Post- Magazine

eureka euphoria! [narrative]

striking gold amidst meaninglessness

“Happy birthday!”

My best friend performs a humble rendition of the birthday song before I blow out candles of the numbers “1” and “9” atop my chocolate mini bundt cake.

“What’d you wish for?” she asks teasingly.

If there’s one thing I learned from the summer, it’s that everything is trivial.


I emerged from my first year at college in ruins (though I did not know it then)—wasted time, unhealthy habits, memory loss, unpleasant relationships. Without much thought, though, I moved on to my summer plans with zeal as I was to partake in my first ever internship at a Hollywood company—a tangible hope that I could be a part of the film industry as per my childhood ambition. It had also been four months since I was last with my best friends from back home; we looked forward to the next three months reunited not as naive adolescents but as learned adults.

It was only in the last quarter of summer that an unexplainable, existential bleakness surged over me. What am I doing? How did I spend a year making so little progress in my education? Why am I giving time to people I know will hurt me? What makes me good enough to break into one of the hardest industries that excludes people like me? Will my realities diverge from my dreams in five years?

When my best friend asks me what I wish for on my birthday, I have no articulate answer. 19 is the last year of adolescence, the last time I may ignore the future. But I simply feel that everything around me amounts to nothing in the end.

With my hometown friends already gone at college and my internship program concluded, I am left alone with the time to contemplate my own questions, which I avert in anticipation of the near return to school. I spend hours on end perusing inspiration photos for dorm decorations, videos documenting the experiences of campus life or study abroad, and online stores for envisioned outfits throughout the school year. I distract myself from the dread with short-lived excitement, but in the back of my mind dwells a constant question of “What am I doing?”

Upon returning to campus, I oscillate between an eagerness to re-enter my adventurous routine and a fear of my nihilistic subconscious. It is a battle of distraction: When I am in conversation with friends or focused on a reading, I am not wondering about the insignificance of our talk or this single reading out of infinite others I have yet to touch. But in those brief moments of failed distraction, the triviality of everything holds me down.

My first paper for the English course is due in three days and I have only finished the first chapter of the book I plan to write about: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I chose this reading because it’s the only novel that I have even opened, and its curious stream of consciousness roped me in. The critical essays we discussed in class describe Woolf simultaneously as an ambiguous, spiritual modern and an elitist anti-Semite. I am unsure of what to expect from this book…

Halfway through, I find a wealthy, dysfunctional family and female characters I pity for their negotiations in an outwardly chauvinist community. I think that this book is one of the many in college that are ostensibly confusing, but I nonetheless take a liking to Woolf’s drawn-out prose that borders on poetry. And the theme I clutch onto so far is impermanence. The characters’ desperation to prevent endings lets me see how I’m desperate to cling to any shred of meaning I encounter.

As a tragic death divides the family further and cements the melancholy, there is a single moment that undoes the sorrow, that salvages hope amidst the fading away of everything. A female painter named Lily fixates on this particular portrait of her friend, Mrs. Ramsay, for nearly a decade. Lily wishes to know “the meaning of life”:


The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one… Mrs. Ramsay saying, “Life stand still here”; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent)—this was of the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing…was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay said. “Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!” she repeated. She owed it all to her.

I stop reading. My body feels light. These words are perfectly chosen and married together, speaking to the recesses of my mind that take in language. I do not fully process what is on the page, yet I feel a bodily response I can neither understand nor articulate.

I breeze through the rest of the book, struck by the characters’ fear of impermanence but also by their reliance on the ephemeral as a promise of change. The atoms within me suffuse to the top of my flesh and tingle all throughout, as if physically elevated but still within my body. Every muscle is perked up finishing this anthem of triviality. I feel perfect in this world, where everything is a miracle, where everything matters.

My discovery of pure euphoria crumbles my period of existential pessimism. It is a sensation I dearly hold onto in the face of unpredictability, recalled euphoria grounding me in the exact moment as if I am encountering it just as I did. I do not know if I will enjoy the same experience again, but it doesn’t matter: I am certain that euphoria exists and transcends.

As the cycle of seasons returns to summer soon, I think about how far I have come from a year ago. My plans are more ambitious, but I channel my self-doubt into self-determination. What am I doing? is a question of little significance to me as I continue on with my little daily miracles, and as I hold onto my treasure of euphoria.

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