Recently I have made a few dramatic changes in my life and have pushed myself into a new direction in hopes of a better tomorrow. For a few years now I have spent much of my time working in restaurants and retail, slowly saving up money, and enjoying my youth. Throughout this time I have had countless enjoyable experiences, dozens of eye-opening moments, and have made a few decisions I will just have to live with. Despite all of this I have entered a cycle of habits that lead me back to the same core issue, what is the meaning of my life?
Within reason I view the world as a nihilist, detaching from reality any inherent meaning and realising that meaning comes from within. This belief has bestowed upon me the title of “arbiter” of meaning, at least within the context of my life. During these past few years the meaning of life and the meaning of the myriad of variables and events that occur within it have adapted and evolved, and in some cases have outright dissolved, as the days have passed on.
No matter what changed during these few years, my ultimate meaning of life stayed closely related to the momentary and fleeting experiences of pleasure, joy, happiness, ecstasy, and whatever other terms you would wish to use for what could be considered a positive. This mindset has to lead to countless hours spent in the enjoyment of life, a mindset I have much to thank for but is ultimately one dimensional. It seeks only the highs of life and dreds the moments in which it must venture forth into the lows. It worries not about tomorrows challenges, nor about the tasks today which will ensure no benefit until tomorrow at best, in fact when kept in good spirits it worries not at all. Yet eventually all must wake from the dream.
As I write to you at this current moment, I stand at what seems to be a massive hill. On top of which lies the joys of my current life. A respect for the present moment and the experiences it brings, a broad set of gadgets and instruments with which to occupy my time with, a group of friends that are enjoyable and with which I share many commonalities, and lastly, a love for life itself. But below this hill lies a valley, deep and wide, in which challenges await at every step. Uncertainty and chaos shrowd the valley, leaving within any who dare pass through, a sense of unpreparedness. A breed of dread that makes one feel as though they will never be quite good enough for what comes next, and perhaps it is true. Possibly you will stumble upon something within this valley that you are so caught off guard by that all of your strength, and skills, will not be enough to overcome.
Now perhaps I have exposed enough of my current situation, and the mindset I reside in, that you can see the bigger picture. I have gazed into the valley for nearly a year unsure of what it meant, which has placed me in this particular situation. How can one be the sole arbiter of meaning within his own life if he cannot begin to piece together a “rough draft” meaning of what lies before him? Well luckily for my sake I have discovered a solution to this question, look up.
Having been so obsessed with the valley before me for the past few years, I have cultivated an extremely unfortunate set of habits. Most of those subconsciously built upon the presupposition that the valley, and all that lie within it, were to be avoided as much as possible. Habits as simple as waking and immediately checking my phone; all the way through to habits as consequential as avoiding, and where at all possible, adamantly refusing, to do work, were ingrained through constant repetition. This loop of mine hurled me into a situation in which I was blindly living, never looking up. But by way of some miraculous turn of events, I have shifted my gaze upwards.
Past the valley lies something significantly greater than the hill on which I currently reside. Rising out of the mist of uncertainty and chaos stands an awe-inspiring mountain, at its base lies all of the joys of my current life, but as you look further up you can see hints of things far more illustrious than anything I have experienced currently; meaningful work, journeys to far off lands, creations of great wonder, and the power to change my life and the lives of those I love. All too foolishly I kept this from my gaze as a coping mechanism, blinded by my need for security and comfort.
I do not detail to you this story within my mind as a way of painting myself as a man who has figured it all out. My sole intention is to gather my thoughts on the subject and to share them in hopes of further refinement. With every keystroke, I can feel the burden of desperation lift off of my shoulders. Giving me the ability to take on new burdens, of which many lie before me.
As you can see by now, the hill represents my current state in life, and the mountain stands for that state in which I wish to be. One could say the mountain represents full self-actualization. Leaving the valley to represent life and the struggles it entails. Only by breaking free from the comfort of life on the hill, battling my way through the valley before me, and setting foot on the base of the mountain ahead, can I truly begin to see what lies at the top. As the arbiter of meaning in my life, this is the meaning I give to myself now.
The Fool on the Hill.