What am I doing with my life?
I’ve got the education, the job, the Netflix account under my name with my credit card.
I’ve got the car, the apartment, the trendy foam bottom sneakers (but New Balance cause I’m white).
I’ve got the yoga classes, the vegetarian diet, the marches and rallies where I raise my fist and scream.
What the fuck am I doing with my life?
Recently moving to San Francisco, a city I’ve been wanting to move to since I was 12 years old, this question has been on my mind a lot. In my worst moments, I feel plagued by it, where mostly it’s just in my mind like a ringing bell in the distance. I fully understand that material things won’t bring me happiness, nor will “that one right job”, or anything outside of myself. The problem is when I look inside, even after years of hard work, the only answers I see are negations to the things I’m doing and a whole bunch more questions. For example, my mind will say: “This isn’t the right project for you, now go spend time getting better at math — maybe that will solve your woes.” I’ll jump from contributing to one open source software project to working on my own project to working on projects around helping activists in the trenches, etc. These are all great things, but at the moment it’s a sporadic assortment of tasks completed; rather than progressing towards an at least partially realized end goal.
In trying to figure it all out, I’ve been reading a lot. Some of the books have nothing to do with this direct question, but are important nonetheless. Continuously learning is something vital to progress in my eyes, but in the current mood of this piece I will point out one downside that commonly comes up: I read a lot of depressing books, and though they at times inspire, they often also give me a subtle feeling of desolation. I do believe that an individual with some resources and a lot of dedication can make a profound change, but we need so much more in the resistance of fascism, racism, sexism, speciesism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, EvilCorp, and the new ways in which people oppress people. I do believe I can help with the resistance, but with more knowledge, experience, and recent events, I haven’t been feeling hopeful.
The other day a friend sent me an email from 80,000 Hours, a research group focusing on effective altruism underneath Centre for Effective Altruism. They produce tons of great content focused on what a dream job looks like, what the most important issues in the world are at the moment, and how you can best contribute given what you want, your skills, and where you are in life. (Before I mention my personal problems with this website, I want to say that nonetheless, I think it is an amazing and important project and you should absolutely check it out.) Taking their quizzes and reading their articles, I think they are mostly right, but only for a select few. The jobs they discuss are important ones, but are extremely competitive and in short supply. You must have a lot of experience and have attended top schools to even begin to compete. The alternative? Make a fuck ton of money and donate as much of it as possible to well-vetted charities. This is a great idea, but it requires an ability to continue through the grind of some job that you may really not like (most likely in Finance) day in and day out. Yes, you will know that you are really helping in the end, but goddamn that sounds draining.
One piece that is specifically about this subject is a blog post titled Career Advice, by Moxie Marlinspike. That article has been keeping me up at night. In it, he makes the assertion that you become your job, so you must be careful, and this is why he has opted to make enough money to survive and spend his time doing things that bring him fulfillment. I think Moxie is completely right and that’s exactly why I can’t sleep. Every time I think about it, I want to throw away 50%-75% of my possessions, quit my job, and hop a train going anywhere but where I’m at. This fantasy in its own right brings me immense joy. In moving recently, I got rid of about 50% of my possessions and it felt, and continues to feel, amazing. What stops me from shedding the rest of my possessions and responsibilities and leaving town? It’s scary. It’s really scary and I’m not sure it’s the right move. I may make it anyways, but I probably won’t, at least not yet. I’ve got maybe a few more years before I explode and take this action(?) Maybe I’ll find what I’m really looking for in the meantime.
Then I read Camus and wonder if any of this matters.
I don’t know the answer, maybe I never will. For now, I’m going to go for a walk.