It's so incredibly hard for me to cultivate joy.
I successfully do it all the time. I find joy at the blistered 25,000th step in crooked Portuguese street, in the the song of languages I've never heard before, in the shadow and stillness of the early morning light. I smile whenever someone chases after the bus and catches it, whenever a dog pees on its own leg, and when someone I love really, truly, hugs me in a way that makes it seem like our souls melted into one another. I fill at the textural :36 mark of Perfect, at the sound of Gerhard Richter's palette knife, and of the tingling numbness when my glove makes contact with the bag.
I feel self love when I set my mind to figuring out an entire developmental concept that was fuzzy at best, in a weekend, and dedicated myself to build something to prove it.
And it's not just the highfalutin shit, it's also the fucking brilliance of Veronica Mars (a show that tackled teenaged sexual assault head on), when my best friend and I get into laughing fits even though we're thousands of miles apart, and when I absolutely kill it with self-timer in a real Instagram influencer-style photo of my outfits in the middle of the goddamn street. My life is blessed with so much joy, inspired by the art and the people whom I love with my entire being.
And even while I'm able to experience joy in forms I've always known and am just discovering, it does not mean that it is without tremendous effort. Depression has left me crying in the back corner of an Estonian palace and holding back tears in the middle of a pitch with Nike executives (Look past his head, I told myself, it'll dry out your eyes from the strain).
And then, there is systemic, institutionalised oppression. It is the weight I was born carrying, strengthened by the repetition, but never able to release myself from it. I carry it well. I try to accessorise around it. But the one catharsis I have is to acknowledge it. To say yes, this is here and something I have and always live with. They—they who experience it not—tell me that it doesn't exist, to ignore it (you know, to ignore the thing that does not exist), and that everyone carries a weight. And as I inhale to say the same four words, the leash snatches me back and I never exhale to speak those four words to explain.
Together, depression and oppression create a dangerous intersection that I cross thousands of times a day. For the most part I just work on not letting the cars hit me from both sides. But sometimes when I'm looking up at that gorgeous chiaroscuro effect on that ugly ass highway overpass and I go to snap a photo, someone yells out of their car something assaulty or racist, a powerful, retractable leash that I have no control over can snaps me back to them instantly, mid-smile.
The 40 continuous minutes of Mike Posner, 33 mental images of the Fauves, the 12 kind and loving text messages you sent—they can't protect me anymore. Like feathers to the wind, the earth reinherits them. I can pick them up when the leash loosens, when the neck heals, but I am more tired.
So, dear friends, know this. When it seems like what I'm saying is heavy, that I'm being negative, that I never seem to stop fighting, or that I won't stay in situations that you didn't see anything wrong with, it's because of this.
I have worked so incredibly hard for so much, but especially in a quest to have and to hold my feathers of joy—walking against the wind—whitened knuckles. When you tell me to be more positive, it demonstrates that you cannot perceive the metric tonnes of positivity it took me to get exactly where I am.
So if you can't find room in your heart or in your mind to be curious about that, that's fine. But all I ask from you:
Let me revel in the revelry, let me laugh at the quiet parts, let me find whatever narrow outlets that I can to plug in and to recharge.
And it's not just me. We might not understand each other. But that doesn't mean we can't let each other have room to understand ourselves.
We should let people love each other, whomever that is, however that is. We should let people like things, so long as those things are not foundationally rooted in hate and harm. We should let people indulge in dessert before lunch and breakfast for dinner, making out under mountains and monuments, and dusk-til-dawn video game sessions—we should let people enjoy things—*especially, please—*for those of us for whom seeking and retaining joy is so fleeting.
I wrote this post to the stunning album A Real Good Kid by Mike Posner. Worth a listen only if you have 40 minutes to listen straight through.