Being Okay With Being Sad

I am, by default, a very sad person. 

I'm the type of person who can get really affected by bad news, even ones that have absolutely no direct impact on my life. My capacity to emphasize is grand and often misunderstood. My wandering mind is, of course, no help. My thoughts tend to gravitate to often pretentious words of wisdom about hard truths, melodramatic meltdowns over the complications of the universe and worst-case scenarios. 

Show me something heartfelt, like a singer performing a heart-wrenching ballad, a poignant coming-of-age movie, or the tragic tale of a grand character's fall from grace and I guarantee you, that it will take hours, if not days, for me get it out of my head and stop making myself sad about it.

When you think about it though, the world is a pretty sad place. Even now in an era of technological advancement that has supposedly made our lives 'more convenient', we still struggle with the same emotional toils and existential crises that our ancestors before us have grappled with endlessly.

Wars still rage. Poverty is still a thing. People who are 'different' are still marginalized and victims of hate. Suicides seem to have become a somewhat normalized thing. There is also a good portion of humanity who feel unhappy and unsatisfied with the way their lives are going. Adults are stuck in low-wage jobs that barely help make ends meet. Young adults my age are cynical, or at least seem to accept that their future, as their school lives, will have to be needlessly stressful and soul-crushing for them to amount to any kind of success. Even then, they might not get what they set out to do, or struggle to find a paying job to sustain themselves, let alone forge a career that is both lucrative and fulfilling.

But, despite all the sad things that go on in the world and in our own lives, we as a species have seemed to silently agree that all things even remotely sad, should not be mentioned aloud. Like ever.

Which is understandable. No one ever really likes to dwell on sad things. Even I'd prefer to focus on the good and fun things in life, if only to distract myself from my penchant to fall into a pensive state of mind. However, completely denying a person's feelings of sadness and pain, is only counterproductive to processing that baggage.

Imagine how much more well-adjusted we would all be if we were all just a little more open and accepting of other people's sadness!

Even if the sadness seems insignificant. Even if the sadness stems from something that is just inherently a part of life, nothing we can really fix. Because sometimes -- a lot of times, really -- the world does not make sense. Those with malicious intents triumph over the pure of heart. Bad things happen -- unfairly happen -- to good people.

And it's okay to be sad about that.

I'd like to live in a world where people are not afraid of sadness. A world where people do not find someone's admission of sadness as something to be awkward about, or something you have to glance over lest it dominate the room. A world where people can eventually learn to embrace some of that sadness in their lives and learn to carry it with them, not burden them. Processing said sadness, only serves to lighten the load.

That being said, I think people also need to differentiate deep thought and actual sadness. I personally, am completely comfortable with openly sharing stories about my internal turmoils, as long as I have reached a place where the sad thing doesn't make me sad anymore. But whenever I do, the person always seems to mistake my pensive thoughts as something that I'm still sad about and thus need to be comforted about. 

Though I appreciate the sentiment, I don't really want the sympathy. I want to have a conversation about the deep things, not really to further process something I've already internalized, but to maybe find out that I'm not alone in thinking a certain way.

And I'm actually not. Interestingly enough, a lot of my thoughts seemed to be echoed by Japanese writers, such as Haruki Marukami and Hayao Miyazaki.

The art of balancing pessimism and optimism is a difficult one, and it is well-captured in Hayao Miyazaki's words:

"Personally I am very pessimistic. But when, for instance, one of my staff has a baby you can't help but bless them for a good future. Because I can't tell that child, 'Oh, you shouldn't have come into this life.' And yet I know the world is heading in a bad direction. So with those conflicting thoughts in mind, I think about what kind of films I should be making.” ― Hayao Miyazaki

So, if you still manage to find some interest in all this pretentious drivel I've written, I ask you to live in moderation. Embrace the sadness but at the same time never stop running towards the things that give you joy. Practice pensive pessimism and match it with an unbending sense of optimism.

Meanwhile, I shall take some time to ponder over my most recent existentialist crisis. Then when I wake up in the morning I will watch idiotic dumplings make fun of themselves and having fun on Korean TV and laugh with all my heart. 

Here's to a more productive life.

--Karin Novelia, Still Sad But Also Okay With That


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