowly killed my spirit.

This reminds me of a question I had asked a writer friend about being a writer. I told him that I wanted to be a writer, and that I know this deep down even if I still have a lot of work to do. It was because writing sets me free, helps me sort things out, and is the best way I can express myself; I am happiest when I am able to write well. The problem is that I already foresee how some of my thoughts might not resound with people. To that, he simply smiled and said, “such is the fate of a writer.”

That being said, perhaps part of being an authentic writer and a memorable one (at least in my opinion), is the capacity to take all the goodness and sh*tiness of humanity, be authentic about it, and turn it into something worthwhile. It’s not just about expression, but about creating something. Hopefully, something that can serve others in a way that helps them grow.

Talking to friends who manage blogs for a living has helped me appreciate their talent and time management. It has also helped me realize my limitations as a writer: brevity is the soul of wit. And in blogging, wit might be the only thing that keeps people coming back for more.

This is a step towards becoming the writer I want to be, and to reclaim my authentic voice as a writer. I need to stop filtering all the time (that comes later, with editing and much thought).

I begin with blogging again, a venue for expression in my younger years. Perhaps, later on, I can take on greater strides and actually put myself out there, regardless of what expectations others had of me as a person and as a writer.

This is about authenticity.