I guess what I’ve been trying to figure out is: can we hope for an existence better than this, one that has more fulfillment, a sense of meaning, and maybe even a sense of joy, in what we do for a living?
Over the past several weeks, beginning sometime in the middle of March, a depression crept in. I thought it was the monthly crazy from hormones, but it stayed, for weeks and weeks. It was familiar and confusing, similar to how I felt about interior design after a few years into it. It’s the existential crisis again. If there’s anything I struggle with the most, it’s what to do with myself. Particularly, what to do with this life, and usually that’s a question about work. Is all work doomed to become quite hollow, repetitive actions that turns us into automatons, after a while? Work that, as our mastery of skills and information allows us to scrutinize its finer details, can’t help becoming… ridiculous or empty? It would be easier it didn’t matter (whether or not it engages us the way we hope it will), it would be easier not to care. But when it confronts you on a daily basis, and for many hours in a day, I guess any sane being would wonder.
Most of our lives are spent working. Eight hours a day, five days a week, or more. What’s reasonable to hope for in work becomes a significant answer then, because that tells us how to manage our expectations of life, and cope with its disappointments. All work, all life, is toil. The norm is to have frustrations, disappointments and struggles. But is 50-60% of the work experience a slow fading into grey, a daily sucking the colors out of you, with the occasional color and gold? I’m not trying to look for dream jobs, or something ‘perfect’, because there’s no such thing. My question is: is it normal to simply tolerate our jobs. That no matter how much we try to engage with it, we can’t help an emotional disconnection. Every morning we pick ourselves up from bed, and nod along with the rhythm of civilization until our brief lives end.
After surveying working adults in different industries, the answer I’m getting is this: life is grey. Life is a quarterly or seasonal existential crisis. That’s the norm. If we subscribe to the Christian belief, then work is cursed with toil. And maybe toil goes beyond the fight for work, but it also encompasses a gnawing emptiness at the back of our minds as we do it. Maybe this is the most work can be here on earth, in a fallen and broken world, because this is the shadow of what work in its true, full, original intent is. Heaven will have work in store for us, but work that makes us come alive in as much as it is challenging. For now, we need to content ourselves with jobs that make us money, enjoy sometimes, teaches us new skills, but slowly turns us grey inside.
It’s been a struggle to come to terms with this, as being all there is to life. That mostly grey with the occasional color is as good as it gets. I’ve tried different jobs in different countries, yet find myself consistently back in this hellish non-color. Is that all there is? Yes, that’s it. Always muddling through, not really knowing what to do with ourselves, with a few lucky ones finding their niche. The rest of us won’t find it, but hopefully we’ll have decent enough compensation, benefits, and work-life balance, to sustain us, and afford distractions like vacations and hobbies, which make existence more pleasantly tolerable one day at a time.
To hope that life, that making a living can be more than grey is too painful, because it means that it’s still out there, and we just need to find it. But I’ve tried to follow the clues, and it’s led nowhere. Or maybe it’s just been harder for me, because I’m the problem. Either ways, the only solutions are these: One, if this is all there is to life, then we just need to accept it, and go along. I just need to figure out how to deal with it on the days where I wonder why we ought to keep staying in this existence anyway, when the next life is better. What compels us to stay? If only the threat of hell didn’t loom over those who don’t find it worth it anymore. But two: if there’s more to life than this, how do we find that elusive answer. And how to hold on until you find it.