This post sort of relates to the last post I wrote about happiness. In that post, I talked about how rather than focusing on the goal of being happy, it makes more sense to focus on finding meaning in the things I am doing in life. If I can feel like I have meaning, I do think happiness will follow.
So, it is only fitting that the following exchange from the season 5 House episode “Dying Changes Everything” stood out to me the other day. It is between a patient and Thirteen (one of the doctors):
“Lou: And you want to make sure your life matters.
Thirteen:” [nods] I don’t want to just be tightening blots and following instructions. I want something to be different because of me.”
I can definitely relate to Thirteen. In a previous post (If You Don’t Try, You Can’t Fail – also used a House quote, by the way), I touched on this subject. As I said in that post, is not that I want to be famous, but I want to feel that I have had an impact on the world.
Now I know that in some way or another, everyone has an impact on the world. I have had several friends pass away in the last few years from their eating disorder, and I can definitely say that each one had an impact on this world, even if they were only here on earth for a short time. I can also definitely say ways in that each of my friends and/or family members have an impact on me and on the world.
However, when it comes to myself, I have very high expectations for what it means to make an impact, I have very high expectations for myself. Whenever I would get involved in activities in high school or college, I always tried to go above and beyond to do something that would leave an impact, or legacy. Something that future generations would be able to see and remember me by. Because I am not doing anything tangible right now that I know will definitely have an impact on the future (like raising a kid or figuring out world peace), I feel like my life lacks meaning. I would never say this about anyone else, but for me, I set the standards very high.
Lately, I’ve been struggling a lot with getting sucked into this vortex where not only do I feel like my life doesn’t matter, but that there is no hope for change. I feel like I am getting too old to start a family, too old to have a meaningful career. Again, I would never think things like this about my friends or family, but for myself I worry that I have screwed up too much with the years of the eating disorder and treatment. I worry that I am never going to be able to have a family of my own or make a difference in my chosen career. Ironically enough, when that happens my gut response is to turn back to the eating disorder, which is the thing that has kept me from accomplishing all of these things in the first place!
Thus, I have to keep telling myself that first, even if I don’t solve some great world problem, my life has meaning. I do matter. I think that everyone in my life matters, so why should I be any different? Second, I have to keep reminding myself that while the eating disorder feels like a safe “go-to”, it is actually just going to take me further away from goals. I have to keep moving forward, keep plugging along, and in time, hopefully I will feel like my life matters.