What keeps us alive and what makes it worth living

The COVID-19 spread and shut down has simplified life. Everything now falls into two buckets: 
1. The "essentials" or what keeps us alive like food and healthcare, and
2. The "non-essentials" or what makes it worth living like social gatherings, restaurants and theaters.

The effect of the shut down of "non-essentials" on our moods and sanity makes it clear that while the former is more urgent and necessary, both are essential to living a good life. There's a joke that goes - "Not drinking and not smoking don't make you live longer, it just seems longer."

I think there's a significant imbalance in our investment between these buckets even during non-COVID times. We put in a disproportional amount of effort into staying alive, by investing in our education, jobs, finances etc, and this often comes at the cost of our happiness. While this seems silly now as it's apparent that we are a point where staying alive is fairly easy, it isn't surprising because our fundamental systems - biological, societal, economic, education - were designed during more difficult times, to improve our individual and collective odds of staying alive. It could also be because staying alive is simpler - the path is fairly well-defined and the outcome is measurable. Figuring out what makes us tick is more abstract and somewhat subjective.

We can balance our efforts better by being more intentional about defining and pursuing what makes us happy and life worth living. For me, that includes building close community, celebrating more, hosting and visiting more, doing projects for fun, writing, camping and traveling. As a society, maybe if we guarantee staying alive for everyone (with initiatives like universal basic income), there'll be a fundamental shift in focus towards making it worth living. After all, what is the point of staying alive if we aren't having a good time.