Lessons learnt from an Existential Crisis

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

"The meaning of life is to find your gift.

The purpose of life is to give it away."

- Pablo Picasso 

I've noticed more and more talk of restlessness, this feeling that there is more we should be doing with our careers and our lives. The Western paradigm is to live in a monotonous loop of going to work, wishing away the week, drinking through the weekend, repeat. Through this pattern we lose touch with our greater existence, we forgot how beautiful life really is.

My Crisis

At 24, I was experiencing what I now understand to be my version of an existential crisis.

I began to question my identity, whether my existence was adding purpose or value to the earth I walked in any meaningful way. I had become stuck. I was swept away with a constant whirlwind of chaotic thoughts, 'who am I?', 'what's my purpose?', 'is this really it?'

I was doing everything I believed I was meant to be doing at 24, but when I was left with my own thoughts for long enough, I would be hit in the face with a screaming emptiness. Sometimes, I would cry and angrily declare to my parents that I was moving to Canada, or Ecuador or whatever I had dreamt up that day. Then I’d get frustrated because I couldn't understand why I wanted to go...

After searching books and the internet for answers, I came to understand that my life lacked narrative. I wasn't telling a story, or growing, or setting any goals, I was just living the same old patterns.

Fed up, I decided to move out of London and back to my parents for a while to save up some money and consider my next steps. I looked through the journal's I'd kept over the past three years and made a note of any patterns, passions or dissatisfaction's that I could explore.

In 2017, I decided to do the following: 

  • Quit my job

  • Complete a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course

  • Leave for a 3-month solo trip to Costa Rica 

  • Face my fears and take a week of surf lessons (I love the sea but the previous year I had a scary experience with a surf board in Sri Lanka so this was a big one for me)

  • Discover yoga after a 10-day retreat with a wonderful teacher at School of the World

  • Live in the rainforest for a month volunteering at an eco-lodge

  • Take photography and Spanish classes

Although painful, with retrospect I can recognise that my 'crisis' was a blessing in disguise. Ignoring my feelings made everything worse, but taking action helped me to connect the dots and discover a spiritual framework to help me understand and cope with life.

When we feel hungry, we eat. When we feel tired, we rest. Rather than a signal that our life is broken, could feeling restless be a signal from our soul that we need new experiences and growth?

Nowadays, whenever restlessness hits, I've learnt to remedy it by trying something that expands my comfort zone.

If you are feeling dissatisfied or restless, know that your life isn't broken. Delve deep, listen to your inner voice and create your story.

Reading list 

What's Your Bullshit Story - Milkthepigeon.com