What My Sense of Melancholy Means to Me

What My Sense of Melancholy Means to Me

It reminds me of change, adaption, and to take a minute to look at the world outside of my window.
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Now that I'm well into my second year at Emory, I don't reflect on my college application experience (aside from recruitment when I said about 30 times that the recruitment process was exactly like the college application process). But there's one facet of my experience that I always think about because it remains so rooted in my life and psyche.

I wrote my Common App essay in 30 minutes. After spending two months working with a writing coach, the piece that should have been my final product made me want to scream. It was entirely about me, but it sounded nothing like me. Ever since I began writing essays and papers in class, the one piece of consistent feedback I got was how distinct my voice was (even when this was a negative criticism reminding me I really should take a more academic tone). And here was this piece that should have been the most personal manifesto I ever wrote and it sounded like a piece of cardboard reading a script from another piece of cardboard.

So I sat down two days before I was supposed to apply to college, much to my parents' shock and slight dismay, and wrote the one thing I had been dying to explain for years. Somewhere in the center of my chest, there has always been this heavy feeling that I tried for so long to put a name to.

As I explained to any college counselor who read my application, the first clear memory I can recall with this feeling is on a random day in May: I was nine years old and we had had guests out on the patio for a late lunch. It was the time of year when the sun didn’t set until close to eight at night, and I remember seeing the sky turning orange behind the trees in my yard. I had cracked open the bottoms of the windows in my room, and my thin curtains were pulsing in and out with the breeze. I sat staring at this scene in complete silence with my feet propped up on the windowsill.

I remember, as clearly as anything that occurred yesterday, the sound of my mother closing the garage, walking up the stairs, and sighing deeply. With no warning, I began to cry. My mom walked into my room and asked me what was wrong, but nothing was. Everything in my room was as it should have been; everything in my life was as it should have been.

And yet, I couldn’t stop feeling this weight.

As I grew up I began to discover movies, books, and songs that could trigger this sensation with no rhyme or reason. Some days, I allow this feeling in by intentionally revisiting the things I know will set it off. It's not a sadness so much as an extra weight, or a heavy filter on my image of the world. Others, I find myself taken by surprise when something new prompts a reaction and I become unable to separate myself from the melancholy.

I should explain: this feeling is not constant.

I'm not always festering, all mercurial and existential. It's hard to explain, but it is as if the sensation is a part of me, one that lies dormant until directly addressed. I am never going to be me without my melancholy, though I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing. As I explained in my essay, I do my best writing when I'm in a melancholic mood.

But more than that, and more important to me than it would ever be so someone deciding if I should be admitted to their university, my melancholy reminds me of home. It reminds me of change, adaption, and to take a minute to look at the world outside of my window.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Sharp

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A Letter To My Freshman Dorm Room As I Pack Up My Things

Somehow a 15' x 12' room became a home.

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Dear Geary 411,

With your creaky beds, concrete walls, and mismatched tile floors, you are easily overlooked as just another room we were randomly assigned to— but you were different. Inside your old walls, I have made some of the best memories of my life that I will hold on to forever.

Thank you for welcoming my neighbors in with open arms who quickly became friends who didn't knock and walked in like you were their own.

I feel like an apology is needed.

We're sorry for blaring the music so loud while getting ready and acting like we can actually sing when, in reality, we know we can't. Sorry for the dance parties that got a bit out of control and ended with us standing on the desks. Sorry for the cases of the late-night giggles that came out of nowhere and just would not go away. Sorry for the homesick cries and the "I failed my test" cries and the "I'm dropping out" cries. We're sorry for hating you at first. All we saw was a tiny and insanely hot room, we had no idea what you would bring to us.

Thank you for providing me with memories of my first college friends and college experiences.

As I stand at the door looking at the bare room that I first walked into nine months ago I see so much more than just a room. I see lots and lots of dinners being eaten at the desks filled with stories of our days. I see three girls sitting on the floor laughing at God knows what. I see late night ice cream runs and dance battles. I see long nights of homework and much-needed naps. Most importantly, I look at the bed and see a girl who sat and watched her parents leave in August and was absolutely terrified, and as I lock you up for the last time today, I am so proud of who that terrified girl is now and how much she has grown.

Thank you for being a space where I could grow, where I was tested physically, mentally and emotionally and for being my home for a year.

Sincerely,

A girl who is sad to go

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When Was The Last Time You Were Alive?

If you can't post it for everyone to see, was it truly a remarkable moment?

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Being alive is an essentially effortless act.

In theory, as long as you're eating food, drinking water, and performing as a human, assuming no major health conditions, most of us are living.

The tragedy I see most often is so very few of us are alive.

Now, I'm not suggesting you drop your textbooks and sprint up a mountain, or go broke trying to find yourself in new activities and events.

That's the illusion pressed onto so many of us. Social Media, more importantly, FOMO, has taught us that in order to truly be alive we need to make sure we travel far and wide, eat gourmet and unique food, and essentially, immerse ourselves in something phenomenal. However, regardless of what you do- don't do it without an audience and the value of your experience will only be justified by the number of likes you accrue on your #bestvacation ever because you #lovenature. With your back to the camera and wispy hair flowing in the beach air, you hit all of your angles, how else will you prove that you're alive to Instagram?

I fell for this too. I spent so much of my life constantly trying to get to the next phase life had to offer. High school was fun, but I was counting the days until graduation. Growing up in a small hometown wasn't awful, but I had sticky note calendars until my next vacation. And day in and day out, events would happen all around me that were just too "normal." I wasn't alive, but I was living.

Setting your soul on fire and truly living is so much more difficult than you could ever expect, but not because you have to drain savings and take along a buddy to snap all the perfect moments.

Choosing to be alive is realizing how important it is to be in this moment or phase in life and accepting it for all its worth. Instead of racing to the finish line or trying to sprint into your next season of assumed happiness, take time to notice all the beautiful and small things that make this moment so important. There is so much life to be found in simple moments.

Semesters are ending, we are all racing to summer. Perhaps in the process, take note of the routine cafeteria worker that constantly smiles at you and says hello. Or perhaps, giggle at the fact that in just a few short weeks that bus driver you see every single morning won't be apart of your morning routine.

The farther I get from what used to be my normal, the more I miss that season of life. I haven't lived in my hometown since I was eighteen, but I miss the simplicity that came with my drives to high school listening to Kanye West and the coziness of a small town opening its doors to start a new day. I never stopped to be alive in those moments, I was just simply living.

Wherever your next phase of life might be, it will always be there. You will always have something else coming. However, once this moment is gone. It's truly gone. Don't waste beautiful views trying to capture just the right picture for Instagram, take in the moment.

Living and experiencing life can be as simple as trusting that you're exactly where you need to be in life. Cherish each moment as you're in it. The next moment is coming whether you're ready or not.

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