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Saturday, 5 December 2020

Is it okay to be a sad person?


My boyfriend told me that I'm a sad person - not depressed, just sad. I can be happy, like when I take the first sip of coffee every morning, when I finally send a climbing route that I've been attempting again and again, or during that few moments before the sun sets beyond the horizon...but my default emotion is sadness.

Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in The World as Will and Representation that "life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and boredom."

In some ways, I agree with him. I can't imagine a person (by person, I mean an adult who has been through the full spate of experiences that life brings) who is constantly happy. Life, to me, seems to be characterised by occasional spikes of happiness while mostly teetering between sadness and boredom. And I think that's okay. That's manageable.

But what makes it increasingly unbearable is that society tells us it's not okay.

For years upon years, we have subscribed to Paul the Apostle's teaching that there is joy in suffering (Romans 5:3-5) or Buddha's philosophy that all existence is dukkha/suffering (Four Noble Truths). We have long acknowledged that life is filled with suffering and there's no escape from that. And that a huge part about being human is learning to endure through the pain.

But consumerism, which seems to be the religion of today, preaches something entirely different. "You deserve to be happy," they say. GOOD VIBES ONLY is the banner that they fly. "Life is too short to be unhappy" is their motto. As a result, happiness is normalised while sadness, pain and suffering have become oddball. And sad people (like myself?) seem peculiar and at risk. 

But the truth is, many of us - if not most - are high-functioning individuals who are able to hold deep and meaningful conversations (perhaps even on a deeper level than many people if we choose to) and perform well at work. The difference is that we constantly ponder about how fleeting life is and have a more pessimistic worldview. 

But as with every overthinker, I question whether my thought process is even sound in the first place. 

Should I start embracing the sad part of me and telling people that it's okay to not be okay?

Or should I stop reading Schopenhauer and start listening to the ✧ Feel Good Friday ✧ Spotify playlist that I created instead?

Someone, please enlighten me.

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