I recently watched the film Inside Out for the second time. I’ll refrain from turning this into a review, though you should all go watch it if you haven’t – it’s a lovely film which is perfectly geared toward its target audience (children) while having enough complexity to interest adults, and in classic Pixar fashion manages to both make you laugh and make you cry.
But I want to talk a little bit about the “message” of the film, the takeaway:
It’s okay to be sad.
Of course I knew that it was okay to be sad…’sad’ is an emotion, it’s natural, it happens. Right? Well, sort of. I feel like in a lot of situations we put a premium on keeping certain kinds of emotions bottled up. Happiness and enthusiasm are okay, we bond over those. Complaining’s okay too, because if the people you’re talking to are annoyed about the same thing everyone can bitch together. But the really strong negative emotions? Sadness, depression, grief, anger, helplessness, etc. etc…those we keep to ourselves.
Interestingly, in certain university cultures (this was definitely true at Columbia), “who’s the most miserable” becomes almost like a competition. It’s a badge of honor to be the most stressed out, to be “about to have a panic attack, seriously”, to be suffering.
But here’s the thing — not really. As much as we were expected to answer “How are you?” with “Oh my god, terrible, I have three essays due”, we weren’t supposed to actually break down over it. Joke about it in coversation, yes. Make self-deprecating throwaway comments about it, yes. Actually feel it? Actually talk about it? No.
This time around, Inside Out hit me really, really hard.
I mean, I was sad the first time ’round. I’m a sympathetic crier, so watching Riley be sad about missing her old friends in Minnesota definitely got the tears going. But I didn’t really identify so much with her.
Now, as someone who has just moved away from home to a new, unfamiliar place, I definitely do.
And actually, in some ways I’m having a much easier time than Riley. I’m not eleven, for one thing; I (supposedly) can recognize and deal with feelings of homesickness better. And I don’t hate my new school or my new house — actually, I’m having a wonderful time across the pond — though I sympathize with her confusion over the broccoli pizza. (BEANS. ON. FRIES. WHY??).
I’m doing all the things you’re supposed to do. I’m going to classes, I’m going to events, I’ve joined societies, I have friends, I hang out with them…
And yet one day I was just struck with overwhelming sadness. For no particular reason at all, I was overwhelmingly miserable.
Feel, Don’t Conceal
I mostly managed this in the worst way possible, by crying alone in my room and not telling anyone. You’d think I would have learned something, wouldn’t you? Apparently not.
Here’s the thing — I knew I would feel better if I could talk to someone, or at least be in the vicinity of other people, and yet my conditioning won the day (“conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know” — damn you, Disney, why are you so insightful regarding the human condition??).
Needless to say I have been thoroughly chastised by several people and will not be making that mistake again. And I really am feeling very happy overall — please don’t think I’m depressed, mom, I swear I’m not.
I’m sharing this because I forgot it was okay to feel sad.
I needed a reminder.
Maybe you do to.