When You Feel Like Nothing Matters

Ryan Fan

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Sometimes, I curse at myself. I motivate myself rationalizing that all my work does not really matter, that all of this is one big joke. I feel like this life thing is just a game where nothing really matters and the only point is passing the time — and I press forward with the same cynicism to keep myself going.

As a teacher, a graduate student, a writer, and an editor, my mindset and my actions are two completely different stories. While I feel like I’m not doing a good job like I’m just sandbagging my way through life like I’m just a purposeless, aimless being going through the motions. My performance and effort would say otherwise. And I prioritize my relationship, personal life, faith, and friends above all else.

But still, I can’t shake the mindset. I have gotten significantly better at separating my work and my personal life. Perhaps thinking “this is just all one big joke and none of this matters” is one way of making that separation. I feel completely unmotivated unless I really need to be motivated. Maybe the “this doesn’t matter” feeling is a sign of burnout. Perhaps it’s just where God intends me to be. I worry, however, that the cynicism is getting a bit too extreme.

This is not the first time in my life I’ve felt this way. And I know I’m not the only person in this world who feels like none of this matters. According to MeiMei Fox at Forbes, now, while we’re still struggling with a global pandemic and significant civil unrest, setting limits and cutting back is extremely important. Going through the motions is significantly underrated, and that’s the best a lot of us can wish for at the end of the day.

I know everything I do, as a Christian, matters for God. Colossians 3:23 urges us to work for God, which. I do, but it’s not like a walk with God is a picturesque journey into Eden. Christians still go through life and all its brutal tribulations like everywhere else. I like to think I’m a harmless being who doesn’t hurt anyone I encounter, but I’m a human sinner just like anyone else.

According to Sacha Kurucz at Thought Catalog, feeling like nothing we do matters is a sign our life sometimes doesn’t feel real. But this life is real. And this life, everything we do, everything we go through, all that pain, hurt, joy and laughs — all of that matters. It’s easy to feel like they don’t matter. It’s easy to feel like it’s all invalid and we’ll wake up, all of this being a dream.

But it’s not like that. This isn’t a dream. This is real life. I feel that numbness, the emptiness that comes when going through the motions is the best we can do when we lack the capacity to feel emotions at the moment. I have suffered through deep, dark phases of depression. Those were times I felt like this whole life thing was one big charade. But those were also times I felt the most pain, the most attached and in tune with my suffering, the push and pull that ultimately manifested itself in all of this mattering, all the time.

Yes, this emptiness is a sign of something deeper. Sarah Fader at BetterHelp urges seeking professional help when the feeling of emptiness feels like it’s getting out of control. It’s easy to tell ourselves all of this matters, but it’s harder to internalize it. What has helped me is getting out of the isolation in the middle of the pandemic, interacting with people in person, not staring at faces and blank screens on the computer that makes me feel like I’m just talking to myself all day. It’s normal to feel like this phase in our lives is especially difficult — maybe, just maybe, this too shall pass.

Originally published on May 13, 2021 on Invisible Illness.

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Believer, Baltimore City special ed teacher, and 2:40 marathon runner. Diehard fan of "The Wire," God's gift to the Earth. Support me: https://ko-fi.com/ryanfan

Baltimore, MD

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