“So What About You?”

black and white picture of thomas Hughes

Male. Late 20’s (just). 6ft. Brown hair and blue eyes. 1 chickenpox scar in my left eye. 4 tattoos and counting. Shoe size 11. 4 bones that haven’t healed as good as they used to be. Occasional smoker of both cigarettes and pot, I drink even less. I have wonderful/bizarre dreams every night. I used to prefer the night but now I have no preference. I have 3 younger sisters and no brothers. I briefly knew my biological father but haven’t seen him in over 20 years. I have two grandparents that I love very much. I’m very fond of dogs and also know how to make a mean coffee. I grew up on a council estate in Bloxwich, near Walsall, but have moved around a lot since then.

My and my Family

Those are some of the facts that I cannot escape. The facts that sketch an outline of a human but leave the detail out. Those are the things that help a person realise their sense of identity, giving them a history, a context of which to see the world from, something that which without, life can seem lonely and cold. I’ve had a bumpy ride to get to where I am, a ride that once upon a time I believed had meaning and a bigger purpose. A ride that was going to take me to the places I needed to be and bought me into the lives of the people I was destined to meet. As I grow older, I leave this childhood fantasy behind and face the cold truth about life, the truth that says there is no meaning, there is no bigger plan, nothing is preordained and whatever anybody does is half luck and half effort.

This way of thinking started to seep into my bright and innocent mind when I was 24. I had moved to Glasgow off the back of travelling around Europe and my 28th-floor apartment sitting on the highest ground point in the whole of Glasgow was the perfect place for me to have my very first existential crisis. From my watchtower I could see for miles, the mountain ranges in the distance, the river cutting the city in half, the weather that was yet to reach the city, the junkies in the park shouting endlessly “is there anybody out there?”, it was this sense of detachment from the people below that allowed for the mental space to delve deeper into my mind than I had ever gone before. In that room of mine, I stayed up late, meditated frequently, ate healthily and taught myself coding. Amongst all of that, my personal studies led me to discover 19th-century German Philosopher, Frederik Nietzche. I can’t put all the blame on Frederick for my descent into Nihilism, but he helped to articulate the things I was feeling. My search for meaning was now over. My steadfast belief that everything in life happens for a reason diminished. My sense of self was thrown out the window and for the first time in my life, I felt truly alone. The cold, dark universe doesn’t care about me, about us, or about our planet, its indifference towards me became deafening. I felt that this was a milestone in my life, one that deep down I always knew I had to reach. One that I put off for as long as necessary so I could live in happy ignorance for as long as I could allow myself too.

A view of frozen fog rolling over the city. Glasgow

I could start my story in Exmouth, the place I moved to when I first left home that had a huge lasting impact on my life, in Portugal where I fell in love with culture or way back when I was just a wee lad living with a single mom and my sister. But Glasgow, that’s where I feel that I truly turned a new page. Everything up to that point was painted in artificial colours, fake meanings and conclusions applied to defining moments, moments that, since Glasgow, I’ve revisited with a new perspective. You could say that Glasgow gave me a new framework, rooted in reality rather than fiction, that I could use to approach the world, one that breathes life into the phrase “ignorance is bliss”.

Fast forward to 2020 and I’ve moved back to the midlands, set up my first business, helped to start a coffee shop and become a trustee of a charity. However, the cloud of Nihilism still hung over me, how are we meant to find meaning in a world that is meaningless? why should I try at anything when in 100 years we’ll be lucky if anybody remembers our name? What is it to ‘reach my potential’ and ‘self actualise’? I knew that these questions and more needed to be answered, but finding the time and the space needed to investigate them was in short supply. Glasgow provided both of these, my rent was cheap meaning I didn’t have to work so much and my castle in the sky kept me from the hustle and bustle of the crowds. Then covid happened and space was gifted to me in the form of a government lockdown.

Look at that ‘tasche!

These times come few and far between, so I knew I had to make the most of it. I cut contact down to a minimum with my friends and family, deactivated my social media accounts and delved right into the pandora’s box of my mind once again. I believed that Nihilism, although described as an “illness” by Nietzche, was the final destination of philosophy and, perhaps pessimistically believed that there was no way out of the nihilistic hole I had found myself in for the last 4 years. But I was so tired of it, so tired of waking up and feeling as though I’m distracting myself with the mundane in order to get on with my day to day living, it felt as though I was living a lie. Common Google searches included “how to cure nihilism” “how to get out of nihilism”, sadly, these results only confounded my view that nihilism was final, there’s something to be said here about how google and youtube rate the information they show you.

I thought that I’d be destined to live a life as a nihilist for the rest of my days, I’ve never suffered with my mental health, but when you see that Niezche defends suicide as a morally acceptable, justified act that is entirely rational, it does cross one’s mind. Then out of nowhere, Camus came into being. He stood entirely with Niezche when it came to the meaningless on life and the universe, but he had an entirely fresh way of looking at things. Whilst he sees life as being absurd, void of meaning, he says that we should rage against it. He sees it as an opportunity to be entirely free of anything that came before us, encouraging us to forge our own way of being whilst laughing all the way to the grave at how insane the world is.

I’m yet to fully internalise everything Camus speaks of, but have absorbed existentialism into my way of being. Camus has been the door that has allowed me to escape the depression that nihilism brings with it and has allowed me to approach life with a newfound sense of vigour and enthusiasm. Thanks to this Algerian born Frenchman, I believed it was worth applying for uni and here I am right now. Although I’m vocal in my challenges when I see injustice, oppression or ignorance, Camus has taught me to be less serious about life as a whole. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I feel much more optimistic about the future.

Me with my favourite customer, Arnie
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