It is my birthday today. I am twenty-three.
I have never been good at life. I have persistently wondered how other people can do it so effortlessly. As a teenager I was awkward, nervous, and unable to hold a conversation or look people in the eyes for extended periods of time. I had no dreams or ambitions other than the desire to understand: understand why I was on this planet, what life was, and what I should do. So I studied philosophy. It was good for me – it was for me, as for Wittgenstein, therapy – and although I helped me appreciate my place in the world and taught me how to think, the fundamentals of life still eluded me.
Something has shifted. In the past few months, I’ve been filled with a sense of self-confidence that is alien to me. I’ve not been nervous around people, I’ve been charming and witty, and I’ve become one of the effortless people that I saw when I was 16.
Ironically, this consistent happiness has brought a corresponding anxiety: why am I suddenly and inexplicably able to cope with the world? Consideration of this puzzle has led to several possible answers:
- People have treated me differently since I grew a beard and this has led to a shift in my behaviour towards people. Unlikely: the beard has inhabited my face since last Easter and the unusual confidence only manifested around August/September.
- The absence of constant philosophy has led to an absence of confusion thus proving that the treatment was part of the disease all along. Unlikely: though I haven’t been mired in a forest of abstractions like when I studied it every day, I still think philosophically. On Saturday I wrote a book review – to be posted here shortly – laden with metaphysics and ethics.
- Discovering a calling has led to an increase in self-worth and self-confidence. Possible: meeting so many people similar to myself on my Masters course has made me feel less alone than I’ve ever felt. Discovering that information work is not only something I can do but that I have been doing without realising it and that I enjoy doing has been a tremendous boon to my happiness levels.
Mystery: I’ve simultaneously battled against it and sought it out my whole life. Frustrating though it is, there are mysteries I will never unravel.
It is my birthday. And for whatever reason I finally feel able to cope with life. I’m not perfect but I’m the person I wanted to be at 23. I’m happy with who my formative years have made me and I’m achieving my ambitions.
Everything is wonderful now.