A Little More of Both
“The fact that you got a little happier today doesn’t change the fact that you also become a little sadder. Every day you become a little more of both, which means that right now, at this exact moment, you’re the happiest and the saddest you’ve ever been in your whole life.”
~Nicole Krauss, The History of Love
On Monday, I am happy because I visited my college this past weekend. I walked around campus and remembered lots of little things—who I sat on that bench with, where I ate the most deliciously unhealthy meals, what sidewalks got to eavesdrop on my heartbreak. It’s all still there and so are my friends and everything about it is as beautiful as I left it.
And then I am sad, because I had to come back here and wake up early and go to work. College has gone on existing. It is difficult to fathom my campus without me, me without it. There used to be a hole in the Boston College atmosphere where I fit perfectly, and I am afraid that pockets of me are still left behind there, in those gaps. I’m afraid that there are holes in me now that I won’t know how to fill.
On Tuesday, I am happy because Bon Iver has recently released a new album. I listen to it straight through on my commute. It’s perfect sleeping music, but I stay awake to hear it all. The first word of my favorite track is “philosophize” and I hope there’s a meaning in that.
And then I am sad, because this song is so sad. This song is loneliness and heartbreak and dreams given up on and streetlights in the rain when you’re driving by yourself. I haven’t philosophized much lately; I used to try in college, as a philosophy major. I used to spend hours every day talking about the greatest human good, or the definition of excellence, or staying long after the bell rang talking to professors and classmates about the craziest things. I haven’t had a conversation like that in awhile. I haven’t found meaning that deep since leaving the classroom for a cubicle. I wonder if I ever will.
On Wednesday, I am happy because I wake up early to work out, and stay out late to meet up with an old friend. The morning is for me—dark, 5 am, my headphones loud and my brain somewhere else as I did just one more one more one more. I eat a healthy breakfast, and I dress warmly, and I catch my train. And then it is 5 p.m., and I take the train home, and I am met at the station with a big hug and a big smile and a chance to share stories. It’s a good day.
And then I am sad, because good days feel different now. Good days involve a lot more alone time than they used to. Good days are the ones when I see a friend at all. Good days now are on a separate plane from the good days I had before. I’m in a strange after, and it’s only been a few months, but I feel like I’m still waiting—like I’ve been waiting forever—to feel at home again.
On Thursday, I am happy because I see a sunset. October must have called up all the other months and said “hey, if you’re going to make me sacrifice summer to winter, then I get to leave the most beautiful remnants behind.” The sunsets I see on my way home from New York City are stunning. They kiss the Chrysler Building and peek down cross streets and are pink one minute and orange the next, before you can blink.
And then I am sad, because I leave my house when it’s dark and re-enter my house when it’s dark again, and darkness makes me tired, and being tired makes me go right to bed instead of going out, making friends, being young or whatever. Sunsets bring dark. Beautiful things end in darkness that has to absorb you for awhile, before the next sun gets to rise.
On Friday, I am happy because I watch Good Will Hunting tonight, and I still can’t quite get over that I come home at night and don’t have homework to do. I eat a good dinner, I take a shower (even shave my legs!), and I curl up on the couch as my cleanest, happiest self, watching my favorite movie and still laughing at the same parts I’ve always thought are funny.
And then I am sad, because I’m not sharing it with anyone this time. This movie is better shared with my roommates, as we piece together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Or with my best friend, who always shouts out “Reeeeeetaaaaaiiiiner!” when Ben Affleck does. Or my dad, who made me watch it for the first time before Boston became home to me, too. Matt Damon is still cute and Robin Williams is still funny, but they sound different when their voices fall on my ears alone. I turn it off before the ending can make me cry.
In this post-grad life, I am happy. I am so lucky and grateful and glad to be happy. People tell me I should be, that I have worked so hard to be where I am, and those people are right. I am happy and I deserve to be happy.
In this post-grad life, I am sad. I am so lonely and exhausted and uncertain, and every little thing makes me think of the things I’ve left behind, the chapter of life I’ve just closed. People tell me it gets better, that this is normal, that I’m not alone, and those people are also right. I am sad and it’s okay that I’m sad.
Every day, I am this much happier and that much sadder. Every day, I am a little more of both.
I love my job and also miss my college. I relish being alone and making my own way, but still long for all my friends around me and wonder if I’m doing okay at keeping in touch without them. I’ve fallen in love with autumn in New York, yet I practically tear up at every Instagram of football season in Boston. I am fiercely happy in my new life—and I am painfully sad over leaving my old one behind.
More happiness does not always mean less sadness. Sad days don’t exclude beautiful things. I am reminding myself of this all the time. Sometimes I don’t buy it; other times, it’s the truest thing I know. Today, I’m not sure which one I believe.
Tomorrow is a new day, and it is going to bring both happiness and sadness, both familiar and brand-new. And then it will be a new week, full of good days and not-so-good ones. Sunsets and sunrises. Feeling empty, feeling full. Looking back and looking forward, with more to look forward to than I ever expected, and more to be grateful for than I could have ever imagined.
I don’t know which moments will be happy or sad. But I know I will have both, and I will try and feel all of it down to my core—happier and sadder in every moment, alive and learning and thankful, with my whole life ahead.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]