In my high school English class freshman year, we started each day with a journal writing inspired by whatever prompt the teacher put on the board. We did this every day for the entire year and even though I’ve forgotten 99% of the prompts, there’s one I haven’t forgotten and I doubt I ever will. The writing theme for that day was, “What is your biggest fear?” Now, on the surface, the first thing that comes to mind for me is spiders, heights, and the Colonel from a KFC commercial like 2 years ago. It’d be easy to write about those things, but at that time I wanted to delve a little deeper like any angsty teenager would. So I wrote about my real fear, the one that used to (and still does sometimes) keep me up at night. I wrote about my fear of being forgotten. I described my worry that, one day, after I’m gone, there will be nothing left of me and it will be as though I never existed. I was afraid of not being important enough to be remembered.
At that time I didn’t have the emotional awareness to know what exactly made me so fearful, but 12 years and a solid amount of therapy later, I think I’m finally able to articulate what exactly is so scary. I’m afraid of the impermanence of life. The earth was here long before me and (fingers crossed because some people are working their hardest to prevent this) will go on for a long time after me. Each day life is brought into the world, and life exits the world as well. Of the billions who have lived before me, only an incredibly select few are still remembered. How can something so short and fleeting contain any importance or meaning in the grand scheme of things, if there even is a meaning to be had?
As I’ve grown up and done my own research, an interesting school of thought caught my eye as potential answer to this question. Nihilism, rationalizes that life, in fact, is meaningless and who you are and what you do means nothing and that man is just a futile being floating on a big rock in the midst of an endless space. Being completely honest, in my lower points of life, this has seemed like maybe the most understandable and rational explanation. In all other points of my life though, I’m unable to accept the blunt meaningless of it all in the eyes of Nihilists. To me, there are so many unexplainable and beautiful things in this world that negate that sense of futility. Now, if you disagree with Nihilism, then you must admit that at least something in life matters.
I’m not going to assume everyone’s views on the meaning of life are the same, but I think I’ve come up with mine that might relate to a few of you. To me, the most incredible thing in this world is love and kindness and the relationships they allow us to form. Whether that love is romantic, platonic, or familial, the feeling of sharing that with another person is second to none. With that, I believe that in the world, there is a level of net happiness, and each of us contributes in a way to this net. Some, depending on their position in life, have the ability to affect this more than others.
In my opinion, each person has an important role in this world. Each of us should strive to leave this place a little better than it was when we came into it. Regardless of how minute the improvement might be, that is unimportant. I believe the important part is our attempt in doing so. Those of us who may never obtain levels of influence that allow us to affect the net happiness on a grand scale, still have the ability to approach each day with the intention of improving it on an individual level, to each person we interact with. If you have the ability to make just one person happier on any given day than they would have been without your interaction, you’ve done your part. We’re each endowed with an incredible ability to increase the level of happiness in the world. Even though it may be on a small scale, its in now way a small act.
Odds are, in 200 years, no one will know our names. We’ll join the long list of names before us to come into this world and leave it only to disappear in the sands of time. I guess what I’ve come to realize is that’s unimportant. What is important is our ability to affect the here and now and be remembered in each moment as someone who tried to make a difference. I believe trying is the most important part of all.