My life has no meaning.
Piddling, I know.
So here’s the deal: I’m a college student in my second year, just turned 19, still living with mom. She won’t let me get a car, so I’m forced to rely on her every morning for a ride. Etc. and so forth.
For the last year-ish I’ve felt this ache to do something with my life. And I don’t just mean get a degree. Here’s the question that keeps repeating itself in my head: what would happen if I died tomorrow? How would the world be any different for my having lived? Sure, people would be sad. But in the end, I would be just another antisocial college student with a penchant for Doritos. I’m acutely aware of the fact that I could die at any time. Like tomorrow, for instance. And what would have been the purpose, the drive, behind my living? I don’t want to die without first having lived. I don’t mean traveling or going to clubs or having fun. I mean…I don’t even know what I mean. Living deliberately, I guess is what I’m trying to say. Living life like it’s a joy instead of a burden. Not feeling tired even though I slept fine during the night. Feeling complete and fulfilled instead of just…feeling nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a fantastic life. Since I’m getting a free ride through college due to scholarships, my mom lets me stay at home rent-free. Most of the day when I’m not in class I’m either reading or surfing the Dope. I know I shouldn’t be whining about how easy I have it. But there has has to be more to life, hasn’t there? I’ve been volunteering at various places since I was in high school, but it’s always felt more like a tiresome burden. What can I do to feel…complete? What do I have to do to feel like my life has a purpose, a meaning?
Yes, there is more to life. Way more. There is meaning, there is crazy fun, there are all kinds of great things out here in the real world. Cool houses, awesome cars, parties, vacations, food, sex, what have you. The kicker, though, is that the more you earn, the more fun you can have. Unfortunately, in today’s world, and even moreso tomorrow’s world, you can’t really earn much without a college degree. I’m sure all kinds of people will come along and tell about how they make a trillion dollars per annum and they dropped out of school in the eighth grade, but that story’s getting rarer and rarer. The market pretty much demands at least a bachelor’s.
Cool your jets. Stay in school. You’ll have plenty of time after you get out to have fun and find meaning, plus you’ll have more money with which to do it. Read a lot of books and live vicariously in the meantime.
Hey, you could volunteer. Most cities with a university should have some kind of mentoring/big brother program, and they’re usually clamoring for men… I bet you would like it.
Even though this is a pitch out of the strike zone, I’ll take a hack at it with some unconnected thoughts…
Life is more like a humanities problem than an engineering problem. There are few defined criteria and no right or wrong answers. Yet there are stronger and weaker answers.
You’re 19 and you’re asking yourself exactly the right questions at that age. The answers will come fairly naturally. You don’t need to be anxious or push.
Life has a way of telling you what your talents are and how you can make a contribution. Just be loose and do things. Your “self-esteem” (for lack of a better term) will lead you in the right direction.
If you think of humanity as a big scaffold, there are plenty of different ways to contribute to the overall project. You can stand on the highest level and construct a new piece at the top, or you can be buttressing the base, or you can be doing maintenance anywhere in between. You can be curing cancer, or building laboratories, or cleaning the floors in the laboratories, or fixing the car of the guy who cleans the floors in the laboratories. All of these roles are valuable to the collective project.
If you’re the type of person that needs gratification by feedback, try working with kids.
Write down all your ideas. Most of it will be worthless, even embarrassing to read later on, but there might be some little nugget of invention in all of it that turns out to be really useful later. I know some have slipped through my fingers, and I can’t get them back.
You’re worried about living a meaningless life, yet aren’t saying what meaning you intend to be able to impart on the world. From that I’m guessing that you don’t have any goal in life beyond doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing at any moment.
And remember that the easier a time you have in your education and connections, the less excuse you have for having done less with your life. By all rights, you should be able to accomplish way more than everyone else, so you’re just slacking if you aren’t working towards just that.
Time to cut the umbilical cord there, buddy. You won’t find those answers you’re looking for until you do.