Why it is okay to be melancholy
It was one of those impromptu, you-only-get-this-kind-of-luck-so-often nights. With a flurry of text messages, a scramble to find shoes and a coat, a quick uber ride, we found ourselves (a little shamefully even) with great center-seats to a band that was very far from their home but close to our hearts. And we had only missed two songs.
It was the type of evening that you naturally want to keep going, so we tucked into a neighborhood pub.
At a point in the conversation, our friend turned and asked,
"If you were a plant, what kind of plant would you choose to be?
“A weeping-willow tree,” I said without fully registering how quick the words slipped out.
It is as if I had the answer deeply rooted somewhere in the back of my mind, merely waiting for the first person to ask the offbeat question.
A weeping willow tree is perhaps the most melancholy of the plant-based variety, and just as peonies might bring happiness or a cherry blossom tree might signify renewal, melancholy is a noble state that deserves to be praised too.
I’ve always tended to fall on the melancholy side of things. I like moody photography and rainy weather, songs that are sad and films that don’t always have a happy or tidied up ending. I think certain times of day carry a hint of sadness and believe that even melancholy landscapes exist for a reason.
Naturally, I used to think something was wrong with me for finding comfort in these kinds of things. There tends to be a façade, a world that we have created for ourselves in which we have to exhaustively convince others that we are constantly happy and overjoyed with our luck. We emphasize this in our social media posts, our annual Christmas letters, or when we rave about how exciting our weekend plans were to anyone within earshot.
But there is something to be said for the quieter, less cheerful days, for these days hold the rooting perspective that we need. No matter how beautiful a composition is, the notes eventually fade away. Even the most joyful of days will inevitably come to an end. So perhaps instead of pushing melancholy moments away and stuffing them to the no man’s land of our conscious, we could let them beautifully coexist with happiness (and all the other emotions) as it is meant to be.
To the melancholy person, they know that life is a balance, but more importantly, they know rarely will it ever be truly balanced.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is not a life of eternal happiness, but the ability to truly delight in how a particular tree sways in the wind, or to admire the delicate petals of a ranunculus flower, with the awareness that at any given moment, chaos could soon ensue.