It’s a funny thing, sadness.
It can choose to creep up on you, slowly over time, inch by inch, hollowing out your heart; until, one day, you wake up and realize something important is missing.
Alternatively, sadness can roll forward, full and fast, and wash over you like a wave, leaving you gasping for breath and clutching at the nothing where something once was.
The humor, I suppose, is objective and typically only found once one sits, fully recovered, looking back in hindsight, usually with a large glass of wine in hand.
There have been moments in my life where sadness has played a bigger role than others; it is from those moments sadness has left me irrevocably and mercifully scarred for life.
When I was in my early 20s, for example, I was absolutely miserable. This statement is a far cry from how things appeared on the surface, but I was most assuredly a very unhappy person.
From my Facebook posts, one might have understandably deduced I was a social butterfly; I had no lack of people to call or parties to attend. I worked in the nightclub industry and did an equal share of partying there as well. And while I still maintain I was one of the more conservative people on the guest list, I can't deny just how little weight that holds when you actually consider said list.
From the photos I would share and the status updates I would post, you might have thought I was deliriously satisfied with my life. I was one of those girls you see out everywhere: always smiling, always surrounded by a gaggle of other smiling girls.
Beneath the smiles, beyond the parties and in spite of what Facebook might have led you to believe, I was absolutely miserable.
For one, I was exhausted. I felt completely out of my element working a job in an industry I had little business (or backbone) being in, and the quick cash rarely lasted through the week. I was too tired during the days to make any kind of respectable effort with my studies, and I had too little energy to care.
I felt lost, in every sense of the word. My job was not a career, and I only ever saw my "friends" late at night, while I was partying.
Two lost people don't add up to one found person.
More than anything else, I was lonely as hell. I discovered early on that even in a crowded room with 100 bodies past capacity, you can still feel completely alone.
I realized that in all of my working and partying, I hadn’t really established any viable relationships with these people. I hadn’t been smart with the money I was making, and I certainly hadn’t set realistic goals for myself, since I was balancing school and a job that kept me up for most of the night and into the early morning.
I hadn’t done a single thing to safeguard either my sanity or myself.
I had become an empty vessel. I was now the shell and shadow of someone I once was. I was now just going through the motions thoughtlessly, day-in and day-out, the same way one might drive the same route home from work each day without really even looking at the road signs. I had programmed myself on autopilot and had checked out of my own life.
While it all sounds very doom and gloom, it’s important to note I don’t regret all of it.
Admittedly, I wish I had been smarter about the money I was making and the time I could have been dedicating to my studies, but I chalk that up to very expensive, lasting lessons.
And while I do think back on this time of my life as “sadness,” it did give way to the period that followed, which is one I’m still going through: growth.
It took more courage than I had and more time than I would have liked, but I ultimately did pull myself out of that little hole. I made some better decisions and some smarter moves, and I tried to go easy on myself when future mistakes followed, despite my best intentions.
What can I say? It’s a process, and I am (very much) a work in progress.
Right now, my blog and social media accounts continue to paint the picture of a very happy, cat-crazed individual. I would be lying if I said that was the truth every single day...but on more days than not, it is.
Sadness still plays a part in my life, but I like to think I manage it better now than I once did. I’ve come to realize the onset of sadness is life’s way of intervening where no one else might.
I feel grateful for a time when crying myself to sleep was more common than not because it alerted me to the undeniable truth: I was not on the right path, and until I made a change, this deep and heavy sadness wasn’t going to change either.
Happiness is a choice we make when sadness creeps in and reminds us that doing nothing is also a choice. Feeling fulfilled by your life requires a conscious effort, day-in and day-out. There is no one pill, person or party that is going to numb out a void you feel deep within.
If your life lacks substance, your unhappiness will continue to rise to the surface, seeping through your pores until you decide to do something about it.
My unhappiness was a consequence of a life being lived out of convenience and routine, rather than passion and conscious effort. My environment and, ultimately, my displeasure with everything was a direct result of poor choices and a complacent attitude toward my own life.
Once I decided to take back the reins and get myself on course toward a life of my own conscious choosing, I knew things would soon be on the upswing.
It’s a funny thing, sadness.
All of that unhappiness, while torturous in the moment, nearly always acts as a precursor to the joy to come. The trick to it all is to remember the only variable with the power to determine how quickly (or slowly) the storm will pass is you.