Answering “abstract” questions is really really hard. I am referring to the types of identity-challenging questions that a) have no clear answer and b) are extremely difficult to talk about with any form of practicality.
I am talking about these types of questions…the ones adults tend to ask you when they have nothing else to talk about:
“What do you want to do in life?”
We all must wrestle with these types of prompts, yet very few of us truly have absolute conviction in our answers. I would also argue that most adults cannot answer these questions thoroughly.
Though – perhaps a bit of unsettled anxiety and uncertainty is healthy. Should we ever become absolutely confident in our responses?
In a conversation I had yesterday, the person I was speaking with brought up a very interesting thought that I’d like to further explore…He said that most everyone is dealing with these types of abstract thoughts. Everyone is wrestling with these questions here and there.
It is not unique to be struggling to decide how you should spend your time. It is not unique to not know what you want to do for the next 10 years.
The hack is that no one does.
The misalignment and mistakenly-existential crisis is that we are all attempting to apply “rational frameworks” to irrational situations. We are trying to apply formulas to emotions. We are trying to simulate feelings and behaviors that come from our gut – our biology.
I thought this was an interesting take…and what I find most powerful is acknowledging the idea that some of life, in fact in my mind a good portion, is not scientific in nature.
Much of it is abstract…gooey…and hard to understand.
And that is okay!
It does not mean we give up on these types of questions. Rather, it means we get comfortable with them quickly. It means we recognize their inherent difficulty, but nonetheless think deeply about them.
No…we do not know the purpose of life and death. We do not know what love means. We do not know what god means.
But we can still think. It is our job to!
It means we bring them up among our friends. We challenge these types of prompts. We write about them. Analyze them.
But at the end of the day…we temporarily accept them.
Much of life is evolving, rapidly moving, and impossible to keep up with.
And that, too, is okay.
It feels irrational to have rational answers to irrational questions.
It is irrational to “have figured out life.”
Life is massive! Life is infinite! One would say life is impossible to have figured out entirely.
We are always asked “do you know what you want to do with your life?”
No…I don’t. And I do not really plan to. I know what I want to do today and part of tomorrow. I have some plans for the next few months…but enough with the master plans.
The plans are there for your comfort – they are not actually valuable for you. They are a coping mechanism designed to support you. They are there to give you supposed relief even though they will probably fall through.
How helpful is a 5 year plan?
I think it depends on the person but for me, very distracting and not very applicable.
Concluding this essay with the following note: no I do not know my five year plan. No I do not know what I am going to “do with my life.”
Also published on Medium.