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The Myth of Sisyphus

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Looking at my reflection on the stainless steel tap as I loosely inhale a mouthful of water from the kitchen sink after gurgling mouthwash. There’s a sharp taste in my mouth, one that reminds me of Monday mornings before secondary school; rushing out the back door - late as usual - for school that was only at the top of my road. Hitching a lift with some randomer that was ‘going that way anyway’ while I repeat ‘thank you thank you’ in the passenger seat, but they were going that way anyway.

It’s the big day off. The day off that doesn’t happen very often, but feels as though it happens too much. The day I spend scrolling on social media, or filling out my journal with any peculiar events that have happened in the last few days, changing clothes mid-afternoon (at best), and forgetting to eat lunch.

I make a plan for the day at eleven joined by hour-old morning coffee that has been reheated three times in the microwave already. My body is aching. My father was always a morning person, and reiterated the point that he was allergic to lying in. I think this habit has passed on to me, I’m just yet to realise it. I never felt more alive than rolling out of bed in South Dublin to make the 7:15 bus that reaches Dawson Street at 8:50. Passing through every suburb of the city and every estate in the near-by proximity to be left off outside an Italian café with two bags hanging out of each arm.

The days I don’t have to wake up I tend to disintegrate like a cow path in my bed; overthinking comments that were passed the day before at work, or planning schemes to overcome issues that are impossible to break apart or understand. I don’t read or write (except on this unique occasion), I study for minutes at a time; losing concentration a few words in and not producing any good body of work. I do a Jimmy Rabbitte from The Commitments; interviewing myself in the shower, pretending to be rich and famous and madly in love with little to no memory of what my life consisted of on these days off.

Then after my shower I lie on my bed, scrolling on my phone. I look at messages from a year ago between me and him. The fights, the jokes, the good times, the bad times, the nicknames, the pet names, the selfies, the songs, the lyrics, the quotes, the stories, the drawings, the compliments, the insults, all of which are still sitting there in the abyss of a messaging app waiting for the next time to be read by me. Chances are they’ll be read by me, because I feel as though I’d know if they were read by him, just as though I feel as if I’d know if this story was read by him, or certain anecdotes I tell myself to make myself feel better; that he misses me, or talks about me - more than the words I hear - while he writes about me (not just in fiction, but also in his diary “I saw her today…”). That he gulps while he’s near me, or considers reestablishing a connection that he’s told me he never wants to establish ever again. Meanwhile I’m constantly hanging on for the day he sparks conversation with me. I find excuses to bring him up mid-sentence to artists from similar cultural backgrounds. I drop his name when speaking to my contemporaries, and detect an air of jealousy upon the end of the conversation. I’m left waiting, waiting for a time that may never come with a person who most likely won’t. “Not everyone has a God but everyone has a Godot”.

And I reread these messages as if it’s going to make me feel any better. In a situation that I know left both members heartbroken, I’ve never felt so alone. I’m reminded of this on these big days off, with nothing to do but too much to think about.

In French Philosophy we’re studying nihilism and absurdism and how the two intertwine. Absurdism is an absurd name for not a quite absurd school of thought. We dip into nihilism’s principles or even its reactions; distraction, denial, acceptance. Acceptance that nothing ever happens and that nothing is going to happen, which makes it even more grim if anything. Camus’ final line in The Myth of Sisyphus comes to mind, insisting that we must imagine Sisyphus - suffering from the eternal punishment of having to push a boulder up a hill only for it to roll down again near the top - as happy.

Maybe I’ve been taken advantage of my academic career thus far, but I try to imagine Sisyphus on a rare day off and the possibility seems almost impossible. Not just that he simply wouldn’t get one, but it’s hard to imagine what Sisyphus would get up to in such a climate, on such a day, in an era so different to mine. If Sisyphus was told that suddenly he no longer has to suffer from such eternal punishment, how would he react? In comparison to my days off from my high-life of drinking coffee outside cafés or reading on a bus through Merrion Square. These events aren’t necessarily distractions; not a change of scenery, because I’m a creature of habit. I’m not denying myself of emotions, most of the time I revel in thought or become so self-obsessed in my own thoughts that relating to the likes of Sisyphus seems impossible. At least I’ve accepted that fact.

These days off are overrated and not really needed in my life. Working part-time as a full-time student with a freelance career in this, that, and the other, I can’t think of anything worse than too many days off. Especially days off when I become nihilistic or those that feel a bit absurd. Our career guidance teacher used to tell us that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I don’t know about that much, but loving what I do so much that a day off sickens me sounds good too.

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