Before you start worrying: I’m not suicidal or anything.
The post-breakup adjustment has been remarkably smooth. I sleep sprawled in a star shape on the bed, I walk around in my undies, and spend the week-ends canning and making spectacular progress on the ukulele. I wake up with a smile on my lips every morning.
But I’ve also been thinking, during all those days – hours, minutes, seconds, moments – that I’m in my own company – what’s the point of it all? I consider myself lucky in that, right now, I live for no one but myself. My life is dedicated to the sole purpose of providing my own enjoyment. I have no obligations towards anyone, no debts, no claims. No one depends on me, I depend on no one. No one needs me nor requires my company for comfort. (My mother would vehemently beg to differ right here, but she’s doing pretty well without seeing much of me already.) If I died tomorrow, virtually nothing in the world would change. No dog would curl up on my grave, pining for my warmth. The societal gap created by my absence would seal itself like skin tissue over a minor scratch. Life would go on without a hiccup.
I am, as it were, a completely expendable person.
As I said, I’m not suicidal. Nor am I soliciting pity (or, heaven forbid, friendship). I’m not lonely. I’m not depressed. I’m completely, genuinely free. That’s kind of great, actually, but at the same time, I can’t help feeling like a huge waste of space.
Lying stretched out diagonally across the bed last night, I was thinking why I was put on this beautiful Earth in the first place. What was my purpose, what was my mission? And then it dawned on me that perhaps there were none. After all, isn’t it nonsensical to assume that – in this inconceivably humongous universe – I have some sort of special task to fulfill? I thought about flies and their purpose in life. Now, I admit to knowing nothing about the emotional and intellectual life of flies, but to me, it looks like there’s hardly any purpose to flies other than as a group. One fly is wholly expendable, maybe even two, three, four, fifty flies. But six thousand, seven million, eight billion flies form an integral part of a complex ecosystem that would collapse if they were suddenly exterminated.
And then I thought that, perhaps, my purpose in life was akin to that of the humble fly. Perhaps, while there’s practically no value to me as a person, there’s value to me as a member of a community, a society – humanity. Perhaps the best I can do to justify the many privileges I’ve been born into is to not be ambitious about leaving a mark. But to stay true to myself as much as I can and to plough on, day after night after day, performing the million insignificant tasks that mean nothing here and now, but which might, in the grand scheme of things, and without my role ever being recognised or significant, contribute to something…
It made me realise just how important networks, communities, friendships are. And it reminded me of the words someone once wrote me, which went something along the lines of the following:
Some people will do things to make you happy,
Some people will do things to make you sad,
Some people will do things because they want to be like you,
Others will do things because they want to avoid your mistakes.
And so you’ll find yourself changing the world just by being a part of it.
And if you’re a good person, it will change for the better.
Society is the vehicle for our many talents. After all, no one, ever, has achieved anything entirely on their own. We all build upon the foundations erected by those who came before us, we all feed on the setting created by those who surround us.
I’ve always longed to be special, to be unforgettable. To be loved or hated – it doesn’t matter which – like no one has ever been loved or hated before. The fact is – and I’m honestly not asking for contradictions here – that I’m not.
Coming to terms with my own insignificance wasn’t easy. But it was, in the strangest of ways, comforting.