I work at a job that allows me time to myself as I do my work. I usually spend this time watching crime documentaries, listening to scary stories, murder podcasts–basically miring myself in all things dark, but I recently took a hiatus from that to watch a different sort of entertainment.
It started with watching Youtube documentaries about quadriplegics. Sometimes I watch things like this when I feel down so I can stop feeling so goddamn sorry for myself because “people out there have it way worse”, and when I think worse, I think quadriplegia. I also watched some on Locked-In syndrome, terminal cancer, ALS, amputations, and traumatic brain injuries, which are all basically the most horrific things I can imagine. I’ve been feeling pretty woe-is-me lately, obviously.
The woe-is-me is stemming from finishing my certification in Crime Scene Investigation and doing a lot of soul-searching regarding my career, or lack thereof. It’s not merely the idea of obtaining a fulfilling job that bothers me; it’s that I truly do believe everybody’s life has purpose, and that everybody is good at something, and that everyone can do their own brand of meaningful things, and I have no idea where I can plug myself into that.
From my depressing documentaries, I was referred to a few that made this idea I’ve been stewing over even more apparent and urgent. I watched two episodes of My Last Days, a documentary series about people with terminal conditions. One featured Claire Wineland, an 18-year-old with cystic fibrosis whose life is coming to a close. She is charming, relateable, and old beyond her years. Her dream is to be a public speaker, and she’s got what it takes. With a little help and connections, that’s exactly what she started doing: traveling around the country, speaking about life and death and what fits in between. She says we have no control over when or how we will die, but we do have control over how to live our own perfect life this moment.
Another My Last Days episode was about Kat Lazo, a girl with terminal gastric cancer who relates with people so genuinely and is so present in however much life she has left. She feels deeply and shares with others, and wisdom and peace are imbued in her speech.
I then watched a documentary on Aaron Swartz, a prodigious computer programmer and founder of Reddit, who fought tirelessly to make knowledge that is stored on the internet accessible to everyone. He downloaded tons of JSTOR scientific articles and made them accessible for free, rather than the traditional system in place, where a third-party provider makes money off of academics’ and scientists’ research by charging for access. Aaron ended up committing suicide after the FBI came after him for trying to make this knowledge freely and publicly accessible. His former girlfriend is interviewed, and she says Aaron’s way of thinking was to always ask what’s the best thing I can be doing, and why am I not doing it?
After Aaron’s death, a 14-year-old boy from Boston invented a prototype for an early testing technique for pancreatic cancer using the JSTOR articles Aaron made available.
These three documentaries served to further fuel my desire to find my offering to the world, to discover my skills and how those can be used to do good, and what kind of good that may be. I’ve been tempted lately, after looking at investigation/government/people-related jobs and realizing how competitive they are and how little they pay, to throw in the towel and find some horrible, soul-sucking corporate job, where the bottom line is always to sell sell sell, and just make as much money as possible in a year and then go rogue in a cabin somewhere to recover. It’s messed up how even if you find your place, or one of many places, in this world, the realistic manifestation of that may or may not pay your bills and afford you a healthy mental space to be able to do your wonderful you-things if you’re consumed by financial burdens.
This post isn’t going to have a nice ending because I have no nice ending for these ideas I’ve been mulling over. I feel change coming on because it must. I’m becoming more and more brain-atrophied and motivation-less the longer I settle for a job that is less than fulfilling, a life that has no plans past the superficial.