“What Am I Doing Here?”

Jim Mason
2 min readFeb 5, 2022

On pointless activities, crappy jobs, armies, and our beautiful planet

Photo by Chuanchai Pundej on Unsplash

I think we have all had moments when we asked ourselves, “What am I doing here?” Sometimes it’s just over a brief event such as a party or other social gathering. Other times it can result in a more life-changing realization.

One of my first experiences of the latter kind was when I was sitting in a football stadium on a cold November day watching a game between two university teams, one from the school I was attending and the other from a “rival” university. I was feeling wet and miserable and realized that I was mainly there because of peer pressure to support the home team. I also realized that I had no positive reasons for being there. The team and the university would do fine without me attending the game. In fact, I valued my university for its academic activities, not for its semi-professional sports teams. I never went to another game.

Probably a more common situation for asking the question is the crappy job: Earning minimum wage for unpleasant, dirty, and even dangerous work. Usually the answer to “What am I doing here?” is “I need the money.” Less often it may be “It’s important work, and somebody has to do it.” But in that case the pay should be proportional to the social importance of the work, not minimum wage. Even people who may enjoy dangerous work for the excitement of it usually feel they deserve danger pay.

Armies combine the qualities of sport rivalry, dangerous work, and feelings of social importance. Their morale ultimately depends on the comradeship of small groups of soldiers who know each other and depend on each other personally. Their political and military leaders depend on that personal connection at least as much as on patriotic feelings and feelings against the “enemy”. Otherwise, more soldiers in armies preparing for battle might seriously wonder, “What am I doing here?”

Often, people in such situations believe they owe obligations to other people who have put them in those situations, and they persist despite any misgivings they have. And sometimes that can be brave and noble, as when one is protecting innocents from harm. But other times it may lead to disastrous consequences that many people will later regret.

In my personal experience, even political and social events in the country in which one resides can prompt the question “What am I doing here?” and lead one to emigrate to another country.

The only situation that we cannot escape, except through death, is our human animal selves. How do you answer the question “What am I doing here?” on this beautiful earth?

Jim Mason

I study language, cognition, and humans as social animals. You can support me by joining Medium at https://jmason37-80878.medium.com/membership