I’d consider this past week challenging, perhaps because I’ve been slightly swaddled in an existential crisis. I believe it was perpetuated by a combination of things including reflecting upon the state of transition in which I find myself, feeling physical pain and discomfort, and having a ridiculous amount of time to think.
And thus the crisis began. I fell into a state of self-criticism, in which I focused on my weaknesses rather than my strengths. I was disappointed in myself. I overlooked my blessings and joys to search for the reasons to be angry, saddened, or simply negative. I did not enjoy being me.
So, I faced my feelings. I thought about them for hours, and did basically nothing else. It was after I poured out my feelings to another that I felt I was able to move on and reflect in a more positive manner. I was ready to dismiss the negativity, and develop my strength.
I needed to move. I needed to channel energy into physical action, a desire which motivated me to leave my house and run a couple of miles. As I turned the corner on my run home, I noticed my boyfriend’s car parked in front of my house… unexpectedly. Hm.
My cool-down walk immediately tripled into a home-bound sprint, and I found myself walking through my front door, covered in my own sweat, to see my boyfriend casually sitting on my family room couch, holding a goblet full of lemonade, wearing a handmade straw hat from Taiwan.
“I have a surprise for you,” he exclaimed a few moments after I caught my breath. I was fully immersed in the moment, no longer consumed by my own existence, but swallowed in present time.
He knew I was struggling with my emotions, and so he said, “Flowers are too cliché,” and handed me a stack of classic literature that he had hand-selected for me, varying in size and source. In that moment, I was touched by a feeling of immense grace. I was reminded of my intellectual pursuits, my ability to embrace an individual moment through embracing something so tangible and rich such as literature, and somehow, I was reminded of my purpose.
These books were not given without instructions, however. He specified the order in which I was to read the books, as well as the timelines I had to complete each one. He insisted I begin with The Death of Ivan Ilych, the story of a man who was drowning in his own existential crisis. The irony was inexplicable, and I didn’t even realize it was so until I was finished reading the story.
I was overwhelmed with the literature, as I was so fully experiencing Ivan’s struggle through my own emotional journey. Although Ivan’s difficulties were not identical to my own, the same essence of crisis was mutual. I felt a sense of comfort knowing that Leo Tolstoy, who wrote the work, must have experienced a similar sense of internal turmoil if he was able to comprehend his emotions enough to formulate them into writing.
One quote from the writing says, “…something terrible, new, and more important than anything before in his life was taking place within him of which he alone was aware. Those about him did not understand or would not understand it, but thought everything in the world was going on as usual.”
HELLOOOO!? That quote sums of probably a quarter of my existence. Okay, I don’t know whether or not that’s true, but it certainly feels that way at times. Given my struggles with my anxiety, my sorrow, my flood of emotions, my identity in the midst of transition, my questions regarding “purpose” and “existence,” followed by my attempt to figure it out and balance it all, I can’t express it all. It seems impossible to share all of my emotions and feelings, because sometimes, I can’t even figure them out on my own… and no one else can crawl inside my subconscious and figure them out for me…
This story opened my eyes to what feels like countless lessons. I was reminded how amazing it feels to think and to be, how exhilarating it feels to have an identity, to struggle, and to overcome. I was taught once more how inspiring it is to know that I am never alone, because in the end, there is someone who feels exactly the same type of “alone,” the same sort of loneliness. There is yet another victim of consumption by the abyss of uncertainty and existence and purpose and thought and everything-ness that is who we are and all we are not. I was reminded.
So here is to my love, hundreds of pages of journeys, and a Russian man who asked “who-what-why-when-where-how,” and expected me to do the same. Thank you.
(P.S. To whom it may concern: I love you, too).