But as the eldest child of immigrant parents who passed the Australian government’s rigorous migrant tests with flying colours, yet their professional qualifications and experience ironically deemed unworthy, I didn’t have the luxury of mulling over my options. I had only one: to work harder than my peers until I blended in, until I felt accepted, until I felt worthy. While this single-minded pursuit served me well for over a decade and I am now armed with more options at my disposal, less desperate to prove my worth and keep a healthy bank balance, I find myself asking the same question once again. Only this time I worry less about paying my bills and more about philosophical considerations like happiness, humanity, fate, faith, love and the meaning of life. And so the question has taken an existential form. I suspect many people at various stages in their modern, complicated lives and first world problems struggle with the same existential questions.
Perhaps, this “growing movement of nihilism” among young people is a direct, albeit subconscious, protest to today’s new religion: Purposeism - society’s obsession to finding one’s purpose. “Purpose” has become the new god – inspirational, prolific and social media savvy – adopted by individuals and organisations who have been drawn by its highlight reels. We try to define it based on our own sensibilities, our values and belief systems. We try to shape it around new social constructs (but constructs nonetheless) and put boundaries around it so much so that it begins to enclose and confine, driving our innate need to be free and boundless – to constantly create. And so, we break free from that purpose and redesign a new one because we can’t help it. We are, after all, driven by a will to power - a desire want more, to have more, to be more. At least, according to Nietzsche.
I secretly wanted to sound clever by paraphrasing Nietzsche along the lines of death to god, but f***, Miley Cyrus sang it simply in Hannah Montana, “Life’s what you make it, so come on!”
Featured image: Charles M Schulz / Schulz Museum