an existential crisis
it’s hard to not view life as a choose-your-own-adventure story
I don’t know where my life is going. It’s hard to not view life as a choose-your-own-adventure story with fixed choices. Choose this path and you’ll be fine. Choose this other path and your life will be torn to shreds, your dignity left in tatters.
I don’t know if I’ll have enough in the bank when I retire. My partner said: I calculated it and you need around $800,000 if you retire at 65 and want to live comfortably for another 20 years. I’ve read about women who become homeless when they retire because they spent their entire lives putting others first. No one took care of them in return. They’d been scammed by society into fulfilling the maternal role with the false promise of security. I’m scared of the prospect of being one of those women.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to take care of myself when I’m older. Maybe I’ll die alone surrounded by reminders of my failures. Maybe I’ll die alone in an aggressive silence, one that I’ll want to crawl out of only for it to consume me. It’ll take my soul and spit out the rest of me bone by bone.
There are times when the worry for my future self hits me. Me, 35, working in hospitality and praying for a reprieve from the persistent aching of my entire body. Me, 45, scraping the barrel, hoping to find something that will save me from my misery. Me, 55, behind on my rent payments and wondering if it’s too late for my life to get better. Me, 65, wanting to retire but I can’t because I don’t even have $100,000 in my bank account. Me, 75, staring outside the window at the laughing kids whose youth are still intact and wishing I could turn back time. Me, 85, frail and weak on my deathbed, regrets tucked into the folds of the blanket and hanging from the wrinkles on my face.
I don’t know where I see myself ten years from now. Or even five. Or even three. Or even next year. Sometimes, there is nothing I want more than for the afternoon sunlight to kiss my cheek, the blades of grass to caress my skin, and the cool breeze to wrap me in its fleeting embrace. Is that enough? What if I spent the rest of my life gazing at sun glitter with sweat gathering on my nose and my feet dipped in the lapping seawater? What if I spent the rest of my life digging my fingers into pasta dough as the beautiful aroma of garlic cooked in oil fills the kitchen? Would that be a complete waste of a life? What if I enjoy my life right now only to look back and scold my younger self for being so careless, so impractical?
I don’t really know what I want from life. Maybe I could be a writer. A real one who has strangers read and pay for their work, giving the writer enough to live on their earnings. Not one of those silly ones who cling onto dreams of widespread recognition, their likelihood of success being lower than the likelihood of being struck by lightning twice. But they aren’t really silly, are they? What is more brave than taking a chance when you know you have a slim chance of winning? (What does it mean to win as a writer anyway?)
Once, I looked straight at the void and it stared back at me. The void asked me: Do you want me to swallow you? Do you want me to take you away to some place empty of anguish?
I said no, maybe not. But, I wanted to say yes. My mind yelled its assent from the proverbial rooftop. To be ensnared by the void is what you fucking want, not to remain in this barren land.
But my body remained. It stayed firm. I took another breath time and time again.
Every breath is a choice to live.
But what does it mean to live?
And, what does it mean to live a good life?