On finding "it"

A short piece on purpose, grasping, and self-transcendence.

For most of my life I was chasing after “it”. I always thought that I’d find “it” in what I was pursuing at the time—whether it was getting into a particular college, getting a particular job, or having a particular crush like me back.

What is “it”? It’s hard to put into words, but “it” refers to a feeling of significance, a feeling of having finally arrived, a feeling of deeper and more complete meaning than we tend to find in the drudgery of the everyday. It’s the antithesis of feeling bored and empty and unsatisfied, of feeling rejected and unwanted and unworthy. And crucially, “it” always seems to promise a sense of certainty and finality: once you attain “it”, all other worries will fade away, permanently.

I no longer believe that anything is “it”. When I feel a desire towards something, or feel admiration towards someone, I no longer ascribe this magical aura to them, no longer make them an object of worship. I no longer feel like everything else must wait until I get that yearning satisfied. I see it as just another yearning.

How did I come to the conclusion that nothing is “it”? It’s not something I learned from argument. For someone who is a believer in the ever-elusive “it”, you can’t talk them out of it. It’s the kind of realization you come to on your own, when you’ve experienced enough false “it"s, when you realize that for some reason, sitting in silence for an hour can feel more like “it” than anything else you’ve experienced in your entire life.

Once that happens, you start to think that “it” is maybe only ever right here. That the “it” is independent of the particular accomplishments and relationships and life experiences that come your way. And you finally open your eyes and ears to realize just how many people have repeatedly been trying to tell you that that next thing you’re pursuing is not “it”, because they got there themselves and saw first-hand. The world tells you that what you want is not “it” when the richest and most famous and most accomplished people open up about how depressed and anxious and suicidal they are, and you realize that underneath the sheen of material wealth and social status they suffer many of the same things that you do.

I still yearn for things. But unlike before, I ask myself whether the yearning I feel is for some genuinely different life circumstance, rather than a simpler yearning for love, connection, and engagement with what’s in front of me at the moment. I realize that in most cases, my craving for “it” is the result of a desire to escape feelings of inadequacy and emptiness, that it’s just a matter of latching on to the first thing that seems appealing rather than truly feeling and following my inclination and curiosities.

Today I know that I can find “it” in everything. I know better than to constantly give up the “it” I already have right here in the desperate search for a particular “it” that may or may not exist. And somehow, seeing “it” here has allowed me to pursue and enjoy specific, conventional “it"s even more—a loving friendship, a challenging project, a riveting story—without feeling this unsatisfied grasping and clenching towards them. And I know they are all superseded by the major “it”.

I could be wrong. “It” could still be somewhere out there waiting for me—in a romantic relationship, a certain level of wealth or fame, a certain highly-esteemed accomplishment. Perhaps there’s something I should still be chasing that will, once and for all, change everything. I’ll report back if that ever happens. But I’m not betting on it.

Note to subscribers

Hello there! It’s been a while since I reached out to you. I’ve found it difficult to muster up the courage to post here, but now that I’ve made a commitment to writing poorly, I’m going to take another stab at doing this consistently. My goal with all this is just to be useful to people in some small way: by sparking a little bit of insight, joy, or wonder. I will do that by sharing the things I’ve been thinking about. I will also explicitly not put a lot of time into proofreading and perfecting every piece, trusting that I can still provide some sort of value to people just by sharing raw thoughts (rather than finely crafted pieces, which I simply don’t have the time to put together).

One other thing I’ve done to this end is to turn off notifications for everything (likes, subscribers, unsubscribers, analytics) but post comments. I always appreciate likes and subscribes, but this way I can let those things happen on their own without misspent energy and heart palpitations on my part. And let me take this opportunity to say once and for all: you are totally free to unsubscribe from this newsletter if it’s not helpful or interesting to you, even if you know me personally. I will literally never know.

For those of you who stay, cheers to many more pieces!

Kasra