Am I real? Thoughts on questioning one’s existence

Zara DeGroot

Zara DeGroot

I am 20 years old, and I don’t even know if I’m real. Even as I type this, I am wondering how these thoughts in my head are turning into words on the screen. Who came up with the concept of time? Are we even really living in the moment if a moment is gone before we even get there? Does Julie Andrews question her existence on a daily basis? Am I the only one dealing with these seemingly unanswerable questions?

For about a year now, I have struggled with the concept of the human condition — why we are the way we are and what our divine purpose here on this planet is. Thus far, I’ve concluded that our existence must account for something more than creating reality television and drive-thru restaurants. I was told that having these questions about life and reality is normal in college, especially during my sophomore year, where I will hit the “sophomore slump” and start questioning what I am doing with my life. I was thrilled to know that other people would be experiencing this strange sense of disorientation as well. I wouldn’t be alone.


Sophomore year has come, and it is about to go. The number of times I have been crippled by the weight of an existential crisis outweigh the number of times I’ve been able to clean my kitchen countertops without questioning the point of it all. During my biweekly crises, my friends would reassure me, offering a helping hand and confirming that this plague of questioning everything hit them, too. The only problem was that they were pondering the purpose of being in college and what the point of school was, whereas I was trying to figure out if a heartbeat really meant someone was alive.

The discussion about human existence outside of philosophy classes is sparse and can result in feelings of isolation and anxiety. Constant questioning is stressful and panic inducing. In some cases, it can lead to depersonalization, also known as derealization, which is a symptom of a panic attack. It is basically an out-of-body experience of sorts. You may feel detached, removed or like you are watching the situation you’re in from an outsider’s perspective. It can cause you to question your reality and whether you will ever gain control again. While this may sound alarming and scary, according to an article on, this symptom is harmless.

“Depersonalization seems to occur when you have become less involved with what’s going on around you, especially the people around you, and become preoccupied with your own thoughts,” said Dr. David Carbonell in the article. “These are typically not thoughts about your immediate surroundings, but thoughts of other people, times and places. The less energy and attention you bring to your immediate circumstances, the more your thoughts wander toward ideas that can only happen in your imagination.”

As we enter into our final week of the semester, these feelings are likely to arise due to the panic-induced environment we will be in. Know that your peers may very well be experiencing the same type of pressure and anxiety that you are – you are not alone. Resources like counseling through the CSU Health Network are made available to help you work through these thoughts.

The thing is, we will never know why we are here. Having our beliefs and faith helps some of us – many of us need something to put our hope into. But who knows, maybe we are just in a huge game of Sims.

If you have not questioned your existence at least once amid the constant state of panic that is college, you probably are not real.

Collegian columnist Zara DeGroot loves the Oxford comma, and can be reached at, or on Twitter @zar_degroot.