Tabitha’s search for meaning

by Tabitha Kidwell

I just got back from a great week spent in San Francisco visiting my friend Katie and cousin Jimmy. I had originally bought the tickets with the intention of visiting the grad programs at Stanford and UC Berkeley, but as I researched more in the meantime, I realized neither program was quite right for me. So I went on long, exploratory runs, ate Indonesian food with Katie, and got drinks with Jimmy, but mostly spent my time wondering “why am I here?”

I’ve been having thoughts like that a lot recently. Without a whole lot to fill my time, I often end up wondering about the meaning of life. Not in a suicidal or depressed kind of way, just in a general, perplexed manner. If I were working, I would say my life was focused on improving the lives of my students or making something meaningful with my colleagues. Married people can say it is about building a relationship and a life together. People with kids can devote their lives to their children. But I don’t have any of those things. As someone who is unemployed and lives with her parents, what, exactly, is the point of me?

I realize this is a very Anglo-Saxon, protestant-work-ethic kind of problem. I should just chill out and watch all five seasons of Breaking Bad already. I’m trying to cure myself of this nagging, self-doubting affliction through careful deployment of French wine, Indian food, and Latin American novels. But what appears to work best is finding things to do that remotely resemble work. It seems that am a work-a-holic who needs to define myself by my work, and my drug has been cut off. So I’ve tried to find substitutes, like helping with my sisters wedding preparations, researching grad schools, and running my credit history.

But the truth is, I’ve been so stressed out by having nothing to do that I haven’t gotten much done. It seems like I’ve been home a long time, but today only marks two months since I arrived home from Indonesia. That makes me feel better about not really doing anything besides getting my head on straight. Two months seems like an appropriate amount of time to do that. The “return culture shock” has been harder this time than in the past – I spent the first few weeks confused and intimidated by life in America, then I embraced it, then I rejected it (remember when I was going to move to El Salvador?), then I basically went into hiding and felt overwhelmed by the crushing amount of free time. But now I feel more like myself. I feel capable and powerful. Today, in a bit of a maniac rush, I made a profile on an online English teaching website, set up visits to 4 grad schools, and pounded out a first draft of my Statement of Purpose. So now I have a purpose. Once I revise it, I’ll tell you what it is. Maybe I’ll throw the meaning of life in there as a bonus, too!

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