Classes have ceased for the fall semester of my freshman year of college. I am certainly relieved, as any sleep-deprived, burnt out student would be. But this relief is juxtaposed with a familiar presence yanking at the back of my mind; it lurks and pushes and begins to brawl with my sense of relief– relief is no match for its strength. The more I attempt to ignore it, the more powerful it becomes; its growth rate is exponential as it approaches infinity and– oh– here it is, at the forefront of my mind.
I find myself in a state of existentialism so frequently that it seems to be an integral part of who I am as a human. I don’t mind it; I have no reason to. While some may view existentialism as unpleasant and daunting, I find it to be calming. I soothe my anxieties by focusing on the sheer magnitude of existence. My thoughts typically do not take on the guise of existential dread; even when I am in a state of anxious existentialism I am not consumed by fear. I do not live a life plagued by the fear of death– for this I am fortunate. No, I do not fear death; I fear myself.
Perhaps this fear of self is a subtle scheme my anxiety uses to keep me under its sway. Maybe I am using it as an excuse for if and when I fail. Am I creating this as a coping mechanism, a way to justify my shortcomings? Is that all my existentialism is– a net to shield me from the inevitable trap of disappointment? By thinking of the universe and myself as a manifestation of it, I can allow myself to be part of something more, something infinitely larger than what my mind can comprehend, something that is itself the reason that I and all of everything exists. When my mind searches to be embraced by the essence of matter, I can forget about what and who I am as a member of society. When I focus on my lungs expanding and contracting as my breath forces itself throughout my body, the steady rhythm of my heart pushing that life-sustaining red elixir into the road-map of veins all across my body, when I allow my mind to race and explore and expand into its limitless domain– when I feel myself simply existing, my general concerns cease. To be able to reach a high with nothing but my mind is exhilarating; I don’t need weed or hallucinogens or acid– my mind is my drug, and there is no law to prevent me from using it.
But when I come off of my self-induced existentialist high– as I am now– the coldness of reality is waiting with iron chains. I feel like the normal force of gravity has ceased to exist and there is no force to prevent me from descending into the depths of mother Earth; the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I am far too small to resist it. Who am I? How could I possibly think that I am different from anyone else? Why do I waste my time lost in thought when I need to be studying, working, practicing, using my time to be productive?
I fear my inability to comprehend what I want. Yes, I want to study cognitive science, but 14 years of being confined in school have left me absolutely exhausted. Do I want to follow the track that has been laid out, or do I want to break free and meander into the wilderness of alternate life choices? If I follow the track, I will be given opportunities that my immediate family members have only dreamt of. My parents endured the Hell of invitro to create me; they have devoted their lives to my success from the time that I was a frozen embryo somewhere in the depths of the Crile Building at the Cleveland Clinic.
I have my dreams, but I fear myself. I say that I love to learn, but I rarely take the initiative to seek out new information. I claim that I love reading– I do– but I almost never pick up a book. I enjoy drumming, but I never practice. I like to draw, yet I rarely draw anything substantial. I have all of these desires but it seems that I never work towards them.
So here I sit, with a laptop at my fingertips and an unsteadiness in my mind as I wonder if I will ever be the person that I dream of being. In my mess of my mind, I feel multiple versions of myself– the one who I aspire to be, the one who I fear, and the one that other people tell me that I am. One day, they will synthesize into a unified perception of who I am. In the meantime, I feel the anxiety of never being good enough waking up and scratching at the walls of my brain; it crawls towards the part of me that I fear and helps it stand. I need to study, I need to work–
Hello again, reality.