Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The official student newspaper of Methodist Ladies' College, est. 2020

The Purgatorial Existence

Fair warning: if you’re expecting this to be a story about Halloween, I’m sorry. It’s really not.

Every year, around the sanctified date of All Hallows Eve, the shivering hull of a ghost rises up from the pumpkin patch and traverses asphalt roads in search of unsuspecting young children to terrorize.

For me, my October visitor was the backhanded remark of a fellow collegian. There were a few signs that marked this auspicious day: the blurriness I was experiencing from lack of sleep, glasses and water, as well as stumbling into two of my teachers and being reminded of the English homework that was burning a hole in my hippocampus…

But the horror of those misfortunes was quickly overshadowed by these next few words that sent a shiver ricocheting down every vertebrae of my spine.

“When I feel stressed, I remember that I am a speck of dust in the infinite universe, and who I am and what I do does not matter.”

When the test started, I frantically began burning my way through inches of pencil lead scribbling about pheromones. However, I could not ignore the Tartarus deep pit that had settled into my stomach, the perfidious demon of existential crisis. “However, there are many issues associated with pheromone research…insignificant dot in the perpetual motion train tracks of the cosmos…many studies lack ecological validity as they use greater concentrations than naturally found…estranged figure bound but bootless in the brilliance of the space-time continuum…”

I left the room feeling cold and clammy.

Beneath the burnished auburn sky and the fiery infernal sun, the sound of my footsteps could have shattered glass. Everything was a cacophony of screeching crows; silence shattered my eardrums; the world turned over in black haze; clarity stung like red hot needles.

Brimstone rain pounded ceaselessly on the ground. I swung my head in all directions, desperate for an escape. I found it in the saintly block of electrical wiring in my pocket. Went on Instagram; whiled away my time; returned home dejected at having wasted said time; forced to lift my head for my parents and brother at dinner. “What was the point of it all?” I asked Quora.

And that was when I realised: to live is to suffer.

Now, that was an overdramatized version of what could reasonably be called a crappy afternoon. Not because anything happened, but because I happened to myself. I was running for my life like Alice in Wonderland but getting nowhere; running on empty gas and willpower, which drained out like bubble tea after a rough school day.

Step out onto the street and breathe in the crystalline Melbourne air. Smile to yourself at the sheer pleasure of it all. Now look around. Is anyone smiling with you?

You see people in a hurry. Always in a hurry, but never on time. You see people with frowns on their faces, lines creasing their forehead, trapped in their title, their job position, their success. There are also people laughing jovially but will later return to their room and become dejected because they are alone- loneliness makes you think, which makes you dwell on the past.

According to a Quora user, there are two types of suffering.

Suffering due to regret. Recall the times you’ve failed: perhaps that important test, or that assignment you procrastinated, or maybe you’ve felt like you could have achieved more in the time you’ve had. You know that you could have avoided these things: studied more diligently, gotten rid of distractions, read more books…

These are the things that come to you when you’re lying in bed at night, trapped in the ocean of rumination. They truly suck!

Suffering due to the process. Recall your successes: making your friends laugh, speaking that first line of a new language to a native, getting that coveted A+. Wish you could sink in that feather soft bed of contentment for the rest of your life? Nah man. You get something else: you get used to it. You want more; you struggle more. You refill your lamp with midnight oil and trudge into the dark mists of mount impossible.

But here is the difference: as you suffer with the process, you suffer with purpose. You feel pain, but this pushes you forward as you look to your goal. Your six years in high school are for your final exams, but nobody lives for the moment you get your results. They live for the experience: the highs and lows, the laughter and tears, any other trite adage that is hackneyed because of its truth.

Now we come to Quora’s good news: “You can choose your damn suffering! Now take up some damn responsibility and fix small things in your life.” Pick things that when accomplished will push you forward!

Often, we do not realize when we are sabotaging ourselves from contentment. Here is my advice: start realizing. Self-care isn’t an excuse to leave off that homework because you’re too stressed to start; self-care is starting that homework so that later on, you are rewarded with a vial of contentment.

“You have a choice, choose wisely, live well!”


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