While I’m not suicidal (at the moment), those of you know me will know that I’m not jumping for joy about life itself either. By which I don’t mean “my life” in particular but rather “life” in general.
I think it all started with one of those angsty teenage “what is the purpose of life” moments (which I believe everyone should have) that ended up with me being unable to come up with any plausible answer.
I have pretty much concluded that there is no purpose whatsoever, and so, apart from religion which promises a thereafter (again a 50-50 bet in my view), I’ve always wondered why the people who have really hard lives, don’t make the decision to just stop. I guess we are hardwired to continue and killing oneself is not that easy either (I’m always more horrified for people who survive a suicide attempt than those who didn’t).
Anyway, thankfully, my life is not that hard and is rather nice. I don’t know yet what I would do if diagnosed with a debilitating disease etc. Part of me is very stubborn and hates being bested by circumstances so there’s no knowing actually.
But the point is, probably for the first time in my life since I was 16, I suddenly realized why I want to live.
And I also realized the problem hitherto was that all the normally touted reasons for living – finding the love of your life and getting married, having babies, seeing your babies grow up, having grandchildren etc – weren’t that appealing to me. I didn’t see them as worth continuing for oh 80 years for. I gave up on changing the world – a worthy cause – when I was a teenager (too cynical and too lazy, probably more of the latter).
But suddenly, the week before last actually, I realized in a blinding flash of insight that I wanted to live because there are so many things I want to do (I know, I know. Many of you probably already knew this) and that these might be worth continuing for because really, there isn’t enough time to do them with a fulltime job otherwise. That is, I could probably finish my list in say 10 years if I didn’t spend nine hours a day working and 10 hours sleeping (and the sleep is non-negotiable) though again, more might get added to it on the way.
So, the reasons I want to live are:
There are so many more books to read. I think this epiphany started with Ulysses (to all those cursing Joyce around the world, see? Some good can come of him too) but probably, further back, with that BBC booklist that I realized I hadn’t read much of. And then I realized that I really should read some Dickens, probably Great Expectations (abridged version is not enough, no matter what I keep telling myself).
And then there’s music. I’m only just getting over my disinterest in classical music (fostered ironically by my scary piano teacher) and starting to listen again. And that’s only Western classical.
I want to do some crafty-stuff like knit. Weirdly, I’m only inclined to knit scarf-like things so my friends and relatives are safe from me inflicting misshapen booties and bonnets on them. Also weirdly, knitting is the only crafty thing I can see myself doing. And maybe making a scrapbook.
I want to learn Tai Chi.
I want to learn a couple more languages. Probably German (inspired by the stopover en route to Italy and my conviction that German has got a bad rap as an ugly language) and maybe Portuguese. Don’t think I will ever banter in Cantonese but want to be able to order in the local tea joints.
I must develop a sense of style that I’m totally happy with. Sadly this needs money and so should take some time.
Oh yeah, and write a novel (this is why this list will take forever to complete)
And while I’m at it, why not travel. I think I’ve had my fill of Europe for the moment (!!) so maybe Africa or Mexico next time.
(Also, if I died, I’d miss V.)
Now, these sound like rather frivolous raison d’etres even to me. But the overarching umbrella is that there is no grand purpose to life, it’s just a nice experience (if you’re living my life that is). So wanting to read more books is as valid a purpose as any.
Which is fortunate because reading books, and sadly most of them inconsequential, seems to be a major chunk of what I do with my time. As I was telling V the other day, I have no time to get into other hobbies because my existing hobby takes up too much time. So he asked what my existing hobby is, and I said “reading” to which he snorted. But reading does count as a hobby in some people’s…erm, books.
The strange thing is that I believe going to Italy brought on this epiphany (and honestly, I haven’t felt this kind of sense of purpose no matter how trivial for at least a decade, before which I was on my “make the world a better place” crusade). I’m beginning to think there’s something magical about the place. And I’m not saying this because that Eat Pray Love woman said it (though it’s a fabulous book, you should go read it). Might be the tiramisu or the olive oil – but something about the food there and perfection of the cappuccinos makes you want to go on living. And then before you know it, you’re going hmmm la vita e bella.