Travels with Marley: An Existential Journey While Watching My Roommate’s Dog
“What are you going to do with an English degree?”
I heard these words a countless number of times as I navigated through my college years. Countless times I was confronted with this question, and countless times I had no real answer. I found myself lying to some degree — talking about future jobs as a professor or a law student. I never intended to pursue these occupations, but they were the answers that got a “hmm” and a nod of approval. Whatever it took, I just wanted the conversation to end. I was a dreamer, but some invisible stigma kept me from outwardly stating my inner drive. Whether it was fear of judgement, a dislike of explanation, or maybe some doubt of whether or not I actually believed these dreams. This doubt and anxiety festered and grew into an existential depression.
This was a debilitating depression. One that I’ve attempted to proactively combat, but only made so much progress in keeping at bay. The weekend of August 3rd, 2018 found me in an especially tumultuous time of negative thought processes. Summer 2018 had thus far been one of growth and change. New friendships, new work opportunities, and new viewpoints instilled in me a paradigm shift that had exponentially affected me. I was working in a business full of ambitious and driven people. I was performing at a higher level in my hobbies than I had previously. I was bolder than I ever have been, socially or otherwise, making meaningful connections with meaningful people — people who drove and continue to drive me forward and propel me ever-forward. But there I found myself that weekend, deeply saddened, despite what had been an overall immensely successful summer.
I was blessed to have the company of Marley, my roommate’s dog, as she needed looking after while that roommate was out of town. In my depressive experience, hours are spent laying in a stupor, petrified by existential anxiety and sadness, chasing ghosts of what could be and what should be. I could not be caught in this state for too long, however, as Marley needed looking after. I welcomed these breaks from dread, as tending to Marley offered a welcome respite from these hours of chaos. This came to a head when on Saturday night, while feeding Marley, I reached an epiphany. Marley was happy. Marley was not concerned with existence, or questions of self. Marley wanted only to eat and to rest. She did not worry about the future, or dwell on the past. She was content to live in the moment. It was a simple existence, but evidently a fulfilling one. Perhaps there was something to be learned from this simplicity.
I could embrace life’s challenges knowing that ultimately, satisfaction could be reached if these three criteria were met: I needed to eat — to receive sustenance, both literally and figuratively — to pursue my interests, and latch on to those that provided me with happiness. I needed to rest—to take time to relax my body, my mind, and my soul — to tune into what I needed on any level, and to meet those needs. I needed to live in the moment — to embrace friends and acquaintances, but also to embrace the day, cherishing each passing moment as a denizen of Fayetteville, the United States, Earth, and the cosmos at large. By achieving these three goals in some degree each day, I could combat the demons tormenting me.
I would suffer the weight of fear, sadness, and doubt no more.
As of this writing, I no longer fear the stigma, existent or not, of pursuing a degree in the liberal arts. I look forward to explaining my goals and stating my dreams. I hold my convictions with a much greater degree of confidence.
This is not to say that I have figured out everything. It is inevitable that the darkness has its day. Doubt and fear will creep back in, and attempt to slow my progression. But the darkness is not winning anymore. I can challenge these thoughts, and accept them as fleeting moments on my journey, here one moment and then gone the next. My path is clearer. I know what I’m about, what direction I’m going, and what needs to be done to press forward. I don’t hold all the answers, but I’m at a distinct advantage when comparing myself to the Tucker of a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago. Every day, progress is made.
My desire is not to be esoteric or pedantic in any way, but rather I hope to inspire others to eat, to rest, and to live in the moment— to ascend from the dark pits of doubt and fear. At the very least, I’m on my way to fulfillment, and hope others join me.
After traveling existential byways over the weekend with a wonderful dog in tow, I am pleased to say that I can answer the question, “What are you going to do with an English degree?”
Whatever I damn well please.