Not another existential crisis, please

My motto is that great quote from Thoreau: “I wanted to live deeply and suck out all the morrow of life.” This is essential for me, and I believe I have to be vigilant about it so I don’t get caught up in a life I never wanted.

One of the most difficult aspects of living a life well-examined is the frequent, humbling existential crises.

For heaven’s sake, I have so many. It seems I can never find my feet because I’m so concerned about whether I’m living the best life I am capable of. This doesn’t feel like the fear of missing out to me, but rather, whether I’m being creative enough. Am I authentic enough? Am I working hard enough? Digging out of my comfort zone enough but without overdoing it? Am I doing enough for others while still taking care of myself?

Worry has been my natural state. It’s exhausting. I’m burning myself out trying to do the best I can, which is taking away from everything.

Every few months, it seems, this hits a point where I feel like I’ll have to overhaul everything in my life to live the way I want. Move, look at a new career path, change my habits. It’s escaped me until recently this is a sort of perfectionism that had escaped me.

And I’ve recently realized these crises, while well-intentioned, were ridiculous. I can’t do this anymore. This is too hard, which has been a pattern with me that I find I can’t get out of. I’ve always tried so hard at everything without realizing I could try easier and find success.

Thing is, I already know what to do. I’ve been a runner for a long time. We find success and reach our goals through the regular and consistent training. While I know changing a habit requires small, daily efforts, I didn’t see this as a path to creating the life I want most. It didn’t seem like enough.

But life consists mainly of small moments.

And you know, I’m 28 years old, and I’m doing pretty fucking well. So far I haven’t fallen into a trap of having a life I hate. I’m going to let these crises and the anxiety go as well as I can and focus on chasing and trusting joy.

Pure joy
Pure joy

A note on happiness: It feels like too much of a burden, while joy is lighter and friendlier. When I think about trying to be happy, I think of happiness as a permanent destination. That’s not realistic. Life is hard. But joy I think of as fleeting, and so I appreciate it that much more.

I’m looking for joy everywhere I can, and I’m letting it guide me. This isn’t new. It’s Jennifer Pastiloff’s beauty hunting, or Cheryl Strayed’s tiny, beautiful things, or Elizabeth Gilbert’s crumbs of joy.

The existential crises emptied me. Moments of joy fill me up. That’s how I know I’m on the right path.

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