I discovered philosophy at a fairly young age. I was just finishing high school and my worldview was changing rapidly in a direction that seemed to be the opposite of the people around me.
High school is a difficult period for many people; the process of maturing and becoming fully rational adult responsible for your own actions is a stressful one, to say the least. Adding to the confusion is the fact that people make this change at different paces. I felt the pull of becoming an adult very suddenly. I felt this yearning for my past lifestyle that my friends were still enjoying that I knew I would never get back again.
Never again in my life could I have those innocent teenage years back. This change along with other factors led to depression and anxiety.
During this hard time I discovered philosophy. I enjoyed classes like computer science, graphic design, advanced math and physics in high school, but I had never thought to turn to the social sciences.
While I was facing a crisis (later self-diagnosed as an existential crisis), I turned to philosophy outside of school. By college I was reading voraciously, as much as I could.
I found solace and comfort in philosophy. I was searching for truth and philosophy offered me so many answers to life”s questions. Before I ventured off to my third college, I officially decided to change my major to philosophy without ever having taken a class, though I was well read in the subject.
It was exhilarating to participate in academic philosophical discussions. Half of philosophy is reading and digesting the material the other half is discussing it with others. After spending so much time reading on my own, it was thrilling to become exposed to the discursive nature of the field.
It was as if I had caught a glimpse of Socrates’ lifestyle, one of my heroes. He would allegedly spend his time wandering the streets philosophizing with the locals for free. I started to question why I was paying my university for the privilege to do what I could technically do for free — another joy of philosophy is learning to question the otherwise ‘normal’ aspects of the world around you.
As Sartre would argue, existence precedes essence. In other words, your sense of value and purpose is not handed to you on a silver platter. You are not born with it. You must discover it. I think that through discovering philosophy, I’ve discovered part of myself.
I urge every individual to find his or her passion — something that inspires you. Read lots of books. Learn all you can about the world from other people. Everyone, past and present, has something to teach you. Experience the world and other cultures.
It doesn’t matter where you find your passion or what it is (so long as it adheres to certain moral principles, which are up for debate depending on what your philosophy is) but life will lack purpose without it. You must discover it. Now. Oh and might I suggest picking up any one of the Socratic dialogues by Plato?
Frank Young is a web designer living in Chicago, IL. He spends his free time reading and writing philosophy and watching Arrested Development.