One Year or When Sartre Gets You

July 20th, 2016

One night in Bulgaria a couple of weeks ago I took the metaphorical leap into a whole year of oblivion! Aka, I called up my admissions officer and deferred university for a year. One. Whole. Year. It felt terrifying but it also felt normal, and inevitable, and just plain right. So yeah, this year is not actually “oblivion” although there are a lot of things it is and is not. Or will be and will not be.

I’ll start with the “nots”. This year is not some lackadaisical time off between the high school stage of my life and the college stage of my life. This major divide is something I’ve come to realize is a mindset almost exclusively American. No other part of the world gives any validity to separating a life in such a linear boring way. It’s like America collectively decided to just chop away at every kids adolescence and coming-of-age until we all started to believe that our “high school self” couldn’t coexist with our “college self” or that there were even different selves and “coming of ages” (like what lol? what are we coming to?).

One of my friends and I are both on the cusp of what seems to be a whole different world, and the topic of change, both good and bad, comes up quite often. We agreed that life is a continuum and people aren’t divided into two phases and life is not really even clear cut stages, it just seems this way because that is what everyone around us in the US is doing and making us believe. There are so many relationships, like our own, that exist outside of the two phases or cross them or dip in and out. Our friendship is independent of the annoying forces of geography and which university we attend.

So if these black and white life phases are actually kinda just bullshit, and even if they aren’t, where does this year fit into them? To me, this year is going to fit in with the mass that will be Anna’s Life the same way every other year fits in: as just a year of my life! A body of time that I was living in this world! A collection of minutes that I spend sleeping, eating, breathing, falling in love, and making sense of the world! I refuse to let this time I have be labeled as “taking a year off” and “taking time to find yourself” because that is ridiculous and reactionary. The things that really make up a life are absolutely external to the silly boxes we consider time to be. Relationships, love, memories, places, and most importantly my own sense of self – these may oscillate or change but they will never suddenly break off or disappear when the ball drops at midnight on the random day we decided there would be a “new” year.

As much as I seek to affirm that this is not a “gap year” and the basic parts of my life are valid just because they are part of my life, I realize this could become an excuse to kind of drift along, claiming that I am just “living my life”. This means that one thing I do hope my year will be is a year of purpose. While drifting can be very important, and to an extent essential to a healthy life, I cannot let myself do it constantly. This is actually slightly absurd to be typing because I am such a planner and a project-based person that I often need to remind myself to “drift”, but still, I want to take my own sense of fulfillment to the extreme. I want to spend this year intensely engaging with humanity and all that humanity is comprised of – the small, the momentous, the beautiful, the tragic, and the monotonous.

For me a lot of understanding and engaging with this so-called “humanity” is wrapped up in communication through various forms. My preferable forms are, predictably, poetry, literature, museums, and talking. Therefore, I hope to manage a wonderful balance of all these aspects in my life, maintaining a consistency of depth, learning, and absolute good faith. Faith that these ridiculously beautiful works (ya each human is a ridiculously beautiful work) can teach me something extraordinary and faith that all forms of communication are a two way street: I can get back as much as I put in.

I also want to remind myself to wander aimlessly every chance I get. Meandering around cities either alone or with others has led to positively unexpectedly wonderful experiences.

To get to the second part of my title, and you can call me a basic existential bitch (I kinda am oops), Sartre gets me. He not only gets me but he gets what this year can be. Basically, he (and I) believes that if one stops and truly examines our actions or our symbols or the random meanings we attach to our objects in this world, it is all absurd. Everything is absurd! Everything! Once one acknowledges the absurdity, and realizes that the significance surrounding each phenomena was just made up by some person a long long time ago, and therefore is not really more meaningful than a significance we ourselves could come up with, we are free. One realizes that the conclusions about certain ways we are supposed to act or things we are supposed to do are pretty much arbitrary. This means we may as well not follow them. To reiterate my point, we are free. Free to do whatever we ourselves see as the most significant or worthwhile. For me, this is deferring university, and it took realizing just how ridiculous and random US culture that dictates one goes from “high school” straight to “college” is to finally call my admissions officer. Like what. Why does everyone do the same thing? We are free! Can you imagine a world where people realized they could do what they want to do? It would be beautiful genuine mayhem.

Being “free” and becoming aware of my own “freedom” (brackets because of those annoying forces like society and physics) is something I greatly pride myself on, and is another thing I hope this year will be full of. I plan to do things that I want to do simply because I want to do them. The idea is so simple yet so profound and life-altering when you actively incorporate it into your life.**

To conclude, Sartre validates me: I do what I want because I am free and I am happy and how dare you attach your boring preconceptions and conclusions onto my life and my year and my being.


**I feel like I majorly butchered Sartre, please look him up to get a more coherent and articulate understanding of his ideas.

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