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Monday, February 11, 2019

Melbourne Journal #2: Exploration (Jen Arrives)

Jen has been here about one week now, and since she's arrived, we've done a couple of walks downtown, a trip to the beach, and several bike rides along the coast. It is, of course, great to have her here. I was reminded once again, while alone for the first week, that she makes my life better.

I've been going in to work most days, but so far I've been struggling to figure out what my purpose is - in Australia, at work, and beyond. I have more freedom here, in terms of work, than I did in Denmark. On the surface, this is a blessing, but so far I am finding it much more difficult, as it forces me to face a deeper existential question: what is meaningful for me and what gives my life purpose? It used to be that, as far as work goes, career achievement alone was meaningful and purposeful, but now that I've achieved a measure of success, this is no longer the case. I need more, but what?

I have started to read Carl Jung, who writes about this precise issue. Here is a quote of his, from "Modern Man in Search of a Soul," in which he contrasts the psychology of mid-life with that of youth: 

"As a rule, the life of a young person is characterized by a general unfolding and a striving toward concrete ends; his neurosis, if he develops one, can be traced to his hesitation or his shrinking back from necessity. But the life of an older person is marked by a contraction of forces, by the affirmation of what has been achieved, and the curtailment of further growth. His neurosis comes mainly from his clinging to a youthful attitude, which is now out of season. Just as the youthful neurotic is afraid of life, so the older one shrinks back from death."

I do see in myself a tendency to revert to youthful pursuits as a way of coping with my current psychological struggles. But according to Jung, the angst I'm feeling is my psyche letting me know that I need to figure out what is meaningful for me now, even in the face of apparent meaninglessness. According to Jung, "The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it."    

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