Aging and needing to live a "full life" is terrifying me


Consider the following:
99.99% of all human beings that ever lived, scratched away on a piece of dirt, never having seen anything more than a few miles away from where they were born, then died, most likely younger than you are today.

We read stories and watch movies of high adventure. But that’s not life. You don’t need to do that stuff to have worth.

Do you enjoy yourself? If you do, then you are living well. You don’t need to be living every moment at the height of ecstacy. Are you content? I think that’s perhaps more important.

Taoists would say that you are what you are, and that’s what you will be. And that, inherently, is good. When you see a bird land on the branch of a tree, do you think, “I wonder how good that creature is at being a bird.

It simply is what it is. It goes about its days, doing bird things. And that’s cool.

Our existence is no different. It doesn’t need some grand design, or some magnificent purpose. The fact that we exist at all is amazing.

So just go with it.

If you want to go do something else, then go for it. That’s cool too. But don’t do it just because you think you are SUPPOSED to. Because the only thing you are supposed to do, is exist, as a unique part of the universe.


This may work for someone. OTOH you may believe that an all powerful being created you. Well, that’s another set of problems.


I always found it fascinating that every one of us can trace our existence back in one straight line of living organisms, to the very beginning of time.

One long, unbroken line of continuous life, 3.8 billion years old.

That still kinda blows my mind.


When I was working at my first job out of university, I was preparing to leave, and remarked to a colleague that the work “wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing”. He responses was something along the lines of “oh, I didn’t know that you believed in fate.” It really struck me, since I hadn’t really examined what I could possibly mean by “I’m supposed to do X”.

He knew that I was an atheist and basically a materialist, so where is this “supposed to” coming from? I was following a kind of social script, basically on autopilot.

Of course, I still left the job and went to grad school, but I don’t know that I fully convinced myself that I really knew why I was doing all this.


That’s a strange response from him, because I would have interpreted it in the opposite way. If someone were leaving a job telling me it wasn’t what they were “supposed to be doing,” I would assume they were doing the exact opposite - moving away from a scripted life (doing something they did not want to do or that did not fit them) and instead doing something that was more to their actual nature and proclivity.


Thank you for this. This type of thing helps. I know it as theory, but it is so hard for me to internalize it and actually feel it. I do think that reading it, and getting similar ideas from different perspectives actually helps.


Well, in that case, wouldn’t I just say that I wanted to do something different? The way I phrased it, and the way I was thinking about, was there was some big plan out there that I needed to follow, even if it wasn’t a plan that I’d actually come up with.


I don’t think so necessarily. I have seen people come to the realization that they are not living “their life,” i.e. the life that truly fits them and makes them comfortable and happy, by saying, “This is not who I am supposed to be.”

I mean, isn’t that like 90% of the lyrics of Freedom by George Michael, where he’s basically telling the world, all the popstar stuff, the television, the tight jeans videos, that’s not the man I’m supposed to be? I don’t think he was saying, “There’s some big plan I’m supposed to follow, even if I didn’t come up with it.” I think he was saying, “I was trying to be something that I fundamentally am not, and I’m going to stop doing that.”


I agree that people do phrase it that way (I phrased it that way!). But I think phrasing it that way does imply some sort of cosmic plan. Again, where is this “supposed to be” coming from? Saying you are supposed to be a certain thing, to me, implies more than just “what I want” or “what would be a good fit for my nature”.


Aristotle thought that all creatures including human beings had a natural “function” and that ‘virtue’ was that creature living in accordance with the best function that fitted said creature. So a horse runs well, a bird sings well, ect.

I’d say if that if I knelt on all fours and tried to eat alfalfa all day long, you’d probably think i wasn’t doing what was proper for humans to do. If i sat in a tree and tried to flap my arms and fly, likewise, i’m not living in accord with my “function” as a human being. There are limits, being humans, to what our nature suits us for. So it’s not necessarily easy to just dismiss this argument out of hand.

Aristotle thought that the ultimate life was living in contemplation since he identified philosophy, ie, thinking, as the highest achievement humans could aspire to perform since this is what separates us from everything else in the world. This conclusion obviously meant everybody has taken a crack at Aristotle for a very long time.

Was Aristotle right? I think this sits comfortably parallel to Timex’s Taoism, about a bird being a bird - a human being a human is doing what humans do. But what do humans do? Is thinking the same thing as experiencing? Does thinking require creating? Do we not have to worry about his conclusion per se, but just find some human-doing thing that motivates us? Is “you doing you” doing what you’re best suited to do - be a father, be an artist, be a musician, ect? Should doing what you’re doing be the most enjoyable thing, or should you do the thing you were “meant” to do even if it’s difficult, uncomfortable, unpleasant, or tiring, because the reward in the end outweighs the struggle at first?


Suffering ultimately comes from denying your natural state. Sometimes this might manifest itself in you doing stuff that doesn’t fit your nature, but more often I think it stems from folks thinking that they are “supposed” to be something other than what they are.

This ultimately puts us into a bad state.

It leaves us in a state where we are forced to do something against our nature, which will cause us to suffer… Or continue to do what is in our nature, but mistakenly believe that it is wrong, which causes us to suffer.

A lot of this stems from the consumption of media, idolizing various celebrities
… but not even then as humans, but idealized imagined version of themselves.

Walking the path is harder than knowing the path, but ultimately if we live as ourselves, we can be happy… almost regardless of anything else.


Yeah, but as far as I can tell, me being happy means being able to afford pizza rolls, shelter, electricity, electronics, an internet connection, healthcare, dental care, and I’m sure a bunch of other things, and to get those I have to do things that I’d often rather not be doing, such as going to work instead of staying home to read and game and play with the dog and nap and watch a movie, etc.

Then again if every day was staying home and reading and playing and whatnot, I’d probably start wishing for something else to do.


In truth, your nature could likely manifest itself in a wide variety of ways. For instance, your nature probably doesn’t absolutely require pizza rolls. That’s a specific implementation of a more abstract notion within your nature. Your exact job probably isn’t key, but working at something likely is.

One thing to consider though is how much stuff do we do, like buy consumer products, because we are told they are necessary… But they aren’t. And to afford those things, we have to perform work that maybe we don’t enjoy… So we fight our nature, and cause suffering, in order to buy things which also aren’t really essential to our nature, and do nothing to alleviate our suffering.




The media thing is interesting; I think I suffer from it, but in a different way.

There is so much self-help stuff out there. So many things telling you how to live. Things that are supposed to be helpful. I’ve mentioned a number already in this thread. “No one on their deathbed ever wished they had worked more.” “Experiences trump material things - a rich life is a life full of travel and experiences.”

I’m going to be honest, even posts by people like RichVR. You are taught that the good life is one of travel, edgy living, that time you got food poisoning in Vietnam and barely survived, basically Anthony Bourdain stuff.

But how do you take those prescriptions for a good life, and not have them turn into allegations of failure when you don’t do them? When you just live your little hobbit life, quiet at home, doing nothing meaningful? The advice we are bombarded with becomes a condemnation to me.


Ha ha – yes, molten pain if you eat them too soon. I have been on a pizza roll renaissance lately since we bought the air fryer. They cook so well! Crispy instead of limp like you get them out of the microwave.

And indeed, last night the box had 8 pizza rolls left, so I was going to cook 4 as an evening snack, because it’s important to have nutrition in your body right before sleeping. Then I looked at the 4 remaining rolls in the bag and said fuck it and dumped all 8 into the fryer.


I think one further complication of the kind of stories that @RichVR or anyone else is telling you is that they don’t seem like fantastic adventures until after they’ve happened - in the moment stuff like that is often terrifying. I mean, if he had gone to Vietnam and caught an intestinal bug and then died in horrible agony in a clinic, he wouldn’t think it had been such an amazing adventure. I mean yeah, he wouldn’t be looking back at all, but you get my point.

I would not claim to be a huge Jeff Foxworthy fan, but having grown up in the south I can tell you there is some truth to his joke about every redneck’s last words: Hey y’all, watch this!


Nothing seems worth doing until afterwards though. Facebook probably didn’t seem worth creating to a lot of people at first. Online bookstore? So what? There’s a Border’s right around the corner! Travel 1/2 way around the world to go on a walk-about in Australia? Perfectly good park right across the street, or even better, let me just strap on my Occulus.

Nothing worth doing is easy. You will never gain satisfaction and contentment from doing easy things.
Easy things are fun (like your mom hiyoooooo) and we need to do those things too, but you can’t build a life out of them.


Think of those things as ideas, rather than suggestions.

They are things other folks did. Maybe you think they sound fun, and you could do them. But just because someone else did something that you didn’t doesn’t require to some kind of failure on your part.

You are not them. You are unique. Your experience in life will be unique. You can’t do it wrong. The uniqueness of your experience, which is guaranteed, inherently makes your life amazing. It may not seem it, while you are in the middle… It may seem pointless or mundane. But consider the perspective of an outside observer. You would be interesting, basically no matter what.


I just discovered the dry skin I thought was due to my new house location (on top of a dry mountain) is in fact due to me being over 50. The"gifts" of aging sure aint pretty on my face. Sigh.

Yeah yeah I know, it beats the alternative, but the one way traffic of body decay sure does suck.