Capricious-An Essay on Existential Crisis

By Lindsay Jankowski


Cookbook for life

Imagine life came with a cookbook, chock full of suggestions and answers to all of life’s problems. Unsure how to approach your mom about changing your career? Consult page 552 on “mother-daughter conflict” for a step-by-step list. Think you’re going to marry your current boyfriend but struggling with how to tell your dad? Turn to page 1080 for the chapter titled, “So you think you’re ready for marriage.” Confused about how you turned twenty-two last December? Flip to the “22nd birthday crisis and how to handle it” section on page 222. But life doesn’t come with a recipe book.


Arguments with my sister 

When I talk to my sister on the phone, I hear all about her college friends. For example, she drank an entire fifth of vodka because her friend cheered her on, shouting, “One more! One more!” after each shot she threw back. That night ended with her blacking out around 10 pm in the middle of the city. She woke up face-down in her friend’s bathroom toilet. Everything between the last shot and waking up is a mystery. She laughed while telling me this story. I cried. I hung up the phone and wondered if my sister will survive college in Chicago or if she’ll end up the subject of an episode of “Crime Junkies.”


Planning a trip to Kentucky

Two weeks ago, my boyfriend asked if I wanted to go on a road trip to Kentucky with his family over Christmas break to meet his extended relatives. “Of course,” I said. Visions of moonshine and cockfights danced in my head— something to look forward to. Finally. I just need to make it until Christmas break. 


Raggedy Ann doll

Ann is my mom’s name. She goes to the gym every day at 6 am. If she can’t make it to the gym for some reason (e.g., she’s out of town), she does a home workout. My mom has maintained this regimen for over twenty years. I broke down while doing Pilates a few weeks ago. I pressed my sweaty face into my yoga mat and sobbed. I forgot to clean the bathroom—it was my only assigned house chore this week. 

Interstate 96

To get to my parent’s home in Brighton, I take I-96 for 136 miles. Last July, on the drive home from my summer job, I decided that I didn’t want to be an MD/Ph.D. anymore. And just like that, in 136 miles, I fucked up my entire life plan. 

Chamomile tea

I hate chamomile tea. I needed sleep. I drank chamomile tea for nine consecutive nights. I didn’t sleep. 


Incapable of saying “No” 

Last fall, I decided to say yes to every opportunity that came my way. But I said “yes” to all of the wrong ones. At the end of the day, Biology and Chemistry Research, Mortar Board, the Panhellenic Council, Biology Club, Opus, and Dorian do not care about me. But yet, I chose to spend my seventh semester of college with these institutional organizations and not with the friends who have loved me so dearly the past six semesters. I thought making senior year my “yes semester” would make this the best semester of college yet, but now that I’m at the end, I desperately wish that I had made this my semester of saying no.


Opus co-editor

The day I was asked to be a co-editor of Opus, I considered checking myself into a mental hospital. I didn’t think I was a danger to myself or anyone else. I just needed to press pause. I needed to feel like a human being again. Before now, I didn’t understand how or why people lost their sense of self. Now I do. The loss of my personhood happened so slowly that I didn’t realize that I was losing it until it was gone. The day after I accepted the Opus position, I made an appointment with CAPs. 


Unstacking Matryoshka dolls

I can only compare therapy to those Russian dolls that you unstack only to find another doll nesting within. I fear I will never reach the last one. With every problem I work through, another one is waiting. I crave the day I can say I have undone the damage I inflicted upon myself this semester. For the sake of that day, I will continue to unstack my Matryoshka dolls and rest in the confidence that with each unstacking, I am one doll closer to the end. 


Solutions in the form of “I” statements 

Life doesn’t come with a cookbook, but I have found my own recipes to regain my identity.  I cook myself a meal from scratch at least two nights a week. I surrender my expectation for academic perfection. I take prescription sleeping pills every night. I focus on extracurricular activities that bring me joy and provide me with relative career experience. I schedule breaks throughout my week to reconnect with myself and with my loved ones. I prioritize my mental health because my sanity is more important than any resume builder.


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