I heard about a friend being depressed the other day. It got me wondering whether I’d ever been really depressed, depressed enough to consider suicide. I don’t think I have, but I think I can understand the feeling.
The most depressed I’ve been was when I was about 17-18. I’d left school and failed out of college. I lived with my parents. I had no job. I remember waking up about about 5:30 one morning and looking out my bedroom window. My dad was loading his car ready for work. I had a sudden realisation that he did this every morning. He leaves the house, he goes to work, he works his balls off, and he comes home. And he had done that all my life, and before I was even born. And I was lying in a bed that his hard work paid for, in a house that his hard work pays for. Doing nothing to make his life easier.
There was a crisis in my mind. On the one hand I knew I was a worker, and I wanted to support myself, I didn’t want my parents to have to support me. On the other hand everything seemed fucked. The whole world is fucked. You get a job you hate, you work it for 50 years to pay for 10 years off at the end, then you die. What’s the point? To buy a house? A car? It’s completely futile. And millions of people are taking part in it. Ants on an ant-hill. Who would even notice if I didn’t take part? In 200 years I’m not going to be remembered, my existence doesn’t matter.
Why did everyone else?
There’s a few realisations that I had over the years that helped me get over this feeling. When you think of your ancestors you tend to think back 50, 100, 200 years. But when you think about it you have ancestors going back to the very start of time. Millions of years. Hundreds of thousands of ancestors. Each one of those lived long enough to create the next – from the first cells 2,000 million years ago, to primates 100 million years ago, to you. You have a blood line all the way back there.
This might make you feel even more meaningless. But it couldn’t be more the opposite if it tried. Imagine if one of those guys 100 million years ago just thought fuck it, unsubscribed. None of their ancestors would have been created. My maths isn’t great but I would guess that there would be about 10,000,000 less people on the planet right now (assuming avg breeding age is 20, and avg children is 3). That seems like it would have had a pretty significant effect. This could be interpreted as meaning that if you’re not a breeder you’re useless. But that’s not the case, nature wouldn’t create non-breeders if that was true.
The Meaning Of Life
Which brings me to the real meaning of life. To protect and nurture your family, friends, the human race, animals and plants – in that order. This is why people get jobs and go to work every day. It’s why my dad got up at 5AM every morning. If you don’t like the system try to find a cheat-code, but don’t completely discount getting a job in the meantime. Your current job doesn’t define you and it isn’t for life.
The more people you help in your life the more meaningful you have been. It works the other way around, if you kill someone you have probably killed hundreds of thousands of future generations of people.
I’m being extreme. It’s more granular. Maybe by being a programmer I have got 3 kids into programming. Maybe one of those grows up and becomes a teacher and teaches 100,000 kids to program. Maybe one of those kids uses his new logical brain function to cure malaria, leading to millions of lives being saved. That’s millions of people that would be dead if it wasn’t for you.
I get down sometimes. I probably wouldn’t even describe it as depression, it’s more of a grey feeling. But it always seems to be that it happens in waves. One month I’ll feel awesome for a week, the next I’ll feel shit for a week. I think the realisation that it happens in waves helps me. It’s like realising you’re dreaming in a dream, you take control.
So now if I feel down I try to apply logic to that. I’m feeling down, why is that? Has someone been mean about me on the internet? Fuck them, no-one’s talking about them. Is Sarah being a bitch? Hug her. Is some code I wrote bad? Sleep on it, it’ll be better tomorrow. Does it feel like a mood wave? Doing some exercise cures this pretty much instantly.