On leading an examined life

Maybe it’s just because my 28th birthday is in a week, but I’m feeling extra shitty about my life choices lately. By all accounts, I’m doing pretty ok: I’m making a living off a career I chose in high school and still love (with a fucking art school degree), I’m living in one of the best cities in the world and I’m about to move across the country to another one, I’m fairly attractive, decently in shape, and I have a boyfriend who loves me. I’m healthy, I’m paying off my student loans, and I’ve got amazing credit. So why do I feel like I’m wasting my life?


You’re basing your entire sense of purpose off of a checklist, and it’s not even your own fucking checklist. You’re trying to attain spiritual fulfillment using cultural capitalism’s default settings for being a good consumer. Sorry, but that’s a recipe for a big fat existential crisis.

Set the checklist aside and start leading an examined life. Go deep. I’m talking about religion here. Not the canned stuff, obviously, but real religion. Primal stuff about nature and consciousness and the mysteries of the universe. Ask the big questions. Explore the human condition. Get busy with moral philosophy, metaphysics, and aesthetics. Soak it all up. Learn, and then go do.

It doesn’t really matter what you end up believing or how you end up putting it all into practice. The process itself is how you discover a life worth living.

(Oh, and happy fucking birthday!)


17 thoughts on “On leading an examined life

  1. Annalisa says:

    I’m turning 28 in a few weeks too (been reading your shit for a decade now) and I needed to hear this. Thank you for coming back for a minute, Coke.

  2. Daughter of Savvy says:

    Thank you for this. I am on the flip side of this coin (28 yo artist, have deprioritized “the checklist” in favor of “the examined life”) and struggle with feeling like I’ve made the wrong choice because I don’t have a “career” or a boyfriend or any of the trappings of a conventional life. I’m think I’m figuring it out though despite the feelings of failure and existential dread. Hopefully OP can meet the requirements of their imagination.

  3. Tatty says:

    Could anyone recommend a book on aesthetics? I’ve looked up a few on Amazon and as I know very little on the subject, except that there’s a philosophy and a science of aesthetics, I’m not sure in which direction to go or if there’s a book which provides an overview that covers both the science and philosophy!

    Thanks for any replies.

    • flblbl says:

      Aesthetics are a very vast branch of philosophy (one of the biggest and oldest by far) so there’s a lot of directions you can take. Are you more interested in the art theory side of it, the socio-cultural study side of it, the neurology side of it ? another completely different side ?
      There’s no bad answer here, but it’s definitively a question you should ask yourself as you learn more about the subject. 🙂
      I could recommend stuff right off the bat but it’s the kind of thing where the best recommendation is to explore on your own at first, to get a frame of reference and have a feel of how the field “works” to better navigate it later (aesthetics litterature is a bit all over the place !).

      • Tatty says:

        Thanks for your reply, FLBLBL! I actually wasn’t aware the field of aesthetics covered so much. It seems a bit like a rubik’s cube, with so many sides! I think, at the moment, the socio-cultural study side would be something I’d find easier to wrap my mind around and the most interesting. I’ve read a few books relating to neurology, mostly by Oliver Sacks, and though he explained the topics he wrote about clearly, it took a while for me to ‘get it’, I’m embarrassed to say, but then I’m not familiar with a lot of medical terms as I don’t encounter them regularly. I’ll try to find some reliable resources relating to the socio-cultural side of aesthetics, however, if you could let me know of any sources with reliable information in that direction I’d appreciate it very much, whether that’s books or anything else.


        • flblbl says:

          – Ways Of Seeing (the book and the series, both very accessible and a good place to start i think)

          – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (very art-oriented but very fundamental and a fairly easy read i think). the Frankfurt school had some great discussion of aesthetics in general (even Adorno) but Walter Benjamin is one of the less insufferable to read imho.

          – Structuralists overall dealt with systems and cultures a lot, but many of them are *abstruse*. The System Of Objects and Mythologies are two fairly accessible tidbits that focus on everyday life objects and mores and decrypt their a e s t h e t i c s. they’re a good place to start and see if you can stomach postmodernist stuff.

          (i’ve kept it fairly 20th century because earlier authors are easier to find and harder to read in general)

          • Tatty says:

            Thanks for the recommendations FLBLBL! I’ve ordered several of them, and I look forward to watching the series you mentioned while reading the book, also. They look like easy to digest chunks, so I hope I’ll enjoy going down this particular rabbithole! 🙂

          • flblbl says:

            you’re welcome ! Ways Of Seeing is that kind of vulgarization that makes you realize you knew much more about the subject than you first thought, it’s really great. 🙂

  4. Tessa says:

    Thanks for the book list flblbl. Can anybody else throw in suggestions for books? Relating too much to the aforementioned existential crisis and the anxiety of having an uncomplete checklist for conventional things at 31.

  5. K says:

    The checklist is just a basis for a safe foundation, not the house.

    Now you build the house, by doing the things that really satisfy YOU.

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