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Fred931's avatar

Should I throw away this piece of paper?

Asked by Fred931 (9409points) October 24th, 2012

As you read, you’ll know that I’m obviously in a better mood now, hence also the witty title.

Something absurd happened during my second block class. We were given an essay prompt to which I had not a single clue to respond (response to a short story about its social message). I just sat there in awe at how, for the first time in awhile, I could not even forge something out of thin air. For maybe 20 minutes, I just sat there dumbfounded.

The details are hazy from here on, particularly those of the paper I’m about to mention. I began actually prewriting a whole other essay, one trying to explain my performance in the literary classroom in general, what were the grounds for forcing general-topic education on students past a particular point, etc. etc. Then I used some of this as well as whatever other relevant information was simultaneously developing in my head to prewrite an apology to write to the teacher, which I didn’t commit to writing during the block. It had to do with me believing that my honesty in claiming my inability to write a solid paper was worth something, and that the actual paper, had I written an unsupported and aimless one, would have been worth nothing. Which was absolute bullshit, I agree, and it’s a good thing I didn’t actually start writing it.

After that, I am fairly lost. That page got about ¼ full, but in tiny, chickenscratch wording, so it was really a significant amount. I can’t remember what kind of detail I went into. It was significant and philosophical. It was potent, and I felt proud of what I had written. That paper remains in my binder.

The rest of the school day, I quickly fell apart. At lunch (immediately after second block, and there are four blocks in a day), I was solemn as I usually am, but my mind was very busy. As what normally happens when I let my mind wander, I kept tripping over myself figuratively and just kinda sat down, occasionally getting the bright spot of innovation. Something must have happened then, because from the minute I walked into Third, I spiraled downward. This block, I was very wrapped into myself and didn’t want to focus on the lesson at all. I’m hardly consciously thinking about whatever it was from earlier. In fourth, I cannot do my work as the teacher’s assistant and break down in tears, quietly.

Once I started to recover, I looked online for “Random Depression,” as I had become so detached from my original thought in the day that I could not remember what, specifically, I was trying to figure out. Soon, I finally re-became conscious of the subject of why I was upset, that being over something along the meaning of life, so I tried “Depression over meaning of life.” Then I found it: existential depression. It is in accordance with what I was writing and thinking about, though, again, I can’t remember for the life of me what specifically it was that I was thinking.

Here’s what I don’t like about this. Months ago, I had rejected religion and began to formulate what would take me until this day to discover was actually excessively similar to existentialism. I have already very solidly believed that we give ourselves purpose, (At this point I just gave up on writing about the similarities on the basis that I don’t yet have a textbook understanding of the subject matter. If you think I am picking up on a life philosophy that is different, please let me know.)

So now I’m wondering what is written on that paper from second block today. What is it that could have set off such an emotional uproar for me? Most weirdly of all, I have sincerely forgotten what that writing was about. This presents me with an opportunity which I need help in deciding to take. Do I re-read the paper? OR, Do I just run it through the shredder?

I am leaning towards seeing it again, possibly plenty for the sake of curiosity, but also because it might be worth the risk for the sake of pursuing what I had so suddenly set out to accomplish. But, if I can pursue my own purpose, what is stopping me, then, from just permanently removing this from my memory? (Which is a very interesting scenario to have manifested, and the thought actually makes me smile and laugh a little). What do you think I should do?

I also think that there are a lot of side-questions generated from this writing, ranging from “Am I an existentialist?” to “What should I (or should I even) write to my teacher?” to “Should I talk to anyone about this?” Anything you think I should know, please feel free to add. I am totally ready for counterpoints as well, something that has been hard for me in the past.

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17 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Re-read it. You wrote it for a purpose.

Fred931's avatar

@marinelife Of course I want to see what others have to say, but thank you, and everyone who helps by responding.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

”...brain the size of a planet and they ask me to pick up that piece of paper….”

deni's avatar

Read it. You may be shocked by your own thoughts especially in such a tumultuous mental period of your day/life/whatever. Don’t just throw it away though. Cmon. :) The human mind is an endlessly fascinating thing, perhaps you could acquire some insight into your own by reading it.

Earthgirl's avatar

Why wouldn’t you reread it? I can’t think of any reason not to, unless you think it may be the thing that triggered your “depression” or existential angst. If that is the case, maybe put it aside for a while and let it simmer, let the thoughts “marinate” a while. You may come back to it and not understand anything about what you wrote. You may come back to it and relive your insightful experience. It seems very odd to me that you would even consider throwing it in the shredder. The fact that you consider doing that makes me think that you find the ideas in it vaguely or acutely alarming,unsettling in a way that threatens your sense of security.
Are you laughing at the idea with a sense of black humor? self mockery? absurdity? I find all of those things very existential.
Keep it and reread it tomorrow, 6 months from now, a year from now, 5 years from now, every so often for the rest of your life. It has whatever meaning you give it. That in itself is very existential.Every time you read it you may get something new out of it. Then again, you may just chuckle to yourself too. No matter what, it’s a part of you and your finding your path in life.
And if you haven’t read it already, by all means read Nausea by Jean Paul Sartres(novel)

bookish1's avatar

I’d say wait until you are feeling stable enough, and then re-read it.
I’ve been in plenty of existential crises and been pretty crazy, and I hold onto my scribblings as an archaeological record.
If you’re looking to get into existentialism, you might want to start with “The Myth of Sisyphus” by Albert Camus. (Again, only read this if you are stable and not already close to the abyss!)

Fred931's avatar

So I should not get rid of it, but at least wait until I can sort of “forget” what happened today. Really, honestly, I think I feel fine right now, nothing is different, other than researching existentialism and all. :)

I was reading this article, and it says “Learning not to think” is a poor way to overcome this period, so, yeah.

Earthgirl's avatar

@Fred931 I’m guessing you’ve heard the refrain “you think too much”, right? It’s ok, keep thinking, just don’t make yourself crazy!

hearkat's avatar

I know I’d want to read it… but if you feel it’s too soon, tuck it in a safe place, like inside a journal or something. I’m confident that a day will come that you’ll want to read it.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m sure you’ve figured out that it doesn’t matter whether you read it or not. It’s up to you, and what’s fun is agonizing about it.

Or not.

The state of your mind that triggered these thoughts is gone. Reading the paper won’t bring it back and it really won’t shed any light on it.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll save the paper just in case anyone (including you) ever does want to read it. If you get curious about yourself, you’ll read it, and it might spark a memory or feel familiar, but it is not going to be a big deal. It’s just a document from the past and you are past it, now.

Whatever triggered the existentialism in you was a long time in coming, and that paper only reflects a part of it. But the mental and spiritual adventure you are now recognizing you are on is moving along at a rapid pace.

Of course, your true talent is telling stories. Existentialism is just more fodder for the herd. Grist for the mill. Iron for the foundry. You are in love with words and thoughts and consciousness and the endless adventures you will find investigating them all.

What I would really like to hear from you about is love. For me love and relationships play a crucial role in everything—but all things intellectual and physical seem to be motivated by this incredible desire to create the most deep and intimate connections with people I care the most about. People who understand me and my struggles. People who are not afraid of the darkness of the dogged pursuit of understand of one’s feelings and motivations.

Existentialism is a risky business. A lot of people are depressive. It’s probably related to brain chemistry. But it can lead to suicide. The depression can bring us important gifts, but it can also be very dangerous. The insights you get from being lost in the black hole of introspection can be very helpful, but some do not survive.

It is important to get help if you fall too deeply down. Psychiatry and psychotherapy and medication. will help.

But you have come to a turning point in your adventure, and this is very exciting. Congratulations. And don’t worry about reading that paper. It doesn’t matter whether or not you do it.

Buttonstc's avatar


Of course don’t throw it out. You know that if you do, the moment it’s too late to retrieve it, you’ll regret it. Just tuck it away out of sight in a safe place and read it when you’re ready.

rojo's avatar

Why not? It could be an important stepping stone to your intellectual growth.

Then again, it could be the scribblings of someone suffering a meltdown.

But if you do not look, you do not know.


Do it.

augustlan's avatar

I’d keep it, and reread it in a little while. If I remember correctly, you’re in high school, correct? It is very common to go through a period of existential angst at that age, as you’re becoming your own person and trying to figure out what your life means to you, rather than to your parents. Savor the experience and explore it all you want! But be careful… it can sometimes turn into real depression. Just be aware of how you’re feeling, and if it gets too dark for too long, please get help.

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Bellatrix's avatar

I would read it but only when you ‘feel’ strong enough. The fact that you are questioning whether you should suggests to me you should wait. I do think you should read it eventually though and face whatever it was you wrote that day. Otherwise, I think it will possibly haunt you as you wonder what it was and maybe even regret not confronting the words on that piece of paper.

I remember drawing a concept map for a study exercise many years ago. I can’t remember what the initial stimulus was but the words my brain dredged up took me back to my past and the loss of people I loved and in no time at all I was overwrought with grief. I could not stop crying for quite a long time. Words, and especially when we are following a stream of consciousness can be very powerful. They can be drawn from very dark, deep places. So, give yourself time to feel strong and then read them. Perhaps let a friend you trust know about your situation and ask them to be available to debrief with you once you read whatever it was you wrote.

Please come back and let us know how it goes – even if it ends up being a long time in the future. If it isn’t too personal, I would love to know what you wrote.

Fred931's avatar

I had to use my binder for school work, of course. So it sat there, staring at me. I gave in.

Funny, how I was so scared of it. From the outside looking in now, it is just all-over-the-place prewriting for some essay. The ideas were big, but it wasn’t about questioning existence or anything… So I put it away again. I’ll read it again later.

Earthgirl's avatar

@Fred931 I’m glad you confronted your fears. Keep on looking for ideas and searching for answers. To me it’s what life is all about, the searching….

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