It’s probably my favorite place in the world, my favorite thing in the world. Sitting in the dark of my room. When all else is asleep. When all else is quiet. Headphones on.
Listening to something sad. Something somber. Something dark even…
Listening to what someone, somewhere felt compelled to say in song.
Reading along – under dull light – the words, and thoughts, and feelings of someone I’ll never meet, never know.
And yet somehow I understand.
Reading along, and listening, as they share with the world – share with me – what almost seems too personal to even share with those they love.
Why is that my favorite place, my favorite thing?
I don’t know.
I just know I need it.
That I’ve always needed it.
I just know it’s as comforting today as it was when I was young and depressed – as contradictory as that may seem; that it’s as helpful to me now as it was when their sad life was my life; as empowering still as it will always be.
It wasn’t always the case, though. I actually didn’t listen to music at all growing up, really. I was late to it. And when I started sometime in high school my family and friends didn’t quite understand my newfound tastes.
My parents listened to old salsa and R&B. My siblings to the modern stuff – rap, R&B, pop too.
I never liked any of it, though.
Love song after love song – like it was the only thing in the world. Sing-y stuff. Dance-y stuff. Happy stuff.
That wasn’t my life. That wasn’t me.
I always gravitated…
…towards rock. Towards metal.
For whatever reason. Cause of whatever predisposition.
Towards the kind of stuff others so often label depressing or evil even. Dark stuff. Atmospheric stuff. Heavy stuff.
Cause of their own predispositions. Cause of their own pre-conceptions.
It was the only thing that seemed real to me, though. Sincere. Un-filtered, un-contaminated, un-affected by what would move units on store shelves, or win plays on radio stations, or get little girls swooning and crying.
And to me, it still is. It will always be.
But for me it was never some teen pity show, like some would think, or some emo scene thing, like others might stereotype.
I never listened to anything to glorify the sadness I felt inside – to celebrate it, or bask in it.
I never listened to a song about depression and said “here’s where I’ll wallow forever, cause they make it cool”.
I never listened to a song about suicide and thought “if it’s reasonable for them, it’s reasonable for me“.
I never listened to any of them to become them.
It wasn’t like that. It was never like that.
I don’t know what it was exactly.
But I know I owed no portion of my depression or my sadness to the content of my playlists. I didn’t blame how I felt on the kind of dark stuff I listened to or sought after. I didn’t queue up any song on my worse days to purposely make myself feel worse – like some sort of emotional cutting.
Really, it helped me.
I don’t know how exactly, but it did.
And it still does – though it’s so hard to explain, and so difficult to articulate.
But I think the most beautiful things are so often the saddest things. The seemingly most depressing things, the most helpful.
…there’s a reason people find more appreciation of their life in Schindler’s List than in The Hangover.
Why they find more love in themselves from Passion of the Christ than from some Jennifer Aniston rom-com.
Why fans of band like Tool will take that music to their grave in a way Beliebers will not.
There’s just something about the sad.
Something that speaks to our true selves – the part we know ourselves to be, or too often fail to acknowledge at all; the person we try so hard to make prettier, nicer, happier for others, or simply ignore altogether.
I think it grounds us.
It awakes us.
It shows us where we are from where we’d like to be; who we are from who be aspire to be.
It speaks to our most vulnerable. It touches our most real.
It reminds us – of the world, of everyone we know, and everyone we don’t.
It reminds us of our Selves.
How people truly act. How people truly feel. How they truly are.
Outside of the world our messed-up selves creates from nothing. Fake people meeting fake people. No one being real, being honest, being true.
The non-real real we come to think is real. The non-real we must leave behind in order to become better men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.
The reminder we always need.
The happy gets old.
The happy goes over our heads. Or it lifts us for a moment. Only to be forgotten again.
But mostly it goes over our heads.
There’s a place for it. And a mood for it. And a reason for it. But there’s also a reason the most perpetually and excessively happy also seem the creepiest.
Because there’s no depth.
It seems, almost, less than human.
And it is.
I’ve known happy people, of course. And I’ve been witness and subject to happy moments.
But that’s the thing.
As messed up as it is. As tragic as it is.
That so often it’s simply a moment, a time. Something short. Something foreign even. Something experienced and remembered as temporary. Something scattered throughout our lives, but scattered nonetheless between the many more moments of our lives that constitute the vast majority of our lives; between the many moments we wouldn’t consider such a high or so happy, between the standard state of down or nothing we usually know.
90% maybe. 95% maybe.
I wish it weren’t the case. I wish it weren’t so.
But it’s simply the human condition.
That there’s a darkness in every ocean. A coldness in every sea.
A depth never fully fathomed. A bottom never fully seen.
And in those depths, and in that darkness fall the truths we never acknowledge, and the feelings we never admit.
That though the surface may seem calm, and the sun does shine above, the light doesn’t touch all things, doesn’t warm all things, can never be all things.
That though everything may go our way, and every thing in life we might receive, we’re still – at our deepest depths – not always the cheeriest, not always our best, not always so freaking happy.
That there will always be a darkness there.
A distance there.
A sadness there.
And it’s this that’s touched by Schindler’s List, by The Passion, by Tool even too.
And that’s fine
Don’t let others tell you what you ought to read, or watch, or listen to.
Don’t be beholden to the notion that to be happier, you must immerse yourself in “happiness” – in shit that doesn’t speak to you, doesn’t move you, doesn’t change you.
Positivity for the sake of positivity. Cliché crap cause they say it’s “good for your soul”.
Cause to me, the saddest stuff can be as valuable on your happiest day, as it is on your most desperate.
It can be as powerful a reminder of the life you aspire to live, and the person you’re determine to be when all goes right, as when all turns to shit.
And it means more to me on every day, than the happiest would on any day.
And so it may seem weird to say. Especially here, on a site meant and intended to help others live better, easier, freer…
But get something sad.
Find something that speaks to you and your experiences. Find something that makes you think, makes you question, makes you cry.
Find something that shows you how far you have left to go, and how much you have left to grow.
Cause the saddest isn’t always the most depressing.
Sometimes it can be the most beautiful, the most inspiring, the most hopeful too.
And I – for one – just couldn’t be happy without it.
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