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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Opinion | The Meaning of Life — Who Cares?

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Fikayomi Olagbami | Staff Illustrator

During the 2023 Welcome Week, I helped run events, which took up most of my coworkers’ and my time. We were on campus, working until usually about 1 a.m. During one of our events, on an exceptionally long day, my friend asked me about the meaning of life and why I thought we, as humans, were here. He and I then had a brief but impactful conversation about the meaning of life. 

Now, in all honesty, I at first looked at him like he was crazy. Mind you, we were working for around 9 hours at this point, and it was past midnight. It was not a question I was at all expecting, although I’m so glad he asked it. 

To me, the meaning of life is all about living, creating and experiencing things like this. Trying to figure out the meaning of life is a way to waste away the life you should be living, or the life you want to live. 

Many individuals take the concept of the meaning of life literally and dive into the specifics of how a person exhibits meaning and lives purposefully. Our preconceived notions about life’s meaning create unrealistic expectations about our life’s worth — and that there is one. Society tells us that we need to know what the meaning of life is to fully live meaningfully and that there are simple ways to figure out a meaningful life. 

There should not be a quest to make your life meaningful, and there are no bite-sized steps to discovering this, as posed by an Atlantic article. They write that if you want to find a sense of meaning, “You can do so most effectively — and without too much obsessing — by assessing your life along three dimensions”. I do not think that there is a set of categories or steps to take to make your life meaningful and that there are necessary steps to live a meaningful life. 

The last step for a meaningful life laid out in the article is to not search too hard for one. Why, then, are we searching? There is an instinctual need in all of us to feel meaning in our lives, but why do we have to define it? Why can’t we just let it be? 

Earlier, I said I was so glad my friend asked me what I thought the meaning of life is. This is because wondering, inquiring and discussing this topic fascinates me. It can show you how someone’s brain is wired and cue you into how a person may see the world and the life they are living. 

However, I do not think there is a set way to figure out how to make your life meaningful, and I’m not necessarily sure there even is a meaning to life. The idea that we are put on planet Earth to exhibit meaning does not register in my brain. The concept that we are not succeeding in life because we are not exhibiting meaning is confounding. 

Everyone craves the feeling that their life is worth more than the sum of its parts. According to positive psychology, “We can find meaning in every scenario, every event, every occurrence, every context. We can find meaning in the sublime, in the absurd, in the dull and dreary and in the perfectly wretched in life.” Everyone intuitively knows that they want meaning in their life and believing we have meaning can help individuals thrive. 

Being able to find meaning in various situations and the concept of the meaning of life begs the question of why we inherently need meaning. Why do we feel the need to have meaning when most of us disagree on what meaning is? How do we define how someone lives meaningfully or exhibits meaning in the first place? 

Having meaning or feeling like you have a purpose in life will not be the same for everyone. So society trying to box the “meaning of life” into a category and a simple range of steps is mindless. One person’s life may not seem meaningful to others, but in the end, who cares, why should we place the meaning of our lives on other people’s opinions? 

Every single person in society is different, much like human nature, and saying that there is only one meaning of life set to fulfill everyone is highly idealistic. It’s just not how society and humans are or how we function — everyone likes different things, has various skill sets and likes living for different reasons. 

Some people enjoy sunsets and others, sunrises — other people like traveling abroad, and others like exploring the 50 states. Boxing in the meaning of life to fit into a specific category takes away the differentiation of life itself. One of the most beautiful and interesting things about life, to me, is how different we all are, yet we, hopefully, find a way to coexist and relate to one another. 

I enjoy discussing and ruminating on topics such as this one. However, placing significance on finding the meaning of life to feel like you have purpose seems wasteful. Our preconceived notions about the meaning and purpose of life should not dictate how we live our lives or matter in the grand scheme of living. 

Maybe there is a meaning to life, a meaning to why we are all here living our lives — but that’s a little too philosophical for me to dive into. Thinking about the meaning of life can be fun, interesting and insightful, but in the end, who cares? 

We spend too much of our time thinking about the why of life instead of just living our lives. It’s time to drop the preconceived notions surrounding how we should live our lives and simply go out and live. 

 

Emily O’Neil writes primarily about societal issues, politics and campus life. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Emily O'Neil, Senior Staff Columnist
Emily O’Neil is a Political Science and Public Service major and earning a certificate in Public and Professional Writing. She is from Lancaster, PA and writes primarily about political and societal issues. Write to her at