Maybe I’m suffering from a common case of restlessness, ungratefulness, or young-adult angst, but can someone explain personal fulfillment and what it implies? As a twenty-something with a promising career, quiet apartment, economic car, and loads of hiking gear, I expected to feel something by now that would indicate that this is the right path to have taken. Maybe, this is probably a better explanation, I am suffering from the classic case of a young adult first world-ism: I have it all but I want to suffer. Just when I can finally save more than $20 a week and still dine out and go to shows in the city, I dream all day of giving it up and tramping.
Sure, I could be stressed by the daily responsibilities and long term goals society expects me to maintain. Stressed by the fact that I won’t ever be able to retire and blah blah blah. But after further thought, I’ve realized that my internal conflict resonates more with lack of purpose, lack of goals, lack of interest. That’s why I gave up most of my belongings a couple of weeks ago with the exception of what I consider necessary to continue being an apartment dweller. I didn’t give away everything and I don’t expect or wish to be commended for it – I honestly just got sick of looking at it all: the shoes that I might need for some dinner in five years from now, the extra snowboard that was such a good deal at the time. I’m just no longer interested in nesting, in making my home into a pile of objects for which I spend all of my money. At the same time, now that I’ve adopted a semi-aggressive money-saving regimen and pretty much only spend my money on food, bills, gas, and the occasional article that would be considered ‘gear’, I still can’t find any meaning to my madness. Why am I so careful with my spending? What am I saving for? A house? A newer car? A new motorcycle? (well, I actually would like that).
Giving it all up and tramping is irresponsible and unreasonable, though. Hundreds through-hike the Appalachian Trail every year and return to society six months later, reintegrate, get married, work, and eventually retire. But this seems like an extended vacation to me, which is not really what I dream of when “cubicle land” becomes too much. An extended vacation can be explained in an interview for a new job. I wonder if I ever want an interview again.
Not only do all of my useless possessions appear meaningless, so does work, sometimes. I think many would agree that the primary motive for maintaining gainful employment is money, regardless of whether or not they enjoy what they do. So work is un-fulfilling, we just deal with it. Spend our weekends and PTO doing the things we really want to do: watching TV, spending time with loved ones, having picnics in parks. I constantly wonder if this really should be the way we spend our very limited time. When you’re on your deathbed and think back to what you’ve done throughout your life, is it really satisfying to remember the fact that you only spent 1/5 of your life actually doing what you wanted to do?
After further reflection and continuous discussions with a number of people with different beliefs, I’ve concluded that money is a necessity and we may not be able to do what we want everyday, but the alternative is not optimal nor reasonable. Life doesn’t have to end when we get a job, though, further pursuing greater and better things should be a constant battle. Experimenting with new hobbies and continuously meeting new people will only broaden one’s horizons. Taking big risks can have big payoffs. Reading more and talking more can challenge even your most solid beliefs and change you frequently.
Personally, I wonder if I will ever be content with what I have – but rather than looking at this in a negative light, I have and will continue to take this frustrated energy and use it to my advantage by trying crazy new things and developing new passions and relationships. I attribute most of my success thus far to my wild ideas and sheer boredom experienced sitting at home wondering what to do next. Day-dreaming about another life where I live in a van in the arctic tundra will always be a fact and perhaps one day become a reality, but for now I take comfort in learning new things and challenging myself physically and intellectually everyday.