This week, my senior class is reading “No Exit” and learning about existentialism. We watch this trippy movie called “Waking Life” which is basically about a protagonist who is on an existential journey and asks the question, “Are we sleep-walking through our waking state or wake-walking through our dreams?” It is basically this philosophical movie where the protagonist interviews a bunch of people about destiny and fate, the nature of dreams and consciousness, evolution and choices, etc.. and each of these people lead him to different conclusions. It is faux-animated–the director shot the frames and then drew over them–and it super dense.
So, anyways, last week, I was standing in front of my class, rambling on about existentialism and it dawned on me that I have been experiencing my very own existential crisis.
An existential crisis begins with some kind of traumatic event, which sends an individual questioning his/her own existence and the meaning of life. This traumatic event could be reaching a certain age, a life-threatening event, the death of a loved one, a change in relationship status. Hamlet experiences this when his father dies and he spends the rest of the play contemplating his own values and existence. More commonly known as a ‘mid-life’ crisis, one of my mentor’s occurred when she was 43 and the result was a biker tattoo of a cross and a rose, one thorn for each of her children.
My boyfriend of almost six years dumping me one night on the phone triggered my own existential crisis. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when you consider it, some marriages don’t even last six years. I normally do not like to attribute significant life changes to ‘boys’, because I like to be independent and I like to think there is much more to life and don’t like them to have that much power, but in this case, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me; it rocked every single perception I had about myself, about my future, and my reality of the world.
Within the wreckage of what I thought was my life, I found beauty.
I would say it probably took me about a week to realize how miserable I would have been had I married this boy. I remember distinctly sitting on the bike at LifeTime Fitness with my sister and having this wave of feeling rush over me that he was NOT the one for me. I had always told myself, “I will wait for him to graduate and get a job before I decide how I want my future to look”. I was always waiting on him to make decisions for me, because I was too scared of making them for myself. So, I went to my grandma’s the next day, had a long cry session, and decided to devote all that breakup energy to re-defining myself. Since then, I have embarked upon a huge journey of self-exploration. I would not say my existential journey centered around losing this particular person, but that was the trigger; I needed to go on this journey anyways. At the beginning, it was very tumultuous. I could literally feel the turbulence of my soul, sloshing inside of me, anxious, uneasy, and unsure.
The first thing that I did was book a plane ticket to visit my best college friend in Detriot. This lead to more spurts of trips. I explored Portland, Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago, Los Angelos. I went to concerts: Joe Diffie, Dave Matthews, and Imagine Dragons. I started avidly writing on this blog and I tried new activities: skiing, BMXing, cooking. I moved houses and started grad school. I met some really excellent people–and some really not excellent people. I got closer to my family, my co-workers, and my friends. I strengthened my relationship with God. I made new goals and started looking at the world through a different lens. And, within these things, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself.
I started solidifying my own personal beliefs. I embraced my inner nerdiness. I realized I am a bomb-ass girlfriend. I dove into my yoga practice and re-connected with some long lost friends. I made some good decisions, and some bad ones. I felt complete adoration from one guy, and violation from another. I dedicated myself to the motto “less work, more play”. I laughed, cried, felt lonely, and created a soundtrack to my life, because music speaks and often says what the soul cannot.
When I look at who I was prior to that phone call and where I am now, I could not be a more different person. I spent about nine months in crisis purgatory and absolutely loved every minute of it. I look back fondly on all of the experiences I had, people I met, the lessons I learned, and I believe my existential crisis is starting to round down. Although I still have much to learn about myself and the world, I feel like this uneasiness is starting to greatly subside and I am emerging a better, more true version of myself. I no longer need to actively seek guidance from other people, because I am confident in myself, and I can now share my wisdom with other people.
For anyone who is on their own existential journey, I encourage you to embrace it. It is beautiful. I think about all the moments that helped me figure out something new about myself and am so fortunate for the turbulence. From pain, we find growth. From guilt, we create morals. From dysfunction, we learn how to cope. For anyone who has never been on an existential journey, I am so excited for you. I think it is important to trudge through turbulent times, because otherwise, we stay stationary and our lives become monotonous.
So, thank you to everyone who has contributed to my existential journey. If there was one thing I could say to the boy I dated for six years, it would be thank you for triggering my existential crisis. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.