When I’m Still, I’m Sad

Sometimes, I'd rather be in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes, I’d rather be in the middle of nowhere.

Mornings are the hardest for me. When I have to get up for class or a meeting, I focus on that and I will myself out of bed and into the shower. Sometimes, I bribe myself. Rebecca, get up now and I’ll let you have Starbucks. This used to work in high school, but now my coffee tastes have become snobbish and only three shops can motivate me: Comet, Espresso Bar, and Mighty Good. On days like today, when I don’t have any morning commitments, I wake up and it’s hard to find a reason. A reason to live this day.

I don’t know if I’m depressed. I certainly have been before, on and off. Now, I feel like I’m just dealing with the fallout of the way I used to live and the way I used to feel. I’m no longer running in front of buses or threatening to jump off roofs or smashing my cell phone to bits and pieces in a panic attack. But I’m still a perfectionist, a workaholic, and a neurotic. Some people would say that these are first-world problems made up to put money in the pockets of therapists and Big Pharma. To them, I would say that 1) I’m not on any medications 2) I stopped seeing my therapist and 3) pain is pain.

I guarantee you that you can find third-world citizens who are much happier than me. I know because the happiest person I’ve ever met is my great-aunt, who came to our apartment in China (where my grandmother is severely depressed and my father was married to a psychopath), cleaned and cooked for us, and slept soundly on a hardwood floor. She did everything with a smile that revealed her wasted-away teeth. Despite being younger than my grandma, she looked at least two decades older, but I’d much rather be her than my grandmother.

So what exactly is wrong with me? Well, first of all, I have no fun. Sure, I do things that are supposed to be fun and on rare occasions I can actually let go. Most of the time, though, I fill my days with work and appointment after appointment because I’m terrified of standing still. When I’m still, suddenly that A+ on my French quiz isn’t worth anything anymore. Suddenly the prospect of going on a Fulbright to Morocco doesn’t make me excited anymore. Suddenly the novel I was so pleased with before becomes a black hole of insecurity.

My main hobby these days is knitting. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it’s always been a love/hate relationship. I still remember standing in line at my middle school cafeteria, gawking at the stitches I just dropped and wanting to bust into tears. Nowadays, I’m much better at knitting (after many, many failures), but I freak out if the tension is wrong or if the v-neck is an inch too low or if the front and back aren’t completely symmetrical. I also never just knit, like sit on a rocking chair or lie in bed and knit. No no, that’s not enough work. I have to be watching a TV show or a movie while I’m knitting. In fact, when I’m waiting for something to load, I start getting really antsy and I either get up to pee or I knit.

The hobby of all hobbies has always been horseback riding for me. There’s nothing else that’s so satisfying and exhilarating to me as being one with a horse. I only started going back recently and I’ve found a wonderful instructor and an amazing Arabian mare named Lola. I’ve been handling this relatively well so far, as in I’ve found ways to enjoy myself more than critique myself. But it’s a precarious balance and so many little things push me over the edge. If I feel that I didn’t do as well in a lesson as I did before, I’ll berate myself the whole drive home. I see the other girls, much younger than me, riding daily and I worry that I’ll never be as good as them. I’ve signed up for a horse show in November and December, and I’m scared to think how I’ll feel if I don’t win.

Another big problem that I have is the fact that I’m extremely extroverted. People tend to think of extroversion as being interchangeable with outgoingness. But that’s not true. Depending on my mood, I’m more or less outgoing, but I’m still painfully extroverted. What does that mean? It means that I don’t know who I am unless I’m with other people. For me, if I win the lottery, it doesn’t count until I’m able to tell someone else about it. It means that when I can’t immediately tell others what happened to me, it feels like none of it did. It feels like I’m not even alive. When I’m left alone for too long, I’m like a caged puppy and I develop anxiety.

Well, that was a lot to get off my chest on a beautiful Friday morning. Sorry to pour this out on you guys, but this is why I write. Because now I’ve told someone how I feel, and that makes me feel like I can handle this thing called life. I may still be a mess, but I’m getting better by the day and I’m strong enough to curb (some of) my bad habits. Now I’m off to apply for Princeton in Asia and to write the next chapter of my book. I know, I know…but I promise I’ll try to have fun doing it.

When do you feel sad?

À bientôt,



7 thoughts on “When I’m Still, I’m Sad

  1. I read somewhere that people in poverty tends to be happier because they are not afraid to lose something (they got nothing basically) and live on a day to day basis trying to enjoy the present.

    Interesting definition of extrovert people. Never understand it that way.

    • There’s an interesting case of that in Bhutan. For the past thirty or so years, the government has been pursuing Gross National Happiness instead of GDP. Contrast that with Singapore, which is one of the richest countries, but whose citizens report feeling nothing on a daily basis.

      I suppose introverts are the opposite — they feel like they’re losing themselves when they don’t have enough alone time. 🙂

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    just wanted to let you know that I too have downs and lows in life. I’m also a workaholic and when I’m stationary –standing still–I’m not far from the brink of depression. Keeping myself busy and moving is how I maintain good mental health.

    Oddly enough, I’m an introvert. So the exact opposite of you. I don’t feel like I”m losing myself when I don’t have enough time alone. Rather it’s I just feel really drained and I need some down time to recharge my batteries.

    Anyways, that’s my one piece for you. Take care Rebecca. And remember sometimes it’s much easier to just let go and let be..

    • Hi Cathy,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read/comment! I really appreciate it — you just made my day a little bit more “high”. 😉

      It’s definitely hard to keep a good balance when you’re a workaholic though. Like, sometimes it really does help me to do work and I feel better because of it. But sometimes I get really anxious and I can’t stop stressing about work to the point where I can’t sleep.

      It’s funny that we’re different in that way! I don’t really relate, but I can understand. 🙂

      Thanks for your well wishes! Take care too. And I’m in the process of learning that.

  3. So if I need some time alone to recharge the battery and be myself but also need to tells others what I am accomplishing and doing, what does that make of me ? An introvert with extrovert tendencies ? Or just a narcissist :x?

  4. Pingback: When Being Alone Is Lovely | Rebecca Cao

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