The quarter-life crisis continued…

On my last post, I posed the following questions:

1.      What is the real world for you? Do you fit in it?

2.      What are you striving for? Have you attained it? Are you happier for it?

3.      What does it mean to “be present?”

Though I can’t say I’ve fully answered the questions myself, I will attempt to answer them in the next few hundred words.

1. I’ve decided I haven’t joined what most people would consider the “real world.” My first year and a half after college has consisted of a) being in the Navy working half days in San Diego without any real responsibility and b) running away to Cairo to teach English literature (my major was International Affairs).

It doesn’t really make sense to me that the real world is something you eventually enter and never leave. Why do people accept that they should enter cubicle nation and spend the rest of their lives living for the weekend and a few weeks of vacation time a year? There’s nothing wrong with that and if that life turns out to be a happy one, more power to you. However, to feel depressed because one hasn’t achieved the lifestyle of this so called real world seems absurd to me. If that is the real world, what world am I in now?

2. I’m striving to control my time. I haven’t attained this yet. Right now I still spend about 40-45 hours a week working as a teacher. If I decided to stop going, my income gets cut off. This is ultimately the cause of most of my unhappiness.

I don’t mean to be insensitive to those that don’t have the blessing of a having a paying job, but having to go to work kind of sucks. The thought of joining the “real world” and having to do this for the rest of my life depresses me immensely.

3. Being present means paying attention to now. If you were to calculate how much time you spent thinking about the future (what am I going to do this weekend, when’s my next vacation, etc) it would probably add up to at least a few hours per day. Those few hours a day could be spent enjoying a book, having coffee with your friends, taking a walk, or working on fun projects. Being present means making a commitment to reality; not hypothetical escapes from it.

Ok, enough abstract posts. The next one will be about my first Egyptian wedding.




5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by benoit mandelbrot on October 31, 2010 at 2:49 am

    1. as far as i’m concerned, the real world is anytime i’m awake. i don’t think there’s much benefit in worrying about what most people normally do (in terms of their job) and comparing yourself to that. if you eventually find yourself in a cubicle, like most people, that doesn’t mean that whatever you did before that wasn’t real, or didn’t have an effect on you as a person or the people you know. one aspect of “being present” is this consciousness that you exist in the world, and not worrying about how what you do corresponds to your own understanding of some vague societal concept of a “real world” that you aren’t a part of yet. since your world and the real world are the same concept, you don’t have to fit in. you are in.

    2. time can’t be controlled. it can’t be saved or spent. it happens whether you want it to or not. and you can’t change what has happened, so it’s not much use wondering about what might have been if only you had done something differently. another aspect of “being present” is a lack of consciousness of time – not thinking about what you should/could/would/will be doing.

    3. in this sense, being present means interacting with your immediate environment, mostly through your senses, without being too reflective or analytical. basically, it means not thinking to much. i don’t know that it requires a “commitment to reality”. as i mentioned before, you are already part of reality, and the only escape from it is death. if being present is a desired state, (something that you think is more worthwhile than thinking or planning for the future), it’s more than a bit ironic that you follow your first thought with a proposed plan for how you might better utilize your time in the future. in fact this whole post seems like a bit of a “hypothetical escape” from reality.

    but who’s to say that being present all the time would be a good thing? reflection, analysis, introspection, and even the occasional bit of planning are good things, in my opinion.


    • 1. Agree

      2. I understand that time will continue to pass regardless of what I do with it. 9AM will become 10AM no matter what (until 2012 that is). However, this does not mean we don’t have any control over how we perceive 9AM – 10PM. If you are engaged in some really boring activity, like filing TPS reports, 9AM-10PM will seem extremely slow. On the other hand, if from 9AM-10PM you are partaking in an activity you enjoy, you probably won’t notice it go by. You will be “present.”

      3. I never meant to suggest that one shouldn’t leave time to pause and reflect on the present or future. In fact, constant reflection and examination of your own life is crucial to your sense of well being. What you should be avoiding is excessive reflection on the future without taking action to either a) enjoy and be present, or b) changing your current circumstances in the present so that your future would become your reality. Daydreaming in fact could be a jumping off point for useful and actionable introspection.

      Thanks for the comments. You’re like the second non family member to post something.




  2. I’m sure if you work for it, you won’t have to join the depressing work life most people have.

    I’m also completely agree with your third point. I never though about calculating the time I think about the future (or the past), but you’re right, we should also spend time taking actual steps to make the imagined future come true.


  3. Sorry about the typos….


  4. Posted by Linda on November 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I don’t think anyone looks at the next 30 years of work and says, “Whoopee!” I’m so excited I get to do this day in and day out..mmmm…taking time to contemplate that 30x50x5…I only have 7,500 more days to go! I look at it as trying to add some value to the world. Working allows me to give money away, do things with my kids, and support our government (just joking on the last one!). Part of living in the present is to make value out of what you have in front of you to do. I don’t necessarily like scooping 4 cat litters daily, but I am giving a home to 5 cats who might otherwise have been euthanized. Yes, the grind gets tiring. Yes, it gets frustrating. But it’s also very rewarding. Nothing worth doing is ever without effort. I also think “real life” not about work. It’s about relationships. How do you affect those around you? How do you add value to their lives. And in turn, what value do you receive because of it? Work is just a means to support enjoying your relationships. My first class of first graders are now freshman in college! I hope they feel they got something out of their relationship with me as their teacher. Real life is how you affect those around you and the world regardless of what you are doing.


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