Nida Nizam responded to a powerful question she found on Quora people ask themselves quietly.
Below is her response:
TL; DR There is almost too much left to do, if you’re willing to become tough enough to take it on.
If you’ve verbalized this question and been met with a response that you’re being too harsh or dramatic, take a step back. Chances are the people you’re speaking to are not trained professionals and probably won’t react the way you want or need, because a statement like that is very scary to hear. I’m not a professional either, so take the answer below as one informed by lived experience and the Internet.
I am curious as to your definition of “living for something.” Generally, I find that living for one thing only, whether it’s myself or a partner, is not really living. It’s confining myself to a limited scope of experience. A person is a work-in-progress, and who we are and what we want are processes too. The language we use to describe ourselves is crucial to our understanding of these processes and the problems that arise as we go through them. I challenge you to adjust your language and describe your thought processes and problems with the detail and subtlety they deserve. That’s step one in the larger project of taking your own problems seriously.
One must live for a number of things thanks to the gift/curse of life and the responsibilities one has either adopted or had imposed upon them (read: managing shitty stuff you didn’t ask for is just as important as pursuing your own goals). If you feel like you have nothing left to live for, I challenge you to make some lists:
- Traditional and non-traditional emotional and physical spaces, or realms, that we inhabit: relationships, career, family, hobbies, etc.. Figure out where you’re at in each of these areas and where have you or currently want to be.
- Make a list of the things you believe are worth living for, or your motivations. Sort them into the realms above. Ask yourself why these things appeal to you the way you do.
- If you’re going through a challenging period that prohibits you from being where you want to be, identify the obstacles and figure out what you need to do to get where you want. If you don’t have the energy or willingness to support your motivation, figure out why that’s happening. That’s a tall order, but that’s what medical professionals are for.
Generally helpful activities when one is searching for meaning:
Reading and watching things: Even if you never loved reading as a child or can’t enjoy it now, if you’re serious about doing something for your situation, throw yourself into reading. For the record, I’m not talking about self-help books or those that help you re-build your life. I’m talking fiction, fantasy, science fiction, crazy creative things that excite your mind again or inspire you on their own. That could be biographies, memoirs, children’s books. They could spur a new passion within you. Watch stuff, like documentaries that have caused controversies and people to get up in the streets (like that new one on Netflix, Making a Murderer). Many people find themselves caught up in causes and interesting situations because of what they have watched and read. They have dedicated their lives to that one thing after seeing something that inspired them. Maybe yours is waiting for you.
Reach out for more support online, or try and provide some yourself: Good for you for asking such a question online, even if it’s vague and wide-reaching. Hopefully other people will see these answers and actually feel inspired. Maybe you’ve even started something special. Heck, someone’s life could continue onwards because of something someone has said in one of these answers. That’s thanks to you asking, and shows a little goes a long way. Get involved in community websites like Reddit (proceed with caution), a fandom for an author or band you like, Tumblr, or a hobby. Reach out and befriend others. You already know that hobbies, passions, and relationships formed through them are more than worth living for… they are what makes life worth living. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes though, so maybe by getting into it, you will feel that knowledge sink deeply into your bones and help catalyze your motivations within.
Volunteering/Service: Many have mentioned this, but if you look around, you can see there’s so much left to do for every single one of us and everyone needs to be stepping up. When I visit my hometown, I find my parents and siblings trying to succeed in a broken city with limited opportunities, rampant poverty, and other issues requiring civic intervention. Projects everywhere need volunteers but really, they need people to show up and care. You could have zero skills and cause more problems while you’re there, but if you get stuff done you’re a blessing. Dedicating some time to vulnerable populations like kids and the elderly really rejuvenates one’s soul, and reminds you why you need to live on and do things for others.
Some resources for terrible things you might be dealing with:
- Money: Since you can use Quora, I assume you have Internet access once in awhile, so you can get yourself a free education on financial management or what to do with too much money easily (Coursera, EdX, YouTube, Lifehacker, free textbooks like Ivo Welch’s, etc.). If you don’t have any money and wish you had more, you’re one Quora query away from a whole lot of career and financial advice.
- Family: If you have a poor relationship with your family, no living family members, or a dysfunctional family that cannot serve as motivation to keep you going and actually brings you down, you’re in a situation that ends up breaking many people. If you have friends to form into a surrogate family, I hope you can lean on them and work on developing those relationships and supporting those people, and you can find meaning in that endeavor. This will also help if you’ve dealt with a major loss recently, like a partner, close family member, or pet.
- Not to be presumptuous, but if you’re dealing with general malaise, depression, and suicidal thoughts, it’s important that you try your best to be brave and do a few things:
- See a doctor. If you can’t make this happen, try a free clinic or a therapist.
- Try calling 1(800) 273-8255 (the National Suicide Prevention Hotline) if you keep having thoughts about nothing to live for.
- Other resources, news articles, etc