existential dread at a grocery store

/ Monday, March 4, 2019 /

Existential dread.

A realization of how everything’s fleeting and that nothing matters in the end. A sudden recognition of how we’re just a ball of atoms who can do great and ugly things at once.

 The feeling is not new to me. Or even to most of us.

As for the triggers?

It can be a poem, a book, a film, a place, and sometimes, conversations with people. Some of us mistake it for nostalgia. But it's an entirely different beast altogether.

But yesterday’s existential dread was different because it happened at a grocery store.

So I noticed a Korean (or Chinese?) tourist taking a photo of her friend checking out the shelf filled with local delicacies.  It was quite apparent that she wanted the picture to appear as if her friend is shopping for souvenirs.  You know the usual “planned candid photo.”

At that instant, thoughts of existential dread suddenly came to me. My first thought was “what’s the point of taking that supposed candid photograph and sharing it on social media (I'm actually assuming at this point, and I know I should stop doing this because assumption, as always, is the mother of all fuck-ups).

And then I realized “centuries later, no one’s  going to remember that they were here and that I was here and what’s the point of trying to figure out the best liquid detergent to buy?”

The thought and feeling eventually wore off after that incident at the grocery store.

However, when I woke up this morning, thoughts of existential dread returned, and I can’t stop thinking about the two Korean women taking photos of each other at the grocery store. I'm aware that it's not productive but I just can't drive the thought and feelings away.

So I decided to write about it. Here. Now.

While I’m writing this now, I feel better because I just realized that the feeling isn’t exclusive to me and everyone experiences it at one point. It’s part of the overall human experience.

We're here to experience, not to endlessly ruminate. (BIG REMINDER TO SELF). We're here to soak in all the beauty and ugliness and chaos and terror and wonder of the world. It is what matters in the end.

And what’s more important is we have someone to share this existential dread with and that we're free to write, wonder,  acknowledge (rather than resist?) and be okay with the thought and feeling. To make peace with it rather than fight against it. We’re all in this together, right?


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I usually say, in the end, okay, it’s love and it’s work — what else could there possibly be? -- Maira Kalman


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