My Existential Concerns (An Essay)

I will admit, I have been worried lately. It is very hard for me to focus on the good in the world. Over the past few weeks, I have experienced the results of a pandemic and an earthquake with many aftershocks, and it has stressed me out greatly, whether I have noticed it or not.

Obviously, there are many things out of our control, yet I realize that I am experiencing a lot of emotions right now, and I’m thinking about my life.

I have existential concerns. Many of those. What is the purpose of life, amidst great suffering? I don’t know what is going to happen over the next few months. Are we going to be in lockdown for longer than we thought? Are more and more people going to die? Am I going to be able to stay grounded and strong amidst it all?

I don’t know. These are the things that I am trying to figure out. All of these things that I am experiencing in life have made me think of the larger, broader concerns, the bigger picture.

One argument that I have heard and often made myself, is that suffering is meaningful. I am conflicted about this belief and principle, even though I apply it, to try and understand when I myself suffer. I worry about it because, suffering can be so arbitrary and random. It isn’t as though our suffering occurs always to make us stronger, more thoughtful, more compassionate people. If we choose to become all of those things because of it, that is our choice, and it is a great way of dealing with adversity. But overall, suffering doesn’t have to be the only mechanism by which we become better people.

I have been very fearful, and for a variety of reasons. On reflecting on my life, I have realized that I have overcome a lot of things, and that is good, overcoming adversity is a very good thing. But these things also stay with you. Things that I have experienced, such as abuse at the hands of authority, or mental illness and afflictions, among other concerns, are not fair, these things are not fair. It isn’t as though this is what I should have experienced. Of course, no one knows what hand they are dealt, but the things that I have experienced have deeply wounded me, and even though I am strong because of it, I also have to acknowledge that, I have existential concerns, and life is very, very difficult.

This is something that I am allowing myself to acknowledge, that life is very hard. Life is often unfair. We do our best to make the best of it, and to be better people, but we are flawed as humans, and we live in a very broken world.

Of course there is more to life than the negative, and I have had very good experiences in life, and I have also been happy in my life. But I am also allowing myself to acknowledge that life is a very difficult thing. It is hard. It is not easy. Realizing this for myself has been very crucial to getting me to focus on what comes next and what I plan to do next.

I worry about a lot of things right now. There is so much that is up in the air, much that I can’t control, though I also realize that this has always been the case. The world is a strange place, and we don’t know why things happen the way that they do, and it can get very confusing sometimes. So I do my best to focus on the things that are in my power to change, and I try to let the rest go.

But these are my existential concerns. Life is a very difficult thing, and we are not always able to acknowledge this. Life often deviates, and if I have learned anything about existence, I have learned that it is often unpredictable, and it will challenge you significantly, whether you like it or not. When I think about the many things that I have experienced in my life, I realize that I have experienced things that I shouldn’t have, but that I did. Perhaps to some degree, I can argue a theodicy that allows me to say that the suffering brings purpose and strength of character, but there are times where I am unable to acknowledge this, probably because it doesn’t seem like it really matters, it just feels as though life hurts, and that is all that there is.

The main existential concern for me right now, is the way in which I realize that life is a difficult thing, and I am allowing myself to acknowledge this more. There are existential threats everywhere, there are so many things that could easily overturn our expectations and beliefs about life. Maybe that is inevitable, maybe that is just the way that it is, but I honestly don’t know. I would like to believe that we have some way of coping with these difficult things, though it is hard to know what that entails sometimes.

Overall, these are difficult things for me to think about. When I realize that my intense passion for life spills over into every domain of my life, where it feels like I am not in control, where it feels like there is nothing that I can do to improve my situation: this is something that I feel, and that is often very difficult for me to acknowledge. I think in general, I do have control over many things, and that is what I try to focus on. I try to realize that it is okay if my emotions sometimes spill over, because I have been under a lot of stress in my life, especially recently, with world events. Another existential concern that I can’t seem to shake, is that people do not understand my emotions, and they expect me to be so logical all the time, when I know that I can sometimes be honest, and not be aware of what I am thinking.

All of these things that I bring up are hugely significant to me, and in particular to my life. They are very real concerns. We could die, we could suffer: we could experience a lot of pain in life, whether physical and/or mental. And sometimes, we won’t be able to stop our own structures from crumbling.

While I am not specifically optimistic, I do think that we can rebuild that structure, and pick up the rubble and debris. We can continue to try. We can continue to gain the knowledge that we need, and continue to integrate our shadow and our thoughtful mind, into the way that we go about the world. But I think one thing that I have noticed as well, is that our defenses are very fragile sometimes. We are influenced by so many things around us, and this is crazy to realize, because it means that we don’t always know why we do what we do. I myself try to be responsible for my actions, but I can’t control the way that my mood fluctuates, I can’t control the way that my mind hurts: and all of that makes me realize that, I have to keep pushing forward, and believe that I can structure my life, and believe that the defenses will not collapse, if I am diligent and attentive. But it is an existential concern to realize that there may be times where I can’t fully understand myself, where I can’t fully stop all that I am feeling, and things spill over.

Life is hard. I am acknowledging this, it is important that I acknowledge it. Even though we are expected to be able to deal with things perfectly in society and not have any baggage, I know that in my life, I make many mistakes, many errors and miscalculations, and there are certainly things that I can do better at. It seems the best way through these existential concerns, is to be compassionate to yourself and to other people, and to try not to internalize too much of the pain, and to be able to move on through it, through all of it.

I know that I will get through what I’m experiencing. I know that this isn’t the end. And I believe that I take steps every day, good steps, to realizing what I need to, in order to move forward. Such things give me a lot of hope, and so that is what I focus on.