Opinion

A 27-Year Obsession With Purpose & the Apocalypse

There have always been two constant obsessions in my life:

Purpose and The Apocalypse.

It took me 27 years to realise which of the two was actually ridiculous.

Part 1: Purpose

I’ll be the first to admit that I cannot for the life of me sit still; I always have to be doing something, and up until very recently, I interpreted this hyper-motivated personality trait as a sign I should invest my entire being into a professional career. I was always the type of person who spent their spare time working in some capacity, and wanted so desperately to be able to spout out some jealousy-inducing job title when asked at parties “So, what do you do for a living, Josh?”

For years I was fuelled by the search for the perfect career. Literally every other week I had some new and improved direction in life, so much so that the phrase “What pipe dream are you chasing today?” became an all too frequent remark from friends and colleagues. One day I was going to become a zoo keeper, the next a speech therapist, fashion designer, forensic investigator, boutique interior decor shop owner, environmental scientist, author, actor, film composer, popstar. The list of quickly abandoned career aspirations goes on and on. Nothing seemed to satisfy whatever need I thought I had. Over time, the search for a worthy life purpose became an unhealthy obsession, and, eventually, set in motion my own personal apocalypse.

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Graduating in 2011 with a Bachelor of Music. I love my parents (and that tie).

New Years 2016, like every other person in their mid-20s who’s still unsure what the fuck they’re doing, I realised I was in the middle of a full-blown quarter-life crisis. In February that year, I decided I wanted to move to Sweden and so, true to the impulsiveness I had become infamous for, booked a one-way flight. On June 8th (two weeks before my 26th birthday), I touched down in Stockholm, and found myself on the hunt once again for a job, home, friends and, ultimately still, a purpose.

Part 2: The Apocalypse

My obsession with finding my life’s purpose has only ever been rivalled by my enduring (and somewhat embarrassing) fascination with the apocalypse. Until recently, I had never fully understood this one either. I wasn’t some batshit crazy conspiracist or vengeful prepubescent teenage boy obsessed with guns and head-to-toe camo. I was (am) a young homosexual man, afraid of violence, with a somewhat modern fashion sense and an inability to go 24 hours without a shower. But there it was, clear as mud: a secret fetish for the demise of modern civilisation. I definitely didn’t want millions of innocent people to die horrifically painful deaths, but I definitely did want to live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

baby josh
Once upon a time, I was obsessed with Cabbage Patch dolls, not the end of days.

My confusion was resolved almost exactly a year after arriving in Sweden. By then I was settled into Swedish life – I had a perfectly acceptable (and often enjoyable) job as a content writer with great workmates and probable career advancement, an amazing boyfriend, a growing group of friends and potential admission into the Stockholm creative community.

I was still frequently scrutinising my life’s purpose and contemplating the exploitation of Sweden’s tuition-free university system (thanks mum for the EU passport). But I was pretty comfortable with a full-time salary and, given my impulsiveness and tendency to bore easily, trapping myself in another three years of study probably wasn’t such a good idea.

So I decided against it. Instead, I wanted to learn a new skill every month; one random “something” that was entirely unrelated to career goals and life’s fucking “purpose”. Now was my chance to finally learn how to pick a lock with a bobby pin, or communicate in morse code, or start a fire using a battery and steel wool. No ulterior career-driven motive, just plain ol’ fashioned fun and ingenuity.

I quickly began to sense a theme in the type of things I wanted to learn, and, just as quickly, came to understand  the entire basis of my apocalyptic obsession. It wasn’t so much the nuclear bombs or the zombies or the mass death that I was attracted to. It was the simplicity (so to speak) of a post-apocalyptic life purpose; one, incredibly basic but essential idea.

Survival.

Hit the reset button on modern civilisation and suddenly our lives are no longer about those unattainable sales targets, or getting an A+ on your presentation about meerkats, or pacifying Mrs. Stevenson who’s fuming that you can’t order in the right coloured faux flowers to match her dining room curtains (true story by the way). This “ultimate life purpose” that I’d been at war with for the past 27 years has been somewhat put into perspective.

I’m not saying I’ve lost my motivation or the will to succeed professionally; I still want to be someone with a great career and rewarding lifestyle, but boy is there a lot less self-applied pressure. I can now spend the day in bed playing Fallout 4 with my boyfriend and be completely fine with it not contributing directly to my career. I no longer feel guilty for my impulsiveness or inability to commit to one particular direction; I can recognise it as a gift.

At the end of the day, when the world has gone to shit and we’re left to pick up the pieces, who would you rather have in your little merry band of survivors? Some hotshot former CEO who can tell you everything you need to know about the stock market (I don’t really know what CEOs do), or someone who has experience in animal handling, coordinating events, dealing with difficult people, analysing crime scenes and can tell you that the berry you’re about to put in your mouth is going give you violent diarrhoea? Suddenly, an obsession with the apocalypse doesn’t seem so ridiculous after all. The end (or beginning, depending on how you see things) could be much closer than we think and God be damned if I’m not going to be ready for it.