Monotonous, repetitive, pointless. Studying overseas provided me with personal space and independence that I had always wanted, but it also gave me serious doubts on the meaning of life. I still remember the quiet walks home from the bus stop in the evenings after lectures. The blue sky was slowly being tinged red and orange by the sunset, and I would ponder upon life’s significance as everything around me went on its repetitive loop day after day.
My only commitment was to my duties as a student. Despite having no financial debts, no significant troubles nor any relationship issues, I found little meaning in the repetitive loop of life. I felt trapped in an insignificant existence. So much so to the extent that it felt like a physical burden, weighing down on my shoulders, smile, and steps. Before long, this thought became a habit.
Despite my pessimism, the stubborn streak within me refused to stop searching for something more in life. A purpose. A meaning. A significance. One day, a phrase from a Dhamma talk struck me, “instead of searching for the meaning of life, give it meaning.” Something clicked within me. I realized that although life was repetitive, there were still choices that we are free to decide and make for ourselves. All we need are two ingredients; hope, to see the possibilities ahead, and courage, to take the steps towards them.
The habit of pessimism was ingrained in me by then. Changing it was arduous and took a long time. To the me back then, overcoming pessimism seemed like a lofty ambition. The pessimist in me looked at the negatives in life, and saw that suffering was plentiful. However, thanks to the Dhamma talks that I attended, hope led me to see that suffering is not something to be feared and avoided, but to be understood. Then, I mustered the courage to take the steps in understanding the pessimism within myself. I did not want to be a pessimist anymore. Together, courage and hope worked like a pair of arms and legs, slowly yet steadily helping me climb out of the well of my own trapped thoughts.
There is a saying that it takes 21 days to build a habit. But taking apart an old habit, then building a new one in its place can be more challenging. However, the price of letting bad habits stay unchanged is even more costly. After years of battling my pessimism and morbid outlook of life, I have finally stopped searching for the meaning in life, and now give my life meaning through mindfulness. Just as how it helped me, I hope this sharing of life experience will give you courage and hope in having a meaningful life.