How I give Meaning to My Life

An optimist’s struggle to find worth in life

A 24-year-old woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, shares her struggle to find meaning and worth in life in a conversation with TEDxDharamshala.

Not many people think about a worthy life until they are faced with damaging challenges. As a young adult, there are only numbered times when I have found a satisfying answer to what gives meaning to my life? This question was most often ragged by should have been divorced parents, raging depression, a passion soon losing its vigor, a career that is nowhere to be seen, absolutely zero love interest, and a consuming wish to be dead already.

Now, a couple of years later, when I think about all the days I spent sitting at home to avoid the panic attacks I would get just by being near my college building, I am reminded of the struggle I have endured to find a meaning in my life. The most rudiment was the fear that my anticipations would be judged as nonsensical shenanigans and I would be told to just be happy.

And while there may be some truth to that line, it does not bear the weight of the entire process of standing up again after a fall in life. The conviction to convince your mind to stay happy comes after a series of realizations. And in my case, three things played a crucial role.

Death

A universally negative word has been among the most liberating ones I have ever come across. And I mean that in a happy way. Majority of this planet’s human population is scared of dying. But to me and millions of others out there, this was perhaps the easiest way to end fears and agonies. But then I had a conversation with a friend and it changed my perspective. While talking to him about what was the point of life and what we were doing on this planet, I realized that while everyone anticipates death, they forget the existence.

Everything and everyone is going to die at some point in time and after that, everything that we have worked for in life—every pain we endured would retain to nothing. So, then what stops us from doing everything to the fullest? Love to the fullest, cry to the fullest, eat to the fullest, and then exercise to the fullest.

By being so close to the idea of death, I realized that the endgame should not be death but a happy life before the inevitable death.

Contentment

When I was in one of the lowest periods of my life, I made it a point to write at least five things that I was happy to have in my life. The point was to make myself realize the importance of what I had and to be content with that.

Imagine climbing a ladder hastly. Chances are you’re going to slide down a number of steps, mostly because you didn’t give enough importance to your present step on the ladder. But instead, you thought about how you need to reach the summit and end the journey. If you’re not satisfied with the position and strength of your current step, you will not be able to take your next one with the same energy, resulting in more failures.

Being content with your current situation helps you in taking necessary steps in achieving goals with full commitment. Not because it is expected of you, or because it sounds nicer than your present, but because of the pure intention of being happier. It does not mean that you should be less happy if somehow you couldn’t achieve your goal. It just means that the art of being happy includes being content with where you are in life.

Knowledge

I am a Masters in Archaeology, something I wanted since I was in the sixth grade. The journey was certainly not easy. I have felt drawn from the profession one too many times. But the one thing I am constantly thankful for is the level of knowledge I’ve gained.

It has been a privilege to have studied the history, culture, and literature of ancient civilizations across the planet. Gaining knowledge about them made me realize the similarity between the thought processes of people. It made me feel less alone in my miseries. And then I started branching out from history towards blogs and biographies.

Here’s what I realized:

Illustration by Rohan Aland

Knowledge can be a boon for adversities. Take, for example, William James. Born into a wealthy, influential family, William suffered from temporary blindness, spasms, and a digestive condition. Due to this, he rarely went out and spent most of his time at home, painting.

As he grew older, his paintings became the subject of scrutiny and were rejected. He then went for a medical degree at Harvard University even though he wasn’t interested in medicine. His relation with the psychology of the psych ward patients was more than those of the doctors. He felt more like a pretender among the other doctors. And then, he dropped out of medical school.

To avoid living with his father’s wrath, he decided to go on an anthropological expedition in the Amazon, which later left him on the brink of death given his health conditions. Upon his return home, he felt dejected. He was a 30-year-old man with no job, no degree, horrible health issues, and he failed at everything he ever tried. Depressed, he decided to end his life.

But before he could do that, upon reading the work of another philosopher, William turned towards his old passion for psychology and philosophy. He gathered all the knowledge on the subject from his days at Harvard and began increasing his knowledge. And eventually, William James became a renowned philosopher. He wrote books on psychology that gave him the title of the ‘father of American psychology’. Knowledge helped him gain back his self-confidence and achieve success in the darkest of times.

These are some of my personal ways to create worth in life. Go on and find what makes you happy and satisfied in all its true sense, because that is the only thing worth living for.

About the author

The anonymous author defines herself as a budding explorer. An archaeologist by education, she takes a keen interest in storytelling, mental health, and world history. She uses her spare time for writing poetry, photography, reading, and sketching.

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