It’s Okay To Be Sad [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]

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I know that most of the time I write this column, I’m telling you guys that everything is going to be okay. I go on rants that rival “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I tell you all to chin up and stay strong because these are our twenties! The best time in our whole lives! We need to make the most of it before we’re married with kids, and life slows down. We need to be happy now because we’ll be leading mundane lives filled with soccer practice carpools and fights over whose turn it is to take out the garbage sooner than we think. Every week, I try to give you guys a little pep talk on why we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy life for what it is. I write to you about taking chances, learning lessons and being yourself—and I still stand by all of those things, but in the back of my head, I realized I wasn’t being completely honest. Life is not sunshine and rainbows 24/7 (duh), and there is no way that I can possibly look on the bright side every second of everyday (double duh). Life is messy and love is a motherf**ker and sometimes there is just no room for looking on the bright side. Yes, being a positive thinker can go a long way, but without some sadness and pain every now and then, how would we ever be able to appreciate the beautiful and happy moments?

I’ve learned that it’s okay to be sad sometimes.

This past Friday, I went out with two of my girlfriends to see my ex-manfriend’s band play. Now, I know what you’re thinking, why the hell would I go and do something like that? But if you read my “Confessions” post last week, I’m making the bold attempt to be friends with an ex and going to his show was part of this new plan. He was only here for the night, and I genuinely just wanted to see my friend and hear his band play. The plan was to look amazing, mingle, say “oh hey” to my ex, have a drink and enjoy some music.

Long story short: That did not happen. I ended up getting quite drunk and crying in the backseat of my own car while my best friend drove home. Whoops! Now, instead of just letting myself be upset (for a whole myriad of reasons, but let’s be real, seeing a guy you used/maybe still love sucks a lot), I just cried in the backseat of my own car. I apologized over and over to my friends for ruining the night. I was crying because I was mad that I was crying, rather than because my heart just broke all over again. I cried because I was mad at myself. I knew what I was getting myself into and did it all anyway. I was crying because I was going to get the “I told you so” from everyone who warned me this would happen if I went to see his band. I was crying because I hated being “that girl.” And I hated the fact that I had been wrong about everything. I was about to apologize for the fortieth time when my best friend grabbed my hand from the front seat, glanced back at me and said, “It’s okay to be sad, Katie. Just be sad tonight.”

Those words hit me faster than the four vodka sodas I had downed back at the bar. But if I just decided to be sad, wasn’t I wasting precious moments of my life? What was the point of wallowing in sadness and pity? Why would I be sad when I could just make myself snap out of it and decide to “fake it till I make it”? All of these questions filtered through my slurred speech, but my friend rebutted every single one. She was right. What was so wrong about being sad sometimes? I’ve always had this, “Get over it. There are kids starving in third world countries, and you’re upset about some guy” mentality. I never felt like I could be justified in my sadness. I’ve realized that everyone is fighting some kind of battle. Everyone has reasons to be sad, no matter how minuscule or pointless they may seem. I’ve learned that if the reason you’re sad is enough to make you sob in the back seat of your own car, then you’re justified in having a little sob session. So for the rest of the ride home, I laid my head back, held my friend’s hand, cried, and let myself be sad.

If you studied all night for a midterm and still got a C, it’s okay to be sad. If your dad just lost his job, and now you’re looking for another part time job to help out, it’s okay to be sad. If your significant other just broke up with you for someone else, it’s okay to be sad. If you’re grandparent is sick in the hospital, it’s okay to be sad. If you’re graduated and still unemployed, it’s okay to be sad.  If you’re feeling lost, it’s okay to be sad. If you’re so lonely that it’s painful, it’s okay to be sad. It’s totally and completely okay to turn off all the lights, turn on the new Taylor Swift album (or whatever songs are guaranteed to make you bummed out), and just cry in your bed with the covers over your head. In fact, I encourage you to do this.

It takes a lot of character to put on a happy face when inside you’re completely broken. I have no doubt in my mind that all of us have sucked it up at least once in our lives for the sake of others. It takes guts and integrity to do that, but it also takes guts and integrity to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m sad today. I am just going to be nothing but sad today.” Admitting that fact to yourself is brave and honest and something worthwhile. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed that you’re feeling a little less than perfect. You’re human, and as humans, we’re feeling a million different things in a day. We have off days. We have off weeks. We get in funks. It’s hard to keep up with ourselves sometimes, so instead of processing all those emotions, many of us just brush them off or push them to the back of our brains and opt for an artificial kind of happiness.

So instead of my usual, “This is our twenties, and let’s be young and wild and free” closing statement, I thought I would opt for something with a little more truth serum. As twenty-somethings, we’re confused as hell. We want to be adults, but we want our mommies. We’re constantly questioning every decision we make because it’s usually the biggest one to date. We’re dating. We’re loving. We’re breaking up. It’s this whole cluster of emotions and experiences that make us feel everything all at once. Our brains can’t even process it all. We want to take in each moment while we’re still young and open to everything, but we also need to remember to step back sometimes. Today we live in a world where sadness can be seen as something only for the weak and helpless and victimized, but I think that being open and accepting of your emotions is strong and brave and admirable.

Everyone is going to feel a little miserable every now and then, and if that day is today or tomorrow or five weeks from now, know that what you’re feeling is totally normal. If you’re not up for facing the world on said day, that is more than okay. Accepting the sadness will make you appreciate the happiness more. If we spent our whole lives wearing rose-colored glasses and a painted smile, we’d never be able to move away from the naïve views of the world. We’d never grow up. Sometimes, all we need is a good cry before we fall asleep in order to wake up refreshed with a new attitude. Sometimes, we just need to be sad, and that’s okay.

Katie is finishing up her undergrad at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. She enjoys wasting hours on Facebook and tweeting things no one cares about. When asked the question, “Do you do marathons?” She promptly responds, “Of course! Which show?” Follow her @KatieGarrity! Or read her personal blog where she talks incessantly about Ryan Gosling and hummus here!

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