“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu
You’ve heard it before. Nothing is permanent. Feelings change, context alters, weather warms, hearts cool // I’m sitting in a super chill cafe in Istanbul near my university. I’m feeling strange. I realize I haven’t written much at all in the past three weeks. I decide to write.
My time has been jammed pack with everything from various journeys, visits from far-away friends, and heart-filled conversations to studying for midterms and lazy days of killing time with new friends. Every moment of it is an experience and a half of discovery and awe, of which I regret nothing.
I may be across the world taking part in happenings like no others, for which I am fundamentally grateful, but this does not grant me immunity from feeling low. I sometimes feel guilty for feeling down while partaking in such an opportunity like this journey, because how dare I feel sad about something that likely seems relatively insignificant while I’m on an adventure that so many will never so much as dream of. But then I am reminded from an unexpected source that we cannot truly compare our sufferings.
If you will allow me a buddhist moment, I will remind you that suffering is an inevitable aspect of existence. “It’s hard having nothing. It’s hard having everything. It’s hard. Suffering is very personal and cannot be measured from the outside. We all suffer differently.” I may not be lacking food, or shelter, or friendship, but I still question myself, my worth, my existence, the point behind all that I do and all the interactions that I share with those around me. I still doubt my decisions, my goals, my motives and aspirations. However, when it comes down to it, I refuse to feel guilty for suffering from this self-analysis that I think all can relate to in some form or another. Besides, how much credit could I really afford myself if I did not question myself? I do not write any of this to seek pity or to justify a sadness. I write this to remind you that you need no ones permission to experience yourself and your existence. Feeling, both high and low, is a part of being alive. We are allowed to feel down and to wallow in the rain, just as freely as we are to smile with the sun.
Being compassionate, being kind, means understanding that each of our narratives comes along with its own twists and tricks, and not belittling each other or ourselves because of the differences between our understandings and expressions. Sadness is not something to hide away, not something to ignore or disregard; it is significant in its own right. Suffering is no less legitimate than happiness; let us not deny ourselves the freedom to explore without discrimination what it means to be human.
So many choose to ignore certain aspects of human existence, choosing instead to pretend they do not exist or that they are not worthy of our attention because they are too weird, too awkward, too unclean, too irrational, too selfish. In too many cases, our less than positive feelings fall into this category, along with physical and mental health matters, sex and sexuality, and bodily functions. In the grand scheme of things, it seems utterly ridiculous to me to pretend that such things do not exist when we are all well aware of them. Why should we deny ourselves the freedom of acknowledging and communicating about these shared positions we all find ourselves in? There is no shame in being human.