Finding a reason to exist
apparently I am not the only person looking for one
Somehow in the formation of my birth, I must have missed a step. My brain was not programmed to survive on auto-pilot like the rest of human race.
As soon as I was capable of reasonable thought and questioning, I was wondering why I had to exist.
I was 5, looking out of a 10th floor window, wondering how it felt like to jump. That was my first memory of a suicide ideation.
There were no apparent triggers, no obvious unfortunate events which led me to think that way. My survival instinct was simply missing right from the start. Most people don’t question why they live — they would survive at all odds, they would go on with their lives because they are afraid of death.
I was born, unafraid of death.
Death felt like liberation to me. At age 5. Waking up everyday was tedious, going through the motions of what we call life, felt robotic. I started a virtual time-machine in my head, propelling myself ahead a few decades and tried to envision my life:
School -> some 9-5 job -> marriage & kids -> work really hard for retirement -> retirement or working at MacDonalds because of inflation-> old age & sickness -> death.
I don’t know about you, but that wasn’t appealing to me at all. It wasn’t enough incentive for me to contemplate repeating that robotic routine of living for the next 7-8 decades of my life.
Skipping to the end was incredibly tempting.
The thought of ending my own life would plague me for the next 2-3 decades as I believed ending it prematurely was better than being forced to live a meaningless existence.
But somehow, I hung on. Despite all my darkness and endless frustrations about the human race, even though I thought a lot about it, I was severely tempted to do it, exacerbated by countless painful events in my childhood, but I didn’t choose to act on it.
I didn’t know it back then, but on hindsight, I always had this very little, tiny shadow of knowing, an unexplained intuition that life could be more.
I found my own reasons to live when I turned 30. It seemed like an overnight transformation which took place the first time I stepped into San Francisco, but in truth it was probably a cumulation of a long, gradual self-discovery process in my 20s.
It is a myriad of complex reasons, but it could be summed up simply:
I had found my true self, not whom I was conditioned to believe I was, and I started to have hope in humanity.
I started to believe we could be better. That I could be better. That because I was really getting better at being a better human, perhaps humanity would too.
If I had been so jaded, so disillusioned, so numb and so broken, and I could change my mind about how life can be, if I could somehow make more people see that their lives could be different too, would we all make that leap into a better humanity together?
I read this Medium post wrote by someone who calls himself a existentially depressed idealist high-schooler.
I did a double take at the first second, I was like, how could you be existentially depressed and an idealist at the same time?
Then I remembered. I was depressed and suicidal, because I was hopelessly idealistic about the world. I couldn’t understand why humanity seemed to be so unabashedly selfish when it was obvious to me that being compassionate and generous was the only selfish way to survive — that humanity can only be sustainable through sharing and amplifying each other’s resources.
It was really depressing for me, to live in a world I believed wasn’t capable of change. Why would I choose to live in a world like this? Ending my life seemed more efficient. I don’t have to put myself through an existence I didn’t love, and people don’t have to put up with my negative presence. Win-win.
But I would like to write this in response to that post. That it does get better. And it will if you can take the first step in convincing yourself to believe it will get better. That if you try reading beautiful stories that exist on Medium and elsewhere, you would discover that being human is tremendously beautiful.
It is us human beings, who are capable of making conscious choices to better this world. It is us human beings, who would give up our own lives for each other when the time calls for it.
Yes, the world is in a mess. The mess has been bigger or smaller compared to history, depending on your own perspective. There are tons of selfish, greedy people in this world.
But you cannot deny that there are the ones who makes us proud. Proud of being human. There are the ones who spend their entire lives dedicating to our cause.
The cause of making us a better humanity.
For the longest time I hesitated to write about my previous existential crisis, because it could be framed negatively in a million ways possible.
But once in a while, I come across someone like the boy above, who has to cope with his existential crisis precisely because he is so fucking serious about life. And it breaks my heart. Every single time. Or every time I read about Aaron Swartz or David Foster Wallace, or the thousands of unknown people pondering over their own existence, trying to find a reason to keep on living.
I write, because I want to stand for an example to the ones after me, that it is possible to lead a meaningful existence, if only you have the courage to give meaning to it, yourself.
We care so much, and that gives us the cruel irony of not wanting to be part of this mess. But perhaps if you see beyond the mess and into the horizon, therein lies a set of unimaginable possibilities.
What we need are not reasons to exist, what we truly need are reasons to keep on believing.
That we are all truly capable of more.
This post is written as part of a continuing experiment to use Medium like how I use Twitter, which means not consciously self-censoring my thoughts and publishing whenever I want to.