New York attorney Diana Campbell was proud of having earned her law degree at the age of 54. She had steady work that wasn't too mentally demanding and which served to pay the bills. And, after nearly three decades of therapy and twelve-step work, she'd finally broken her pattern of dating abusive, narcissistic, and/or married men.
In short, Diana thought she was doing just fine. Even great!
Until one Monday morning, when she saw a poster on the subway, advertising a course designed to improve people's happiness levels. At the top of the poster was a Socrates quote: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
"It gave me pause," Diana recalls now. "I'd always been into philosophy and in college, I was a big fan of the Greek thinkers. In fact, I'd hoped to become a great thinker myself someday. That's why I went back to school at 51, to become more effective at effecting positive change in the world."
She shakes her head ruefully at the subway memory. "I realized I hadn't been examining my life much, if at all. I thought, that's something I need to do for myself. I deserve that."
And so, Diana took some time that very evening to sit quietly on the used sofa in her one-bedroom Upper East Side Apartment, alone, to examine her life. And it didn't take her long to see that her life pretty much sucked.
Yes, her contract job was paying the bills and wasn't overly taxing. But the rest of the story was that she spent eleven hours a day at a computer, reviewing electronic documents in an enormous room jam-packed with other "lawyers" for an hourly wage that was barely sufficient to pay her rent and utilities, let alone make any dent in her mammoth law school student loan. "Great thinking" was not part of her job description; in fact, it was barred by implication from her workplace.
Yes, she'd broken her unhealthy pattern of dating abusive, self-centered, and emotionally unavailable men. And to replace these tormented relationships was, in a nutshell, loneliness. She hadn't had a date, much less a serious relationship, in over eighteen months (unless you counted the time she went to Starbucks with a somewhat attractive, if short, 30-something-year-old Asian guy named Jason during their mandatory unpaid half-hour work break).
In short, Diana's examination of her life revealed the polar opposite of what she'd hoped: her life was clearly, by almost anyone's standards, not worth living.
Not that she's questioning the wisdom of Socrates, Diana is hasty to explain.
"It's true my unexamined life wasn't worth living. But not knowing that at least made it bearable. And unfortunately for me, it turns out my examined life isn't really worth living, either. If anything, it's even worse."
She adds with a wry smile, "Essentially, my unexamined life wasn't even worth examining."
Still, Diana doesn't plan to make any major changes at this point.
"I'm not giving up," she announces, cheerfully resolute. "After all, it's my life. It may not be worth living, but I'm going to live it! I'm going to live the hell out of it."
And somehow, when Diana Campbell, Esq., says it, you know it's true.
Socrates, examine that.