arjai101 asks: Everything in my life is going splendid. I have the highest math and science grades in my whole grade. My music classes are going well and I’m getting really advanced. I have a lot of good friends and I’m pretty popular. I had a really good cross-country season and I am really good at it. But I am overwhelmed with this emptiness and I can’t shake it no matter what I try. What could I possibly be missing? What more could I possibly need in my life? Do you have any ideas?
Hi arjai101 –
My friend, you have achieved the goal humans have been aiming for, almost since the dawn of time!
When you’re starving, hunting for your food, trying to keep from being eaten by the animal you’re hunting, you don’t think a lot about how you’re feeling. When you’re oppressed, or at war, constantly in terror of being killed by other people, things like emptiness don’t figure into your concerns much. And even if you’re doing okay, but working long hours, taking care of a family, “putting out fires” all the time, there’s no chance to sit back and assess your life and question whether you’re feeling fulfilled.
The great philosophers over time, and the great writers and thinkers, have tended to be people who were doing well. And because they weren’t struggling to get by, stressing out about failure, they had the chance to sit back and look at their lives, and ask the Great Question you’re asking: Is This The Life I Want?
You’re doing so well at all the things you’re supposed to do that you have had that chance. And you came up with the answer No. Now of course I’d like you to be feeling happier, but I think it’s really important that you take a moment to soak up how great an accomplishment your life right now is – including that realization about the emptiness!
Now I can’t tell you exactly what would fill that gaping hole inside you. But I can throw a few suggestions at you. And you could see if any of these help. But if they don’t, it’s clear to me that you’re enough of an achiever that you’ll find an answer for yourself before too long!
1) Helping Others. I am a very lucky dog, and have one of the best lives of any pooch I’ve ever seen. What makes it even better is my doing this website! I still love lazing in the sun, chasing squirrels, and sneaking food from Handsome when he’s not looking, but what really makes me feel fulfilled is helping people who reach out to me. Maybe you could put a couple of hours into a volunteering job, and that would give you what you need. Helping feed or clothe poor people, helping teach kids (maybe ones with learning disabilities) since you’re such a good student, helping clean up a polluted area – all these could be incredibly satisfying. Or, how’s this: You could do a payback with me! Since I help humans, maybe you could work at an animal shelter and help stray dogs and cats! (Even though cats bug me, I’d still think you were great for helping them out.)
2) Pursue an Intellectual Passion. You’re a great student, but that just means you’re learning what your teachers want you to learn. Is there an area you want to learn more about? Maybe you would like to study Philosophy, or a Science? Maybe you’d like to read some great books that they don’t teach in your school? Or perhaps you have some other sort of intellectual passion – for example, when he was in high school, Handsome became obsessed with movie history, and saw all the classic films he could. Or you could pursue more about music or art, anything like that. And those would not only give you fulfillment now, but be great additions to your life from now on.
3) And on that subject, what about Mastering an Art? Would you like to learn a musical instrument, or learn to paint or draw or sculpt, so that you could express your soul in new and powerful ways? Maybe you’d like to write stories or plays. Again, these are probably taught in your school, but you can take a skill to a far higher level on your own.
4) Work on a Cause. I don’t know where you live, but is there a political or social cause that you’d like to devote yourself to? Young people are so passionate, and it’d be great for you to put that passion into changing your community, or the world, in some meaningful way. It’s hard to imagine that you could work on, for example, a political campaign, and at the end not feel very proud and moved by what you achieve (even if your side doesn’t win!).
5) Fall In Love. Now you’re probably thinking, “Sure, I’d be happy to fall in love with someone, but I haven’t met anyone I feel that way about, who feels that way about me.” And you’d be right, those things take time. But I think I know a way you could fall in love at once, with someone who’d love you even more, right back. And that would be to go get yourself a PUP! Oh, we are just amazing at making our humans feel fulfilled and special! It’s almost impossible to feel empty when someone furry and warm is whining because there’s nothing in the world they want more than to get to you. You can feel accomplished by training them, you can feel proud when they protect your home, you can enjoy how their cuteness makes you even more popular… But more than anything else, it’s really hard to not feel deeply loved and needed by one of us. Truly, it’s as close to a guarantee of non-emptiness as exists in the world!
Okay, arjai101, those are my suggestions. Again, I understand that some might not work for you, and some might even be impossible right now in your life. But see if you can do some of them. My guess is they’ll help. And at the very least, none of these can hurt your life in any way.
(Except, of course, what a puppy might do to your shoes. But we’re so adorable you won’t mind. Maybe!)