Sorrow: A Choice of Joy or Pain

These past five months I have been living some of the best memories of my life. I have explored the international world, become familiar with a different culture, and grown inexpressibly close to some of the most unique and phenomenal strangers who I now refer to as my best friends.

Soon a big part of it will be over, and it is difficult to comprehend that five months have already flown by. Many of the friends I have made here, who I see every day, and love with every nerve of my body, will be returning home this week. Long story short, many of the people I have grown to love, and built my memories around, will no longer be here. When I conceptualize my day-to-day experiences without them, my mind draws many blank spaces that they would usually fill. Spaces that they illuminate and give life to with small phrases they say out of habit, bright humor and wit they consistently carry, and the base presence of good and loving company. These blank spaces make it hard to say goodbye, and memories of filled ones make the farewells painful to process.

Now, I know this is natural, normal, and a basic part of life. Loving people, separating, seeing them again. I am in no way feeling sorry for myself, and in no way believe that I have a right to walk around frowning. I am lucky, extraordinarily lucky, to have experienced all that I have these past five months, more-so twenty years, and am blessed to be able to experience every day with people I love. People I have loved all my life, people I have come to love, and people I will love in the future.

I am not depressed, but it is inevitable to experience sorrow when met with farewells. It is inevitable to want to bury your head in a pillow or take shelter under a blanket. But feeling sad has nothing to do with pain.

Feeling sad is not defined by depression, anxiety, or rumination. Feeling sad is most often a result of loss. Loss of something we care about, love, or identify with – and that is not depressing. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Life should be about caring, about loving, and about sharing our identity with the world around us. So sorrow, then, could be conceptualized as a key part of life. Sometimes, even, it is a fragment of life that may reflect back onto ourselves a beautiful thing we call joy. To be able to feel sad in the first place, means that we have had the pleasure of experiencing something good. Sorrow is a segment of the same road that gives us joy and contentment. It signifies that we’re doing things right.

And so when it comes to sorrow, there is a choice. When you see it face to face, pain might be the automatic and learned response. But there is a different world of options, one that measures sadness in units of the things we are sad for and the miracles that they are made of. Today, when I thought of the coming absence of my best friends, and the goodbyes that I might usually shy from contemplating over, a light turned on in my head. This light lit every warm corner of my mind and made me realize an obvious, but fundamental perspective: pain is optional.

Every instance of joy, amazement, hilariousness, and ridiculousness that I have experienced these past five months played in a consecutive commencement, as though I was watching a film of some of the best parts of my life. And I realized, this is what I am sad about: some of the best parts of my life. Moreover, this is what I am happy about: some of the best parts of my life.

It is impossible to feel pain when understanding the miracles behind your sorrow, because there is so much joy and appreciation to combat it.

I am in love with these people, the moments we have made together, and the life at large that I am able to live every day. It is people like them that help me to see the brightest aspects of our human experience. Sorrow will always be there to play its role, and it is our responsibility to choose how we react. Every moment of our lives we have a choice, even if at times it is rather difficult to detect. And I choose joy.

I could not be happier to feel this sorrow, because anything less would not make sense. They are some of the best people I know.

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Moments made of people and places, brilliant and ordinary. ↹ Planet Earth, Milky Way

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