What makes you feel alive?
Why not much in life excites me anymore and why this is problematic.
I had two other subtitles I was thinking of using, but I feel they placed the source outside of myself, with other people and society at large, and while I will bring up these points later in this article, I aim to help people reclaim their sense of personal agency so that is the primary angle I will take.
Life should be invigorating. Yes, there is a fair amount of routine and the mundane, things we must do, but on the whole it should stimulate and energise you. When life doesn’t, we must ask, “what is the problem?” I’m not referring to temporary lulls or feeling a bit worn out, I’m referring to those more prolonged periods of low energy across general life which is akin to a depressive mood state.
“Sometimes I feel I’m in the ‘death & rebirth’ part of The Hero’s Journey except I’ve been stuck in the underworld too long.”
Over the years I’ve tried to reinvent myself a number of times. First I was an accountant, then I attempted the travel and liquor industries while being an actor (where I met one of my best friends). Throw in a couple more shots at accounting before stopping one hurdle shy of becoming a clinical psychologist, we are left here as Martyn the writer – and the closest I’ve ever felt to being me. Still, I’m constantly working through letting go of previous (and no longer relevant) iterations of me and this need to redeem myself (or is it a burden to exceed myself?) on a daily basis.
“Do I need to change and update myself or just find my people? Perhaps I don’t have somewhere I belong and should live as a hermit/recluse.”
I feel that the level of quality in society has dramatically reduced yet the quantity has rapidly increased and I deal with this by withdrawing away, for better or worse. Should I apologise for having high standards, morals, values and/or ideals? Everyone wants to play on easy mode and yet wants the rewards of completing the most difficult challenges. I don’t know, maybe I’m not challenging myself enough? Maybe it’s my individual differences; low energy/mood as a result of low extraversion, a history of depression, level of intelligence, detail orientated, idealism. The world has lost its spark/magic because there is nothing worth getting excited about (side note: that's what children are good for) and I'm not easily amused like so many people.
I feel like I’m in ‘No Man’s Land’ – is this where the individuals are to be found?”
The perpetual search for truth is said to be one of the most meaningful pursuits in life. French polymath Gustave Le Bon proclaimed: “The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduces them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” In this sense I’ve always felt like an animal who sticks out from the herd waiting to be picked off. I wouldn’t say it always makes me feel alive, but the life of the eternal rational inquirer (like Socrates) is one, if not the best, way of living a good and noble existence, which I try to emulate. New knowledge excites me, unearthing a nugget of wisdom or key to existence (in essence a key to myself) is the sine qua non of why and what I read. It seems fewer and fewer people read nowadays and those who do read primarily for leisure/pleasure, however, I don’t, I read with a purpose and any enjoyment I get is a by-product. I don’t claim to be doing it right, I just feel compelled to do it this way.
“I’ve always been a believer that if your life is boring, it’s because you are boring. Maybe I am boring, but on a journey to reclaim a sense of wonder, enthusiasm and joy for life.”
Here I will bring in those two other potential subtitles I said at the beginning that I might have run; how the monotony of life is numbing us into oblivion and why your life is boring and people are so bland now. Both I feel are accurate and relevant, however it externalises the control of my thoughts and feelings. While the plethora of on-demand entertainment has numbed us to existence like a drug addict and has made life appear uninteresting, I can still choose not to partake in it. People are uninspired at work and yet continue to turn up to the same job week in, week out and not put anything in plan to change it…I have. You can't plan spontaneity but you facilitate the environment to increase its likelihood. We’re novelty seeking creatures doped up to the eyeballs to make us not ask who we are.
“Socrates once said ‘beware the barrenness of a busy’, and that’s the thing, people’s lives are so busy now that their life is empty. Their boredom isn’t a result of nothing to do, but a deprivation of necessity.”
A reason I feel why people are so bland now is that the strive for individuality has made everyone the same. I realise the irony in this statement, but it seems society is full of PR robots with a lack of charisma. I mean isn’t that why the NPC meme flourished? (An abundance of uninteresting and unrememberable characters, where you could just swap out someone and no one would notice or care that they were gone). I bring this up because the world would be a better place if people knew and did what makes them feel alive (and more often). If you don’t know (or do) what makes you feel alive, you are going to live a boring life, which means you are boring person condemned to a bland and skin-deep existence.
“It saddens me that people don’t seem to want more for themselves, truly, but perhaps it is I who has it all wrong.”
I’ve never been able to convince myself of this Alan Watts quote, despite having a t-shirt with it on, “the meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” Why you may ask? Because I’ve always felt compelled (there’s that word again, compelled, from where does it originate? By whom/what?) to achieve beyond where I’m currently at, believing I’m capable of doing so. As the perennial high achiever, I’ve struggled in adulthood as it has not been obvious what needs to or should be done and what the outcomes will be. Sport and academia were great for this, but both are no longer a part of my life. As I said before maybe I just have problems letting go of useful versions of my past self. In a way I feel like I’m in a mentally confined purgatory, where I’m suffering because I’m not who I was and I’m not who I could be (yet).
Is a full system reset in order or do I need to just persevere? Either way, I know I won’t stay the same. The burden of great expectations has always weighed on me, it’s what has helped me strive forward and achieve, but what if they are hindering me now? Or maybe I’m not as strong or great or capable as I think I am? It feels I have the keys to unlock the lives of others, but not my own…not yet at least, it always feels like I’m on the cusp of a breakthrough.
So, what makes me feel alive? Well, I know what makes me feel dead, which is not the same thing, but it’s a start.