An Intimate Existential Crisis

Over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time on auto-pilot – going through the motion of things without really taking the time to think about them any more than I needed to, doing things because they seemed like the sane, rational things to do, and so on. I thought a lot about God, both as the scary, looming figure of doom and as the thing above that probably tripped on acid one too many times. I also thought a lot about myself and the black hole I’ve become, constantly taking things in but never reciprocating and spitting anything back out.

One of my professors this term told us about the “existential psychoanalysis” experiment, where people would pay to stare at their therapists for twenty minutes. Apparently some people freak out, fall in love, etc., etc. What did they discover?

We did a shortened version of this in class and stared at the person sitting beside us in class for two minutes and it was the most discomforting feeling I’ve felt in a very long time. I stared at someone whom I later found out was named Alison, a sixth year Biology/English Lit double major. She wore twelve rings, a rose lapel pin on her jacket, and had a small tree branch pendant hanging from a pewter-coloured chain from her neck. She has freckles, high cheek bones and a prominent chin, blue eyes, crow’s feet, brown hair, and a fantastic smile.

I think I fell in love for a brief moment. It was fleeting and fancy and whatever.

But, more importantly, it reminded me that I was staring at another human (about which I knew nothing). I realized that every other stranger to me was a passing shadow in the void I threw myself into, and I was one of the same passing shadow in most other people’s realities. They had no faces, no past/present/future lives, no purpose but to be filler bodies on the seats of the busses and trains I take five days a week. They might as well have been crafted solely to make sure my reality is as real and in sync with my vision of reality as possible. This is starting to sound like a strange conspiracy theory, and it might as well be if I continue to be so detached from everything around me.

I’m at work as I am writing this, and I’m watching the people that come in and out of the gym. No one looks at you for more than three seconds, and if they do it’s because they either want to talk to you or they need something for you. Not that this is a bad thing, obviously. But we don’t spend enough time recognizing that the people we interact with are actually people with lives, as odd as that may sound.

This realization threw me into a panic about what I thought Alison may have stared at when we did the exercise. Did she create a backstory for me? Did she realize that the reason why my makeup was super dramatic was because I spent the prior night bawling my eyes out for some reason I’m unsure about now? Not that she knew me before that day, but alas. Did she catch on to how flushed I became? Did she know she was staring into a black hole?

I think we are all, to some degree, uncomfortable with the amount of imperfection we manage to isolate within ourselves, and we deny we are imperfect, and that makes us miserable. Why not admit we are miserable?

How are you doing today? I’m awful, but I hope you aren’t.

What are you doing here? Just passing through, I guess.

What makes you happiest? Anything that validates the continuation of my life.

Perhaps we recognize people are uncomfortable with how miserable they are, so we spare them. Perhaps we recognize that happiness, when it functions as a construct, is used to keep people in the small boxes of productivity and complacency. Perhaps auto-pilot isn’t the best way to exist.

My goal this year, to help me cope with how exhausted I’ve become, is to do things that aren’t necessarily “required” of me to do (ex. the things I want to do but never have the time to do). I want to be engulfed in writing and art again, I want to spend more time with family, I want to go on hikes and lunch around the city and be okay with feeling lost and directionless. Having so much reliance upon my calendar has given me more anxiety than I’ve felt in a long time, and I think it’s catching up to me.

Someday this will all figure itself out, but for now I suppose I’ll write about it.

Featured Image: The Abyss by Vitaly S. Alexiuss (alexiuss) at


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Self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades. Intersectional feminist. Educator/linguist in training. Fashionista, food-lover, and fairly poor hand-eye coordination.

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