Musings

Staring at Trees: An Existential Musing

Learning about giftedness has helped me see myself more clearly. No label has ever described me better, from infancy to the present day, than Gifted. It captures my rapturous intensity, my vibrant emotions, my endless imagination. It captures my multipotentiality and the anxiety that comes with having to choose what to do with each and every moment of my very short life. Giftedness even explains the panic and dread I feel when I think about how long I spend staring out the window at trees, trying to understand the meaning of life, only to realize the answer might be to do something meaningful with my time. And yet here I am, staring at trees. For literal hours.

Sundays are the worst. Sundays are when I realize that I’ve spent the entire weekend staring at the trees outside my window when I could have been doing something meaningful. Since “meaningful” is subjective, this realization straps me with an existential confusion that I can do nothing about because what even is meaningful? And why is staring at trees not-so? And what would have been more-so? Writing my novel? Painting a picture? Learning something new?

Life seems pointless sometimes, and not even in a depressing sort of way. It’s just that life is so darn arbitrary. It doesn’t matter a lick what you do with your time. You’re going to die someday. Whether you do something “meaningful” in the meantime or not, you can’t slow down the clock. You can’t change your death-date. You can’t become immortal. In every moment of your life, you are walking toward death no matter whether you’re sitting there staring at trees or composing the next great symphony. So when you look back in time and judge “staring at trees” as a less-meaningful use of your limited time than “composing a symphony”, well, life takes on this whole giant air of existential panic. At least having done something meaningful makes the time that’s already passed worth it.

And yet who is to say that staring at trees is not worth it? Who is to say that it’s a waste of time? I’m not postulating that it isn’t. I’m simply wondering who went along, pointing their judgmental little finger at various pastimes, deeming certain things worthwhile and other things less so? Is it possible that all of life, no matter what you’re doing, is meaningful simply for the fact that you are alive and breathing? I’m not a philosophy major so I can’t even begin to explore this question with any depth. But it’s a curious question that keeps coming up. One that doesn’t appear, at first glance, to have an answer.

I feel guilty for writing this. Who am I to get so caught up in existential angst? Shouldn’t I just be grateful for the fact that I have time at all to contemplate these things? What about all the people in the world who can’t stare at trees for hours? Does it make me a selfish person to sit here, staring at trees, dreading Monday morning? Or does it simply make me human? I don’t know. I wish I knew. The cortisol running through my veins as I sit here and write these thoughts out isn’t making me any younger. It’s not bringing the lost time back. It’s not turning the clock around. It’s not making my life any more meaningful than it already is.

Maybe there isn’t an answer to my question…what makes life meaningful? Maybe the whole point is that if I let go, just a little bit, and stop trying so hard to make everything worthwhile, then maybe I’ll see something I didn’t see before. A glimmer of hope, a sense of beauty. The magic of an individual moment. The quiet whispers of the trees I stare at for so long.

Maybe the trees are there for a reason. Maybe they’re trying to tell me something wise as I watch their branches sway in the breeze. Something simple. Something that reassures me that sitting peacefully and staring out at the world isn’t as meaningless as it seems.

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