The act of questioning is a double-edged sword; while it may allow for the exploration and discovery of new concepts and ideas that may have otherwise passed us by, it may also lead down a dark, dismal spiral into the ominous predicament many have intimately come to know as the quarter-life crisis.
I have often found myself on the cusp of this infamous part of life, having experienced seemingly innumerable tests, quandaries and afflictions in my 24 years on this earth.
In retrospect, I have realized that this is primarily the result of endless self-questioning. I constantly struggle with difficult questions and grapple with what to do when there seem to be no answers. I ask myself:
What makes you happy? Do you spend your days doing what makes you happy? Are the people around you positive influences, who motivate you to do better each day? If you were to meet the bright-eyed, little person you used to be, what do you think he or she would say to you right now?
Would those words make you happy or sad? What would you do about it? How would you describe yourself? What are your dreams? Do you think your dreams define who you are as a person? If not, what would you say are your defining attributes?
How would you describe your current state of being? Do you feel comfortable, content or fulfilled with your life? What makes you feel this way? Do you wish to change the status quo? Do you feel a sense of excitement or dread climbing out of bed each morning? Does your work inspire you?
Do you think it is necessary to define what role and purpose work will have in your life? If so, what is the role and purpose of work in your life? Do you believe in the notion of a work-life balance? Should working be tantamount to pursuing your passions insofar as it invalidates any distinction between work and life?
Do you follow your heart or mind when making life decisions, or do you believe in destiny? Do you aspire to do greater things? Are there things you are currently doing that move you closer or further from the mountain that represents your goals and dreams?
Do you want to make a difference, and if so, what kind of difference do you want to make? What is the purpose of your existence? What is the meaning of life? Do you think about death? Do you think embracing death is an essential prerequisite to living a full life? If an elixir granting immortality was presented to you, would you choose to live eternally or accept mortality as a human condition?
In asking myself these questions, I seemed to slip into an abyss of despair and doubt. But one day, at the national library, I came across Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” which contained 10 letters the Austrian poet wrote to Franz Kappus, a 19-year-old aspiring poet seeking scholarly and existential advice.
In reading the letters, I became deeply moved by the patience, kindness and wisdom in Rilke’s words. They seemed to speak directly to me and address the discontent stirring in my heart.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” - Rainer Maria Rilke.
And so, I shall be good and I shall be patient. I will strive to live the questions in the present moment such that one day, when I find myself living the answers themselves, I shall smile and look back with fondness on these days of yore.
I hope that you might find comfort in these words as well. May we all never cease to question, even if it means questioning ourselves into quarter-life crises. May we never fear these questions, but instead continuously seek to embrace them, appreciate them and learn to live them into bright and promising futures.
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