Existential Crisis

One major drawback of doing life alone is that I think about myself quite a lot.  By that I mean that I do a lot of introspection because my attention isn’t distracted from myself towards meeting someone else’s needs.  I also try to reality check myself a lot because I don’t have anyone else to depend on for that.  All of this opportunity for introspection, especially as I find my new path in life, is usually a good thing.  Usually, but not always.

Take this past week, for example.  This past week, I had an existential crisis.  That’s why it’s been a week since my last post.  It sort of came out of nowhere and caught me by surprise and I had to wade my way through it before I could get back to normalcy.

By the time last Monday rolled around, we were on our tenth day of quarantine.  I still had my kindergarten kids coming for classes but my usual long and hectic work days were reduced to me teaching for an average of two academic hours each day, sometimes even one.  I had done all of my post-quarantine lesson prep the week before so by last Monday, I felt at loose ends.  It was at that point that it occurred to me that there’s no sphere of my life where I’m absolutely necessary or irreplaceable.  Stick with me, this isn’t a shame spiral or self-pity rant.  It’s a realistic look at my life.

I’m a teacher of English as a foreign language and I work at a language school in a far-flung city in a Russian republic.  Based on the feedback that I’ve been getting from my superiors, I seem to be excelling at my job.  This is great feedback for me as a teacher.  It feels good to know that I’m doing my job well, and I keep looking for ways to improve.  However, I don’t fool myself by thinking that I’m irreplaceable at my job.  Any other reasonably good teacher could step into my shoes tomorrow and do, at a minimum, a good job too.  So as much as I love my job, my company and my kids, I know where I stand.

In addition to being a teacher, I also consider myself to be a blogger because, well, I’ve been writing this blog consistently for over two years now, with only one extended break in transmission since I started; that was for a couple of months early in last year while I was idling around Jamaica looking for my next adventure.  I think that my consistency here speaks to my seriousness about this responsibility.  And I do see it as a responsibility because as I was fighting for every step up Mount Kilimanjaro two years ago, I prayed to God to use my story for someone’s benefit.  In order for that to happen, I had to share my story, and that’s what I’ve been doing multiple times a week since then.

But I barely have five people who consistently read what I have to say.  So I started asking myself last Monday if what I have to say is really all that compelling.  How am I different from the millions of other bloggers out there who think that what they have to say is also of utmost importance?  I came to the conclusion that I’m likely not that different at all.

This was when the existential crisis really hit me like a tonne of bricks.  When I looked at these two major areas of my life – the areas that mean the most to me because they are where I invest most of my productive energy – and realised that I’m highly replaceable in both of them, I think I went into some kind of shock or something.  It was as if I had been driving my SUV (my preferred vehicle) down the highway of life at my usual I-mean-business speed then the engine just stopped running and the vehicle screeched to a halt right there in the middle of the highway.  I felt as if the colour was leeching out of my life and leaving nothing but grey.  It was disconcerting, to say the least, since I’m usually a fairly energetic and colourful person and I didn’t see it coming at all.

I tried to rationalise it but nothing that I told myself helped.  I prayed over it and I could hear God saying was, “Hang in there,” but I kept asking, “Why?  Hang in there for what?  What’s the point?”  But you know that God doesn’t explain Himself to anyone so I didn’t get an answer to those questions.  By Wednesday, I was tired of going around in circles in my mind and I knew that if I didn’t do something about it, I’d end up depressed.   Since I’m not about that life, I decided to share my conundrum with a friend.

My friend pointed out to me that I was probably silently freaking out and becoming overwhelmed about a new project that I feel strongly that I should be taking on, when the work to get it done will be monumental but the payoff is not guaranteed.  As soon as she said it, I knew she was right.  This new thing loomed threateningly in my mind in a way that Mount Kilimanjaro or Gunung Rinjani never did.  Part of it was that those things depended solely on me while this new thing will depend a lot on goodwill of others.  The other part of the problem was that I’ve poured my heart and soul into the things I do now and I’m still not making a particularly important impact; this new thing is immeasurably far beyond those other things I’m already doing.

But my friend reminded me that I’m a confident woman who has shown that I can do whatever I set my mind to; that I’m not exactly typical, which is a strength; and that I’ll probably have to use different means that are outside of my comfort zone in order to get my project done but that I have to take my shot.  She managed to stop my freak out but I still felt lost and not sure how to get the SUV of my life started again.  I decided to take the rest of the week off from everything except my actual contractual job in order to allow my mind to process everything it needs to process so that I could get my SUV started again.

So here I am.  By the end of my weeklong existential crisis, I had come to the understanding that everyone is actually replaceable in their own lives to some degree.  But I started to see that the important thing is that I excel where I’m planted so I know, when it’s time for me to be replaced, that I’ve left everything I’ve got on the floor and held nothing back.  Even if I am replaceable, I can also be unforgettable.

Then came my birthday yesterday and God gifted me with a truly awesome day that reinforced this perspective on being unforgettable in the place where I’m planted.  I’ll tell you about it next time.

Meanwhile, I know that my friend is right; I would regret it if I didn’t take my shot at this new thing.  This is why I’ve made some decisions, one of which is that I’m cutting back on writing this blog.  Effective today, I’ll publish a new post once a week on Mondays at 7:05 am EST.  This is mainly because the time and attention that I need to put into this new project has to come from somewhere and this is it.  I don’t think anyone, except God and me, knows how much thought and effort I put into this two-year old baby of mine but I do know that it’s time for me to refocus some of that thought and effort into a new thing.

Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19.

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