This post was first published on Medium on December 16th 2015, one month after the Paris Terrorist Attacks.
Here’s a word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately…Meaning. What is the meaning…? We tend to ask ourselves that question when we’re in depths of despair, so to comfort ourselves, seeking meaning kind of makes sense of it all. Most recently I’ve been asking myself that question quite a lot — definitely related to what happened in Paris about a month ago. Today is December 17th…last month around this time, I was in Paris…fearing for my life, thinking I was going to die and I was terrified. It feels as though I’ve been searching for meaning ever since coming home. I can’t seem to shake that feeling…I’ve always been a firm believer of the law of attraction and that everything happens for a reason, so naturally I’ve been searching for meaning following the Paris experience.
Not so long ago, I came across a book, presenting the following three questions:
- Why are you here?
- Do you fear death?
- Are you fulfilled?
Somehow these questions might have helped me make sense of what was intended to happen last month.
Why am I here? I don’t know. What is the purpose of my life, my existence? I have no clue. I bet that most people will not be able to answer that question straight up, but if you can, you’re lucky, because if you know the reason for being here, you have identified your purpose for existing and you can begin to pursue that purpose. Perhaps you already are…?! As for me, I have absolutely no clue, but at least now I know where to begin, because I know that the reason why I’m here, is not to be found within my current experiences and current knowledge. For some reason, searching for meaning in a world that seems meaningless, has made me realize that my limits today are much less about accessibility and much more about limitations that I impose on myself — and I am not alone. We actually have the chance to gain exposure to information, people, cultures and experiences from all over the world — today — and we are not simply limited by our current experiences and knowledge as we might think so, but what happens, is that we don’t take very much advantage of that accessibility.
I guess the meaning of what happened in Paris, was for me to think about how I spend my time, that – and a boost of self-confidence. Let me elaborate…
I have always been very spontaneous, embracing adventure at every chance I got, but it hasn’t always been a good thing, I spent my 20’s being heavily frustrated with life, myself and what I wanted to do…my passions. I never seemed to fit in. Everyone else was getting an education, they knew exactly what they wanted to study, they had a passion and when they started something, they stuck with it. I’ve almost always left things unfinished and I’ve always felt as if I’ve had many — and not just one significant passion. Now, however, I’ve simply come to learn that I would change identity according to whom I would spend my time with, it wasn’t a true passion, just a desire to be loved and appreciated, nothing criminal about that, but it put me through a lot of distress and feelings of despair.
What I think I’ve finally come to realize though, is that what I thought I was lacking in my 20’s, and still sometimes feel like I’m lacking in my 30’s, is notdirection nor interest in life, but rather a fear of the mundane…the ordinary….that I will spend my life doing a lot of things that will never lead me to the why are you here answer. I guess I’m terrified that I will spend my life doing the same things every day without really knowing why…
So without knowing exactly why I am here – I know why I am not here.
Do you fear death? Most of us would probably answer yes — no harm in that. Definitely not, I mean I certainly do. I screamed like a baby, weeped in the after hours and cried myself to sleep. I was that terrified…it’s strange, but I’ve been thinking about that moment lately…that moment when you fear death, about everything (or nothing) that is racing through your mind. I personally cannot remember what I was thinking, I think I was too busy crying of fear and if I wasn’t going to die from a gunshot or a bomb, I would have most likely died from my heart exploding, my heartbeat racing like I never thought possible. But the fear of death made me think about what is most important to me and in life in general. How do I want to be remembered? A person who had a great career, made a change in the world and fought bad people or someone who cared for others, showed empathy and taught others to do the same?
Back to the question, do you fear death? I guess for me, this question has made me think about whether I am taking the steps to answer the previous “why are you here” question, because people, like myself, who haven’t been given this question much thought, we are the ones who most certainly fear death and because we haven’t had the concept of death at the forefront of our thinking, we’re naturally not aware, that every day is one day closer to not being able to do what we want in life — or at least trying to figure it out.
So yes…I do fear death, but at least I am conscious about it – thanks to Paris.
Last question. Are you fulfilled?
Here’s a hypothesis we’ve all heard before — the reason we get a job and work is to make money, because we need money to pay for the things we buy, a lot of what we own are things that help us escape for a while, things that help us unwind and make us feel better about our lives and surroundings. How many of those things would we want if we did not need to escape? I know it’s a cliché and I get caught up in all the materialistic wonders of the world myself, it happens all the time, but I’ve come to think about what makes me feel fulfilled as a human being. What makes me happy? Am I doing what I truly want to be doing or am I limiting myself? And why?
I am currently looking for a job or I’m job hunting. Actually I am in that position right now…I say it a lot these days when I meet people and they ask me what I do. I don’t know exactly what kind of job I am looking for, I only know what kind of job I am not looking for…a 9–5 job, doing the same things every day, without even knowing why. What I do know, is that I want to feel fulfilled…and I want to do everything I can to pursue that feeling.
But I feel challenged.
The challenge is to realize that something is fulfilling because I individually determine that is is, and not because someone else tells me it is and realizing that it is entirely up to me to decide whether it’s fulfilling or not. I feel challenged, but I also don’t want to spend my life saving up money and time for the life that I am going to live when I retire.
So to conclude this memo, I think the purpose of me being in Paris last month, experiencing what it feels like to fear death up-close, was to make me consciously aware of the concept of death, that the fear of death is in fact a very real deal and that I should start searching for meaning and for my own answer to why I am still here.