Last winter and through the new year I went through a nihilistic depression. The truth that life has no intrinsic meaning played on my mind constantly. What is the point of doing anything at all when you will eventually die and you’re memories are erased from existence?
I was reading some classics around this topic at the time and it was Harry Haller from Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf that I totally and utterly related too. The intellectual recluse who shunned society and its pathetic human wants and needs.
I am becoming the Steppenwolf, another 10 years and I will be him; middle aged, without family or joy, sat in my rented room researching life without ever living it. That’s not a future I’m excited about so what’s the point of living that way?
As I reached the conclusion of the book I came to the realisation that though life in itself has no instrinsic value, meaning is derived, it is created by ourselves. Our lives matter to us even if the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck. So what was the point in shunning society and depriving myself of any joy? The meaning I was creating for myself was misery. And it was painful.
My life is like a name etched in sand. The tides of time will eventually erase all trace of who I am, what I believe and what I enjoy. But right here, right now, I might as well create a meaning that isn’t painful. I might as well enjoy my life.
That was the motivation for this blog. I realised that I was spending virtually all of my precious time either at work or recovering from work. And that made me miserable. As an introvert it drained me, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, there are some other traits within me that make the 9-5 workplace unbearable.
I’m an extremly anxious person by nature, my mind is always looking for danger. A simple 5 minute meeting could induce a panic attack that would ruin my day, being rushed towards a deadline sends my mind into a frenzy. I’m also highly sensitive to light and noise, so I loose the ability to concentrate on my work and end up trying to cram all my work into the hours before anyone else gets in the office.
The 9-5 workplace isn’t for me. And if it didn’t cause me so much misery I probably wouldn’t have come to the realisation that there is more to life than work. We aren’t our job titles. We aren’t designed to do one repetitive thing for 74% of our waking day.
I came to the realisation that I have to create meaning in my life, that I might as well create happiness rather than misery, it is more bearable.
Up until my early 20s I was a creative person, when I made music, made videos, wrote stories, but when I went to university to study business (because “business” gets you a job) I put those things to bed. I sold my studio gear and I shunned my former creativity as pointless and a waste of time. That part of my life was over, now it was time for work.
I have been in a slow decline ever since, gradually descending into joylessness the further I got into the world of work and the further I got away from my creativity. These past 10 years I have come to think of myself as very logical at the expense of my creativity. I believe that my logic has come from my lack of joy. As I have stopped enjoying life I have whittled it down to a black and white table of useless and useful things. I viewed things like singing as inherently worthless, shunning all the subjective things that have no tangible worth other than to our humanity.
This week, I took a week off work and I sought to fill my life with these things once more to see if I felt as worthless as I had come to view these activities. I created my first song in 10 years, I recorded my first podcast, I started creating characters and story lines for a book I used to think about writing (of which I have pages and pages of research but not one chapter written). I ran, I took a walk in the woods, I read fiction again (which I’d stopped doing in favour of practical non-fiction), I practiced meditation, I played with my kid more, I went out to an historical sight. Creativity after all isn’t just art, creativity is being creative with your time.
As I contemplate going back to work tomorrow my heart sinks because work kills my freedom to be creative with my time. It forces me to do one thing for 74% of my day, for 5 days straight. That is not sustainable for me. Another 10 years of this and I will be Steppenwolf.
I am not a robot, logically viewing the world through a black and white filter. I am a human, a creative introvert, in the midst of a rainbow of colours raining down on me like the Hindu festival of Holi.