Well, my news feed has gotten depressing again.
Threats are being slung back and forth by every which country, the president has failed on every aspect of his 100-day plan and may actually be clinically insane, YouTube’s struggle with advertisers threatens to hurt the careers of many young creatives (thank god for Patreon), and I’m currently living in that weird ‘Seasonal Depression’ Limbo where color and light are returning to the land but rain and allergies prevent me from enjoying them. Long story short: total crap-sack.
Whenever I get like this, I can always count on a bunch of friends and family to send me a bevy of links to pages talking about how to stay happy and positive. And while I do appreciate how much those people do for me in that regard and love them for it, it’s ultimately unnecessary. I’ve spent over 25 years fighting depression, I’ve gotten REALLY good at it, and I’d like to see people take care of themselves instead of babying my big, hairy backside.
So, what’s my secret? Well, as I hinted at in a previous article, I’m a proponent of Albert Camus’s philosophy of ‘The Absurd Hero’ and the idea that life is just a chaotic, meaningless, hot mess that’s structurally shaped to have no purpose other than that which we choose to make for ourselves. It’s a pessimistic – maybe even nihilistic worldview, but it’s one that has the power to release you from your own self-imposed constraints. Once you stop freaking out about how devoid of anything your life is by default, you start to realize just how much of your own meaning you can fill it with. It’s a blank canvas for you to create your LITERAL life’s work.
For example, I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook. One day, a very sweet girl, posted pictures of her new outfit and make-up. Me, being the huge nerd I am, geeked out telling her cool I thought she looked because her thin but athletic frame made her look like Envy from Full Metal Alchemist. It was only long after I posted it that my ‘normie-filter’ switched back on and said, “you just compared a really cute girl to a shapeshifting, gender-fluid, boy in a skirt, you clod.” But, much to my relief, it turned out that she identified as androgynous and that was the highest compliment anyone had ever paid her. The fact that she was so happy after that lifted me up with her. That’s the meaning – the purpose – I prescribe to my life; to lift others up to heights above me that I can bask in their joy.
The important thing to remember in all of this is that happiness is not an eternal reward like we’re often taught it is. Instead, it’s a constant struggle to shape the nothing of your chaotic life into something you can love. I expect positivity to fade with time. And, in an odd way, it needs to in order to remind us to appreciate the joy we have.
As for all of the negativity we experience, that’s just the struggle of other people trying to shape their own purposeful lives bleeding into ours and the sabre-rattling of people trying to reconcile their differences of purpose. It sucks, but that’s why my, “it’s my job to make as many people happy as I can,” goal is so important to me; because it enriches my life as much as it does theirs.I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone. And that’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be.
I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone and I can certainly spread that peace of mind to as many people as I can. That’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be to get the job done. And when it is done, well, it’s time for some rest before moving on to the next one.
Struggle and fulfillment. Dark and light. Negative and positive. Life isn’t a box of chocolates, Forrest. It’s a two-stroke combustion engine; the day you give up on your struggle is the day you stop gassing it up.