While looking at my calendar this week, I realized we are more than a month into the Fall 2022 semester. I know, crazy revelations “Inside Maddie’s Mind” this week – time is, in fact, passing, and it’s doing so at the same rate it always has been. Who would have thought?
But in all seriousness, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like I’ve been in cow-town Storrs for approximately the last 30 years, despite only being 20 years old in the first place. This semester has felt like a millennium already, and that pervasive feeling of time-dragging certainly brings out my inner pessimist, to say the least. I get in my own head about it, wondering why I’m even in college in the first place, especially given the impending collapse of society by the end of the century – and that’s a conservative estimate.
But I’ll also be the first to admit that delving into that black hole is exhausting. Trekking down into my personal cynical abyss, refusing to acknowledge anything good or worthwhile, truly takes up the little energy I have left over from my not-so-well-rested college student lifestyle. Refusing to let yourself have hope for the future, or only ever focusing on the bad, is actively eliminating your potential to do great goods or cause massive change.
Letting the paralyzing sense of doom stop you from ever getting anywhere is really easy. The hopelessness of a ‘nothing matters’ mindset is strong – once it has you in its grasp, it’s hard to escape.
Of course, there are places or situations in which a similar mindset is healthy. For example, when applying for that job, internship or scholarship that’s just a tad out of reach, thinking “What’s the harm?” is beneficial. When the comfort for doing something a little scary is saying to yourself “Well, might as well,” you’re justifying your actions with the idea that nothing matters anyway – that’s fine, and perfectly applicable to the situation.
It becomes an issue when the “life is pointless” mindset becomes a roadblock in you even taking the tiniest baby steps toward your goals. If “nothing matters” is inhibiting you, you’re using it wrong. Stopping yourself from applying for a position you want, for example, for fear of it being pointless or worthless doesn’t make logical sense – if it didn’t matter at all, you wouldn’t be thinking about doing it.
Think of the huge societal upheavals that would benefit the masses in the long run. Progress toward these goals should have started as soon as yesterday, thus we should be working on these big issues rather than giving up on them altogether.
For a more tangible example, we can look at the climate crisis. The fact that the world is on fire is a terrifying concept, and if everyone on the planet brushes this issue off on the basis that “nothing matters anyway,” we’re not going to be able to mitigate the effects of climate change on any measurable scale. But individuals can advocate for climate justice, and if everyone did so, we might actually get somewhere for once. As just one example, college students can demand that their college administration eliminates fossil fuels while implementing truly sustainable practices. Sure, “nothing matters” in the grand scheme of things, but they can matter to you. Isn’t that enough?
You don’t have a choice in being here, on Earth. And yes, cosmic insignificance can be a comfort in some circumstances. But your impact on those around you – despite not necessarily being felt on a large scale – is felt on the individual level every single day. That fact should matter to you. But even further, you can use your lack of purpose to propel you forward, rather than letting it stop you in your tracks. Instead of thinking of existence as a punishment, take what you’ve been given and run with it.