"It happens that the stage sets collapse. Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm - this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the "why" arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement. "Begins" - this is important. Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consiousness and provokes what follows. What follows is the gradual return into the chain or it is the definitive awakening. At the end of the awakening comes, in time, the consequence: suicide or recovery. In itself weariness has something sickening about it. Here, I must conclude that it is good. For everything begins with consciousness and nothing is worth anything except through it. There is nothing original about these remarks. But they are obvious; that is enough for a while, during a sketchy reconnaissance in the origins of the absurd. Mere "anxiety," as Heidegger says, is at the source of everything."
-Albert Camus An Absurd Reasoning
I've been feeling like dropping out of my PhD program lately. I woke up about two weeks ago questioning what the hell I was doing. Here I am, 25 years old, still in school after about 21 years. I'm constantly asked the question: So... what do you plan to do with your degree? And I've always been content to answer, "Who knows..."
So why is it that it always happens on Monday that the world collapses? I always had the tendency to lay blame on Sunday's general lack of sleep. It seemed that I stayed up later than usual on Saturday, slept in really late on Sunday, and then I never made it to bed at a decent hour Sunday night, making Monday hellishly tiring. Today Camus helped me to figure out what it really is: Monday sucks because the weekend was fun. All weekend long I did the things that I wanted to do. I did the things that made me happy. When returning to "real life", the question must be asked: Why is it that I don't do the things that make me happy every day? Hence is the question "why?"
It is only in answering this question that we can feel good about our decisions. If there is no answer, then only suicide is left. Not necessarily physical, literal suicide, which is actually Camus' topic, but perhaps mental suicide, emotional suicide. By resigning to live a life that you cannot defend, you have therefore given in. You've decided that the pursuit of happiness is pointless, that it is in fact easier to live in numbness or misery. I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion. It has often been my contention that it would make more sense to work at McDonalds making minimum wage in order to have the time to engage in more meaningful pursuits than to make loads of money at an unfulfilling job that has become a career. I have decided to make academia my career at the moment. Perhaps someday I will switch fields, but as of today, getting up Monday morning to go to class is my career. It is therefore necessary for me to question this choice.
I am not naive, and I do believe that frequently we must suffer to be truly happy. This is where I am: suffering for the end cause. I know there will be an end, and at the end is a future full of summer vacations, winter breaks, fresh faces... Why? Because it is what I truly love, and what I truly want.