Individualism is heavily present in Western culture. The American Dream is oriented around the idea that an individual’s hard work, perseverance, and goals can help them achieve anything. Whilst that idealist notion is possible for some, the American Dream isn’t easily accessible to all.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “novelty” in our culture. So many of us aim to do something groundbreaking. So many of us aim to capture something breathtaking. We want to be pioneers in our lives, but the truth of the matter is that our victories are not isolated. Our liberties are tied to someone else’s efforts or even the phenomenon of something else. We do not live in isolation.
Because we do not love alone, our sadness is never felt in isolation.
I’ve begun to ask myself, what is the charm with novelty? To be the first to do something? To be the one who outdoes someone else’s record? This idea of being “special”-when did our lives begin to be measured by the things we carry rather than the things that carry us?
A lot of us tend to remember the people who set world records for sports, movies, awards, or groundbreaking scientific discoveries, but we often miss out on the stories of the people who have helped them get there.
We do not have to be special to be meaningful.
Our lives do not have to prove a point or outdo a previous notion to justify that we are allowed to exist. That we were meant to exist.
We exist by fate, but we live by choice.
What we do in this life counts, but how this life brings us peace-that can’t always be quantified in achievements or test scores or employee review assessments. So, as I’ve been thinking about the idea of “novelty” in our culture, I’ve also been thinking about the novelty of depression.
This past summer has been spectacular and transformative, but when the momentum of highlights, accomplishments, and instant gratifications lagged-my depression came into my life in full force. In the past, people would tell me, “You’re not alone,” or “Millions of other people feel depressed too sometimes.” Those words of encouragement never sat well with me, no matter who it was from and no matter how pure I knew their intentions were. And now I’m beginning to see that the idea of novelty and individualism was clouding my ability to see the solidarity depression brings.
So often, I think many of us think that what we go through is so individualistic to us, but just as the universal language of expression is love-the universal way of knowing we are human is pain. We are fallible beings, we are not meant to hold steady all of the time. So when people say “We are not alone,” oftentimes it is not meant to be minimizing or shaming, but sometimes it’s a gentle reminder of saying, “I feel your pain too. Our pains are connected.”
This is not to say that everyone understands one another’s pain, but every human has felt it.
Oftentimes, I’ve found myself wanting to be the best at something, to be the solution to some worldly problem or disaster. I wanted to mean something, so the idea of individualism was almost always enticing to my ways of being. What I’ve grown to realize is that if we keep coining ourselves as people that can be made into something special, we are robbing ourselves of our humanness. The stories that wrap itself in depression are unique to us, but they are not always stories that have never been felt, told, experienced, suffered through, or survived by.
The novelty of depression is rooted in the same notions of individualism or the American Dream. It orients itself around the belief that the things we feel, do, accomplish, and suffer through are specific to who we are, but who we are is not limited by the space we occupy. Who we are lives in how we carry ourselves, how we impact others, in the times we share, in the spaces between us. We are finite and fallible, but our pains are generational and just as our pains are generational so are the ways in which we love.
Sometimes we will go through things that isolate us in fear and shame or guilt, but please remember that our lives are not meant to be lived in isolation. Part of the human condition involves our innate yearning to connect, to learn, to live, to live well, and to not just cope, but thrive.
Our pains are not isolated.
The ways in which we love are our liberties.
We are more than the things we carry.