Existential Confusion

For the past eight months, I have been feeling extremely lost.

Part of this confusion is due to my disillusionment regarding the tech industry. Since going to college, I have reflected a lot about technology and where it’s heading. I am still as optimistic as ever, but I am becoming increasingly skeptical. Not all progress is good, and some of what’s happening—particularly with big data at large tech companies and our increasing reliance on technology—really worries me.

Ever since my creeping feelings of existential angst, I have felt more and more drawn to my “first love”: space. At the end of the day, what drives me is not getting a bigger paycheck or a comfortable lifestyle—it’s really trying to answer the question of why are we here for this short and precious time.

But if I dive deeper and ask myself why I love space, it’s because it is pure and unbridled. It is existential, and it’s amazing to contemplate. Space, despite its vastness and mysteries, is without the messiness of humans and our crazy feelings and whims.

That’s why, after a ton of reflecting and talking to many people, I have decided to study Physics and Computer Science for my undergrad and masters, and then get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering (or a robotics-related field). Robotics and space exploration (and the intersection of the two) are really what excites me, and I would love to work on the many unsolved problems in those areas during my lifetime.

It is a beautiful, empowering, and amazing time to be alive. So many problems to solve and the world’s known information is literally at the tip of our fingertips. The future is incredibly malleable and open to change, and I fully believe I have the connections and resources to make the world a better place.

Even though I feel like I’m somewhat skilled at software engineering (and I really do love it), I don’t think I can do it for a lifetime. The more time I spend as a software engineer, the more I feel I am losing my humanity. Which sounds crazy and probably a bit unfounded, but it’s just how I feel.

I’ve been thinking every day about what I really value. What I really want is to live in an area with clear skies, where I can stargaze every night. What I really want is people I love who to be close to me, to be healthy and happy with their lives. What I really want is to live in a society where people feel empowered, who feel like their lives create value. Ultimately, I want (more like need, in order to stay sane)—autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And right now, I am lacking in all three categories.

I am fascinated by Native American culture—not because of “imperialist nostalgia” or some perverse interest towards “exotic” cultures, but because a lot of their values (like interconnectivity with nature, community, and spirituality) really appeal to me. And I wonder—what would have happened if Europeans never colonized the Americas? Sure, technology has made it so that we live more productive and long lives. But are we any happier?

Is technological progress inevitable? Are we all under a cosmic fate or do we have free will? These are the questions that bridle my mind every day, and I am just utterly confused. I am lost and slowly wandering, and I’m learning to be okay with that. I am surrounded by many people and society’s temptations–yet I yearn to be alone, to hear my own thoughts, to beat my own drum. I want to think for days on end—to really reason and feel deeply. To philosophize. To wonder. To create. I seek to live fully, with true purpose and excitement.

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