Time started: 11.05AM Eastern Standard Time
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the passing of time. I was watching something on TV the other day and this ad came on, as ads always do. Normally I don’t pay attention to ads, unless they directly coincide with something I need. Or desperately want (thank God there are no Dr. Martens ads on Aussie TV). But this ad’s opening line actually struck a nerve. Now, it was an ad for men’s deodorant and so the rest of the ad was sufficiently shallow, but this one line hit me hard:
We only get around 4000 Mondays in our lifetimes. Don’t waste them.
4000 Mondays. That is such a limited number. So I did the maths:
If we live to 77, we only get 4000 Mondays. My great-grandfather, who lived until 96,
got 4992 Mondays in his life. He lived for almost two decades longer than the average and he only got about 1000 extra weeks. These numbers really started to freak me out.
This past year has thrown a lot of my decisions into sharp relief and I have been questioning them constantly; like white noise in the back of my mind. My decisions at the end of last year, borne of stress and frustration, led me to a year of semi-isolation. I left everything that was familiar in order to give myself a fresh start. But that never really came to pass.
I could see that as a bad thing. I could see this past year as 365 days of my life that I’ll never get back and that I essentially wasted because I decided to run from my problems. But I don’t. Well, 98% of the time, I don’t. Sometimes, when I’m already feeling a little down, doubts sneak in and I make myself feel worse.
Mostly, though, this year has given me a clarity that wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed where I was. I gave myself time to reflect. I gave myself distance. I gave myself a chance to realise what was most important to me. These were things that never would have occurred to me if I’d elected to stay in Brisbane, as I’ve talked about before. So instead of thinking of this year as “lost”, I prefer to think of this year as the year that will save the rest of my life. Oh, the melodrama. But “rest of my life” sounds better than “the year that will save the foreseeable future”, doesn’t it?
I had this conversation a few months ago, with someone who doesn’t have a defined label. I explained that I never should have left and I apologised for doing so. He waved me off and told me not to apologise, that leaving was something that I just had to do. It took me a while but I’ve finally come around to that way of thinking. I’ve stopped trying convince myself that I should have stayed because if I had, things only would have gotten worse.
“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.”
– Donald Miller
During my arduous mental journey to this, now obvious, destination, I picked up a little bit of philosophy. Have you ever heard of existential nihilism? Here’s a bit of an overview, courtesy of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
While nihilism is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism and relativism, for most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. Existential nihilism begins with the notion that the world is without meaning or purpose. Given this circumstance, existence itself–all action, suffering, and feeling–is ultimately senseless and empty.
Now you’re thinking “Whoa, hide the razors and pills in this chick’s house”, but hear me out. Or read me out, as it were. I don’t believe in that last sentence: that existence “is ultimately senseless and empty”, because it’s not. But I do believe that life is meaningless. This is a good thing in my opinion. Because if life has no meaning, if our presence on this planet is simply the result of evolution and circumstance, then we get to decide what our purpose is. We can dedicate our lives to research or charity or family or love or pleasure or travel or money and it is entirely our own decision because we have no guidelines. We were only born because sperm infiltrated an egg to create the zygote that 9 or so months later became our infant selves.
We’re a blank slate and throughout the years we fill up that slate with our experiences. All of those societal rules about what we’re supposed to have done or decided by certain ages are bullshit. It doesn’t matter whether you decide on your life plan at 22 or never quite figure it out, because there is no point to life. There is no set plan.
So if there is no point, and we all have to fend for ourselves, then why not have this for the “meaning of life”, if you can’t think of anything:
I was pretty unhappy when I left Brisbane. No matter how much I wish that that wasn’t the case, it was. And because of my emotional state, I never would have realised that Brisbane was where I belonged if I’d stayed. I had to leave, and stay left, for that to happen. Now I can start again and shape my future based on my past.
So even though we only get 4000 Mondays, and I’ve used up 52 of them coming to bloody obvious realisations, I don’t regret taking this time out. Because without this “lost” year, I would have stayed “lost” myself.
Time finished: 12:47PM Eastern Standard Time
Time elapsed: 102 minutes