My perspective on existentialism has changed as I’ve gotten older.
Existentialism is pretty straight forward. Free will. Self-determinism. You alone have total control over my life.
For example, the fear I experience walking on the edge of a cliff is not of slipping and falling. It is the knowledge there’s nothing preventing me from jumping.
My biggest challenge with existentialism is its precept that life is basically meaningless.
In Groundhog Day, an ode to a existentialism, Bill Murray discovers his actions have no consequences. He makes immoral choices, he makes suicidal choices. They simply don’t matter.
Though both examples illustrate the inherent darkness of existentialism, neither hints at the other side of the coin, the limitless potential existentialism embraces.
I didn’t understand that side of the equation when I was younger.
Similarly, on my own journey, I have begun to appreciate my actions, reactions, and decisions that reflect my potential.
Professionally, I attributed success to anyone other than myself. I’d trace my job history back to my first “real” job after college, when I was hired by a friend of a family friend.
In my skewed logic I convinced myself I was hired as a favor. The next job I took, an opportunity that arose from my previous job, was therefore “tainted” and not a reflection of my accomplishments.
I was able to negate my successes in a heartbeat while fixating on the bad choices I made along the way.
Last week my oldest daughter, Zoey joined me in my therapy session. She’s 26 years old. It was her first time in a therapist’s office. Zoey being there was painful at times, but it was gratifying as well. It symbolized my daughter’s willingness to take an active role in rebuilding our relationship.
When we finished, I walked out, feeling pretty bad about myself. t was painful to hear someone that important to me, articulate the lack of connection she, and her sisters feel with me.
Over the weekend, I didn’t let my shame overwhelm me. I didn’t go into a tailspin. I didn’t drink or smoke myself numb. Or eat a pizza. I thought about the pain, the mistakes, a past etched in stone that will never be power-washed smooth.
I also thought about the hope I felt.
And that, my friends, is progress. That is the existential “anything is possible” potential.
I’m trying to break the habit of denying myself credit. I don’t know from where it stems. Changing that habit is a work in progress. In the meanwhile, I’m being mindful that where I am now, where I am going, are powerful reminders I choose my course.
So now, when I flip a coin, I no longer find myself saying, “heads you win, tails I lose”
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PS: If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, you should.