***Note: I wrote this on Monday, October 30, 2017, the day before leaving my home in Michigan to go on my next journey. Then things got busy. Might as well give you what I have to offer.***
The year 2017 has been a wild one up through October. So far:
- I stopped teaching
- Started a new career in Content Management and SEO Specialization
- Moved in with my partner
- Hung out with several wonderful dogs and cats
- Moved to Europe
- While there, I saw (and occasionally photographed) ancient and incredible
Then I went home in October. I have been running around like a wild man these last few weeks. I have attended two weddings, one in New York and the other in Florida. I saw friends and family who I have only been able to communicate with via texts and video calls for months. Plus, most importantly, I saw my dog.
I had been so busy, I barely got to relax with the people I like best in the world. We rushed off to a party, or to a brunch or a flight or a dinner or…you get the idea.
The best day at home was the day before my last day in town. My brother took the day off. We did our own thing (I played video games while he watched a show), we had a meal together, we went rock climbing, and we got a chance to have a long chat. I felt at home.
I have gone East to Europe and back home. Tomorrow I head South to Central America.
A friend sent me the following video today. Then another friend posted it. Alright world, I can take a hint.
This sparked many ideas for me. Let’s get deep.
The maker’s of this video call the concept “Optimistic Nihilism”. Although life can appear meaningless and chaotic, “we might as well be happy…If this is our one shot at life, there is no reason not to have fun and live as happy as possible; bonus points if you help others.” These ideas resemble Absurdism and Existentialism to me, at least partially.
Let’s go there.
Existentialism is “a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will”. To me, this means exploring what it means to choose one’s own life, then taking those choices as important reflections of the one who makes them.
I had to revisit my decision to live abroad. Were there valuable things to see outside my country? Would I be able to balance exploration (internal and external) with professional growth? Could I manage relationships authentically and deeply though I would be doing so remotely?
This existential exploration is a big reason I left teaching at the beginning of this year (edit: 2017). There was so much unexplored territory in terms of work and professionalism that I could not experience if I had remained to teach. It has been fascinating to learn more about motivation and engagement – topics which have interested me since I was a kid caught up in doing challenging/unappealing workouts – from a business perspective.
I try to constantly reevaluate my life, my choices, and my direction. I have found that these existential musings are not always pretty, but I find that I have a more complex understanding of the world. Whether or not this understanding is accurate is up for debate.
The dictionary defines absurdism as “intentionally ridiculous or bizarre” and “the belief that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe”. This seems to be understanding the world and one’s place in it as being without meaning.
Robert Heinlein’s character Valentine Michael Smith, raised separately from life on Earth, exclaimed “I’ve found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts so much . . . because it’s the only thing that’ll make it stop hurting.” Or as my mom would say, “laughing into oblivion”. Both of these quotes sum up Absurd Existentialism and Optimistic Nihilism for me.
I find the human existence at times to be uncaring, harsh, and often chaotic. I have seen poverty at levels unimaginable in most places in the United States (outside of Skid Row). [Update: there are several teenagers huffing their brains away in Parque Central Xela, Guatemala where I live. There are kids shining shoes in shabby clothes.]
However, I think there is a chance to bring order, pleasure, understanding, comfort and if possible a few laughs into existence. Some goals I have for my writing are to entertain, provide a deeper understanding of the world, and offer some humor (except with this post, deal with it).
A purpose can be as simple as “better understanding people” Or “better understanding how to speak another language” or “make a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich” (when I discovered the triple decker PB&J, I felt like Copernicus).
Developing a purpose is an important pursuit that may take years and several revisions. That is okay. Difficult things can be good things. Important goals are rarely easily reached.
That picture is of a work displaying the Greek Myth of Sisyphus. In brief, Sisyphus is condemned to constantly roll a boulder up a mountain. When he and the boulder approach the summit, the boulder rolls down the mountain. Then he must repeat his task.
This defines the absurd human struggle according to Albert Camus. Man constantly must toil at work that seems to never be accomplished.
The most important part of this myth that this photo/artwork capture is after the boulder has rolled down and Sisyphus is left at the top looking down at the boulder, smiling. Though his task is absurd to the point of lacking value, he smiles at the opportunity to bring value to it in the process.
Waking up sometimes feels like looking down at that boulder – at my agenda for the day: accomplish writing tasks, source new work, complete another workout, eat healthily, accomplish as much as I can, produce, produce, produce. However, I also know it hasn’t gotten the best of me yet and I smile.
I hope for more chances to laugh at the chaotic tragedy of existence, then get back working on my purpose. Day by day, that is the goal.
So I leave tomorrow to continue building my “utopia in the stars.” Though there are “billions of stars to visit,” I have found that there are so many worlds to explore right here on Earth. The next worlds I plan to explore are in Latin America.
I honestly don’t know how long this digital nomad traveling escapade will continue, but there is definitely more to see in the world and learn about myself.
I hope to keep experiencing new forms of happiness. I hope to keep making a solid effort to improving my life and better understanding the world. I will keep making efforts to understand people better and brighten their day with a smile, a good conversation, or a well-placed pun.
Much to do!
Here’s to new adventures, more happiness, and laughing into oblivion!