At seventeen years old – frizzy haired and naive – I fell in love for the first time. Two years later, my boyfriend’s half-cocked little grin stopped being mysterious and sexy; it became menacing and unkind. I could write about the broken promises, the lies and all the other bullshit that leads to a break up. But, the truth is, all that stuff was just a way of stubbornly ignoring that the sand in our hourglass had run out. It couldn’t be re-filled, and that was a hard pill to swallow, but I spent years trying to wash it down with bitterness and regret.
Eventually, I told myself that our relationship had been a juvenile mistake. It was easier to believe that, than to reconcile with the idea that I went after something I wanted, and he didn’t want me back. That I loved someone and he so easily walked out of my life. By choosing to chalk it all up to childish, foolish love, it was easier to write off my sadness.
Wine, Shakira, Vampire Diaries: Who Needs A Shrink?
Sadness can be a persistent, little son-of-a-bitch though. Just when you think you’ve kicked it out of your life for good it sneaks up without warning.
I know this because eight years later, I’m still sad. Like drink a whole bottle of wine, sit in the dark playing my guitar while listening to Shakira’s Pies Descalzos album sad.
Unlike my first heartbreak, this sadness is nuanced, less aggressive. The disguise it wears is probably the reason that most Friday nights I find myself alone with it. In fact, I embrace sadness with open arms as I watch my third back-to-back episode of The Vampire Diaries wondering why my life is so uneventful. I sit in my extra large sweats begrudging the fact that I can’t be off defending my vampire boyfriend against the advances of judgmental townspeople.
Yes, all of this is true. I pity myself and long for bigger fights, bigger dramas; even bigger tragedies, anything more than the dull, numbing sadness that piles on when I feel unappreciated at work, when someone doesn’t live up to my expectations or when the people I once felt closest to suddenly seem so far away. I have allowed these little disappointments to become the persistent casual sadness I carry with me everyday.
It’s a little whisper that sits on my shoulder when I am watching my favorite T.V. dramas, telling me how my life will never be close to that interesting or meaningful. But, instead of getting off the couch and proving this voice wrong, I pour another glass of wine and hit play on Netflix.
Blaming External Factors & Facing Fear
Pressing play has become my way of choosing sadness. Because being sad requires less responsibility than being scared. When you are sad, it is easy to blame all the external factors in the world for your “condition.” But, fear – fear is much more internal. It’s my own doing, so it’s my own responsibility, which is probably the reason why I don’t want to admit that my sadness is actually a product of my fear. I am scared of things I can’t control, or the outcomes I can’t predict. In my work, I know what success looks like and I know how to attain it. But there is a whole world outside of my classroom; that freaks me out.
Ironically, it’s not failure that scares me, but what that failure might reveal about my value as a person. I’m scared that someone or something is out there waiting to tell me how I am just a little bit short of worthy. That if I was just a little bit stronger, just a little bit smarter, just a little bit thinner, I could get there. But I’m not, so I won’t.
In response to that fear, being casually sad while I compare my life to those on television has become a safer place for me. At least I’ve made it out in my head to be safer because I am terrified of being right in the middle of the fight and realizing that no one wants to fight alongside me—that maybe I am not worth the risk.
I am not entirely certain where this realization leaves me. But I am starting to recognize that my sadness is a crutch, and if I am ever really going to get over it, I’ve got to stop looking for meaning within the dialogue of someone else’s story. For my own story to start having meaning, I need to believe I am worthy of the leading role.
It’s time to get off the couch and recognize that real life doesn’t have cliffhangers and codas and voiceovers – or werewolves and vampires for that matter. It has lonely nights, too many essays to grade and people who let you down. And most of the time, those places are where my sadness lives. But that sadness can’t be a safe place anymore. Instead, it will be a reminder that there is something more, something greater, something beautiful missing from my life. Instead of hiding out afraid I don’t deserve what else is out there, I need to fight like hell to go find it.
Alysa Perreras is an English teacher committed to helping students define their voice, while still engaging in the process of defining her own. Her free time includes guitar playing, wine drinking and travel planning. As a child of Colombian and Filipino heritage, writing became a way for her to make sense of her two worlds.