There was this conversation between Randall, the adopted son of the Pearson family, and Kevin, his non-biological brother in This Is Us S05E13 that had been stuck with me for a while. It’s when Randall admitted that the fact that he was adopted by a family he loves so much makes him feel that he is bound to show nothing but gratitude at all times, while that feeling, truthfully, feels like an emotional prison because oftentimes he still couldn’t help but thinking about all the what-if’s had he been living with his biological parents instead his whole life. And Kevin said he sounds “wildly ungrateful.”
And I’ve been thinking about that ever since. The feeling of having to constantly show gratitude because people might perceive you to live a somewhat ideal life, when the truth is, sometimes you just want to lash out because things haven’t felt okay in a prolonged time, and let the world watch you go nuts in 4K if they please.
I’ve been very fortunate that the worst thing the pandemic brings to me personally isn’t losing individuals, or things, that I hold dearly onto. Sure, I haven’t felt even remotely okay in months, but I’m not at least grieving or constantly bursting into tears.
But every other day during the working hours while I’ve been working from my parents’ home since March last year, I’d walk up to my brother’s room, throw myself on the bed and stare blankly at the ceiling, and complain about how I felt like doing nothing that day. Every-frickin’-day. I’m just lucky that I still function well and deliver at work despite the mood. I guess I’ve had it in me since my early years at school that my fear of failure eventually overrides all the emotions I bottled up inside, and I’m so annoyingly lucky that it hasn’t slipped once. I’ve been safe but it does not mean I feel okay doing so.
And it’s not just about not feeling enthusiastic about work. There were many periods I felt out of love, even. And the world felt out of touch, too. I had no passion to be shared. No emotions, no sparks. At anything at all. (Except caring for my cat and binge-watching TV shows just so I have something that sounds fun enough to do.)
I would go about my responsibility at work because I get paid for it, with much procrastination if the work isn’t urgent, and that’s it. No sparing time for hobbies, let alone volunteering activities, online classes, or side hustles which seemingly have grown more popular these days. On the other side of social media, I keep wondering: how do y’all have the energy for those?
I keep telling myself that it’s okay not to feel okay. My self-diagnosis says that I am just burnt out, just like so many of us right now. Again, it’s probably not special. My logic says with everything that is dawning on the world right now, feeling empty is a privilege. Because at the very least, I’m not mourning. I’m not constantly stressed out either – although every once in awhile I obviously still am. I might be unhappy, but I know that many people are having so much worse.
At the same time, I know I must acknowledge the feeling that I’m not doing fine, and maybe do something about it. Well, most of us aren’t doing well indeed. Maybe it’s not a special case, but it’s still the truth for everyone who suffers from it. The fact that it’s so statistically common does not mean it should be dismissed.
I’m still thankful that the most significant things the pandemic has affected for me are my plans, my everyday feelings, and my fluctuative willingness to give a crap at anything. But being reminded to “always be grateful” since the rest of the world is on fire does feel like a trap sometimes.
How do I act grateful and feel too unhappy to live a fulfilled life at the same time? What’s the secret to experience both at once without rebutting one another?
Can you even become one without denying the other?