Monday, March 16, 2009

What now?

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of sharing a leisurely lunch and long chat with my dear friend Yang. Over Friday's Mushroom Chicken Mushroom, we touched on many topics ranging from the price of dark chocolate lip butter to the lack of a Philippine constitutional right to privacy. But the one thing we discussed in depth that stayed on my mind even after we'd polished off our Snickers custard parfaits was the existential angst both of us are undergoing at this point in our lives, succinctly summed up by Yang's self-posed question, "What now?"

I don't know if there's an official term for this "What now?" stage, but I should think it's more common
among yuppies in their late 20s to early 30s than anyone has recognized or acknowledged. We're certainly too old for it to qualify as quarterlife crisis, and certainly too young to call it midlife crisis. How best to refer to that feeling of lethargic dissatisfaction that slowly consumes someone who has achieved all his/her short-term goals and has a stable, even flourishing, career? It's like being stuck in a rut, but in a perfectly nice, comfortable rut. Then you wake up one morning and ask yourself, "Is this all there is?" You really have no reason to complain, yet you know you have to find something, anything to challenge yourself and propel your life forward, or risk stagnation or brain atrophy.

Case in point: For as long as she can remember, Yang wanted to become a lawyer, and everything she did from college onward was oriented toward fulfilling her dream. She passed the Bar, worked in corporate law, and is now in a firm she loves. She's happily married with a beautiful, bright son. By all accounts she should be content, yet the restless feeling of wanting something more without knowing what, nags her increasingly persistently. I can relate because I too have lived out my own life dream (i.e. teaching), and though I wish to return to it someday, the knowledge that I got that chance to actualize it is enough for now. For the foreseeable future, I am stuck helping my parents run our family business. It's definitely not the worst deal in the world, and most envy me for being the "C.O.O." with all the accompanying perks of the job, which I do enjoy. I'm even getting better at coming to terms with the drawbacks of being C.O.O. But lately I do find myself slipping deeper and deeper into complacency. There's just no "next" to look forward to, no drive to excel, nothing that excites or moves me.

Yang says she needs a new aspiration. I think I need inspiration. Either way, we are both suffering from this "What now?" syndrome
. We're happy, yes, but we're also searching for something beyond this present happiness. Is it an attempt to revive and reclaim the verve of our youth? Is it a primordial human compulsion to continually evolve? Is it the influence of our Magis-steeped Ateneo education? Whatever it is, however we choose to call it, the mere fact that we have identified and verbalized what we're going though provides some relief. Now we just need to figure out the answer to the question "What now?" And perhaps that in itself is the challenge we need.


At Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Anonymous Elyse Go said...

Wow. This is a question of BEING. I think at certain points of our lives we will really experience this "What Now" periodically because as we grow older, we become ready for something more again. Like I think 5 years from now, teaching may not be enough for me to actualize myself. This is a good call. My strategy teacher once mentioned that It takes 25 questions to reach an answer. This manifests a desire for a change to happen. Exciting! :) Good luck! I think we are also lucky to even have the luxury to choose what we want and where we wanna go. I just gave a closing speech to my students and I remember wishing them to find their place in the greater scheme of things. That they do not have to look far because they just have to find that thing that they are truly passionate about, and work will not be hard if done with fun and love. But I do believe that we change at certain points and thus, people may not necessarily be made for just one thing :) Like you said, and I am happy that you find satisfaction in having the chance to actualize a dream. Our goals and principles remain, but we may do them in different ways. Like the underlying theme in teaching may be development, but they can be done in different forms.

At Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Anonymous Elyse Go said...

Knowing how questioning is second nature to you, may you find it faster to find the answer :) Hope to hang out again soon!

At Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

"I think we are also lucky to even have the luxury to choose what we want and where we wanna go."

-I totally agree! Indeed, we should be grateful that we even have gainful employment in a time of economic crisis!

Thanks for the thoughtful comment Elyse! I hope to see you soon, maybe we can discuss this nosebleed topic more thoroughly, haha.


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