I work most weekends.
There’s a strange stillness on the Saturday and Sunday morning commute. The once mobbed train platforms are empty, the loudspeaker announcements are less frequent, and you usually manage to get a coveted seat on not only the train, but the underground as well. I always wonder about my fellow weekend morning commuters. Are they trudging to work too, longing for the warm cocoon of their duvet? Or are they off on a day trip with their partners and friends? Or are they returning home after a night spent at someone else’s, with last night’s wine still in their veins and a smile on their face?
The relatively peaceful commute is the one thing I like about working weekends. But since our capitalist society has decided most people will work on the arbitrary Norse-God-named days of Monday through Friday, and then relax on the weekends (thank you unions), I always feel out of place, out of sync with everyone else. I really hate missing those days of rest. The days of the week become even more arbitrary, and the weeks don’t count so much as the months, when my one weekend rolls around every three or four weeks and I can finally, blessedly, rest, like everyone else.
This is getting both whiny and philosophical, but I guess I just have a lot of thoughts about the work week, the external systems put in place that dictate the rhythms of our lives and when we work and when we rest. (I mean, even God rested on the seventh day.)
I have bored my loves ones to tears with my complaints about my work schedule, the slog of applying for new jobs, and the despair that is hardening inside me with every new rejection I add to the four-year long pile. Yes, my job could be way worse. It’s sometimes interesting, and I occasionally get to use my degree, which is rare for most people, but especially for an art historian. Yet most of the time – like most jobs – its tedious, and disheartening, and frustrating, and makes me feel powerless and belittled. Again, a bit dramatic maybe, but after four years of being looked down on at least once a day, and feeling like a failure overall, it gets tiring.
I remember my dad always saying that everyone needs to work in a service job for at least a year. (Although accessibility and disabilities definitely need to be considered here, of course.) But yeah, if we can, we should. And I remember rolling my eyes a bit at his idea, but I get it now. Believe me dad, I do. You learn so much, about yourself, about humans, about psychology and empathy and how people interact with each other and with spaces and rules. It’s humbling, and everyone should have to learn what it’s like to flip burgers, sell tickets, manage a queue, and be a human sign board for the toilets.
Although after four years, I am very ready for something new. I know a few people who have put something out into the universe, a wish or a goal, and then achieved it, so I guess I’ll give it a whirl. Universe, if you’re listening, I’d love to do something different now. Something where I’m more challenged, and can use my skills to really make a difference, have a purpose. Something that makes me feel alive, instead of wondering why I am.
I was listening to Blanco White again on my commute, and got lost in his dream world of lyrics and beautiful music. His songs always make me space out, in the best way. And of course I started wondering about the world, the universe, and whether any of this matters. There is so much bad in the world right now, as there always has been, but it really feels like we’re drowning in it. Samwise was right, there is good in the world too, and its worth fighting for, but what if you’re just bone-deep tired, and are struggling to trudge to work each day just to feel secure, or pay the bills, or have some kind of purpose?
Life is often a search for meaning isn’t it? Or a search for happiness, for joy. But what if we can’t find any of those things? What if they escape us, or are withheld from us? Then we have to make it ourselves, don’t we? That’s what everyone always says, we need to make our own meaning, make our own joy. We can’t expect it to be handed to us, especially joy.
And I get that, I do. But what if depression has sucked away your motivation? What if anxiety makes even small tasks – which we all must do to be “functioning” adults in today’s society – seem insurmountable? What if executive dysfunction means you’re paralyzed, not just by an inability to do things you know you should, or must, or want to, or that would bring joy, but by an overwhelming sense of existential futility? If we’re all going to die anyway, what’s the point?
I remember seeing the above post and immediately loving it. The thought that, hey, if nothing matters, then fuck it, wear that unicorn onesie, eat the ice cream, write the Baby Yoda fan-fic, sing off key, apply for that moon shot job, because nothing really matters anyway. (Jedi Master Chuck Wendig said all of this better than I ever could in his New Year’s blog post about writing, and describes the world right now as ‘what-the-fuck-alyptic’ which is perfect. . .)
But I think this can quickly become toxic, and twisted into something selfish. Everyone’s out for themselves in a futile-rat-race scenario too. So I was trying to think of a way to spin it where there’s still joy involved, but also awe, and humility, and an acceptance of our impermanence. I will sometimes get lost on ridiculous thought spirals where my mind zooms out to a cosmic level, to the unfathomably massive waltz of the planets, the stars, the galaxies, the universe itself, which is expanding ever faster – but into what??? What is it expanding into if there is nothing there, out in the void? (See I did it again . . . ok I’m back now.)
The famous pale blue dot photo gives this sensation too, where you really see how insignificant we are in the scale of the cosmos. So, hey, yeah, war is completely pointless, borders are meaningless, and climate change is chest-tighteningly scary and real. And yeah you need to do some laundry and pay that bill, and cancel that other bill, and track down that test result from your doctor, and oh man you need groceries, and have you eaten vegetables today, but where were the veggies grown, and oh god they’re wrapped in plastic, and oops it’s time to spiral again – but the universe will keep on spinning, with or without us. So you might as well have clean clothes because it feels nice, and do one of those tasks on your to-do list because it will feel so good when it’s done, and hell yeah have a brownie after having a salad. Basically, the only path I’ve found through this existential fog is to accept that we’re all doing the best we can, and we need to keep doing the best we can, and keep helping each other precisely BECAUSE we are so small and insignificant, and our time here is so short.
This is it. This is my life, this is your life. There is no dress rehearsal. We only get one.
Let’s all collectively appreciate that and plant more gardens and trees, write more poems, save the bees, and keep looking up at the stars while we figure out our taxes and our commutes and our healthcare (which should be universal and free!!). There’s so much day-to-day crap, and some things are so scary and so unfair and so out of our control, but there is also inherent meaning in being alive. We are here, now, on this drop of water in the endless ocean of dark space, so let’s enjoy it, while we can?
As the wise old wizard says, all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. Now to take his, and my own, advice.
I call this train of thought ‘cosmic optimistic nihilism’, and I’m going to give it a try.
My last post was also really introspective and existential and a bit sad (hello, INFJ reporting for duty), and this isn’t me trying to solve everything, because who the hell do I think I am? But I’m just noodling through these thoughts and trying to make sense of them, and I find I process things better by writing them out. So here I am, trying to make sense of my thoughts on this little corner of the internet, and hold myself accountable for my own bullshit.
I’m also hoping to get some momentum on my goals as life evolves in this hellscape of 2020. I’m planning some amazing trips with my partner and my family, I’m starting to write my next novel (set in Venice, my old love), and I’m trying to keep my head above the waves as I tread water in the eternal job quest. I’m also peacefully, incandescently happy with my partner, and quiet evenings on the couch with him are my happy place. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I definitely am.
I hope you can also find some moments of joy in the day-to-day, which make all of this *gestures to everything* worth it.
PS – Happy Birthday to my Dad, who would have been 60 this past weekend.
PPS – I promise all of my posts won’t be like this! I’ll try to get my head out of my own ass once in a while and write about something other than the weasel-thunder-dome that is my brain. Thanks for reading ❤
4 responses to “Cosmic Optimistic Nihilism”
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Really liked reading this and after with a lot. I wish you well in your job search, I hope the universe listens.
Thank you so much!! I really appreciate it. I wish you all the best too!