No one ever tells you what sadness feels like, and if they try, you won’t quite understand. It’s something you have to figure out for yourself. Something you have to discover alone. When you’re a young child, you see the world through a beautifully unmarred veneer of happiness (for the most part). If you notice a crack, you don’t push or probe it. You don’t poke around or widen it. You just let it be. You forget about it. You pretend it’s not there.
Then, suddenly, it creeps up on you. Maybe you’re 10, 11, 12, maybe it’s earlier. But that sadness — that ache — it gets you eventually. Maybe it only stays for a day, two days, a week. Maybe it stems from heartache, loss, disappointment. I was twelve the first time I remember being truly, devastatingly sad. It is the first memory of pain and loss and melancholy that I have.
When I first experienced that kind of sadness, I remember there was a distinct difference between that sadness and other upsetting moments I had experienced before. There’s a difference between being upset and being sad. I had been upset dozens of times before in my life — when kids beat me in playground games, when I skinned my knee learning to bike, when a little girl said something mean to me in the second grade. But sadness was different. Sadness seeps down into your soul. It bypasses all rationale, dilutes the power of logic and the mind. It washes over you in heavy, crashing waves, diligent and powerful.
When you’re sad, the brilliant blues and reds and yellows and greens and oranges that paint our world fade to a homogenous heap of pale, dull grays. You’re trapped inside your own head, with your own demons, and you feel like you can’t get out. You’ll never see the world the same again.
But then it goes away. Eventually, it fades. Sadness is, after all, a feeling. No feeling dominates or perpetually consumes the heart, mind, or soul. It may seem permanent, but feelings come and go—they wax and wane. If you’re sad, for whatever reason, sooner or later, you will feel something other than sadness.
I think people forget that a lot — myself included. People forget that sadness isn’t a lifestyle, it’s not a permanent state of being. It’s a feeling, it can and will pass, and it reminds us of our humanity.
We are unique and beautifully distinctive in our individual ability to experience and feel. And once we realize that our sadness, as well as our happiness, depression, and passion, are all emotions that mold our relationships and experiences in this world, we can realize that feelings like sadness are not all-powerful. They do not define us. They are not all-consuming. And they will pass.