I’ve felt trailed by a hazy, gray cloud for nearly my entire 30 years on Earth. The cloud isn’t raining, per se. Nor does it completely block the sun when it shines. It’s just gray, misty-feeling, and persistent.
Merriam-Webster has two entries for the word “melancholy.” As a noun, it’s defined as “a pensive mood” or “depression of spirits.” As an adjective, it’s “sadness or depression of mind and spirit.” To me, it’s bittersweetness. It’s a state of wistfulness characterized by a propensity for (often somber) reflection. It’s not depression, nor is it the antithesis of joy; there can be elation and hope in my melancholy. It’s a bliss that encompasses two things at once: the happiness tinged with sadness and vice versa. It’s less an emotion and more a personality type—one that’s highly susceptible to rolling waves of heaviness, longing, and sentimentality. It’s a complex, ancient trait that has especially plagued philosophers, painters, writers, musicians, and other artists for centuries.
The bittersweetness of my melancholy is woven into the very core of my being, my proclivity for contemplation creeping into every moment, be it shrouded in joy, anger, contentment, or mere boredom. Even the meaningless moments feel all too meaningful, overbearing even.
Most recently, I teared up watching a sunfish dutifully guard its nest at the local lake, awed by how such a benign creature could be so dedicated to protecting young it didn’t even have yet. I’m often moved to tears by nature, nostalgia, and things that aren’t necessarily happy but aren’t necessarily sad, either. And yet, I’m drawn to them. The complexities of life pull me in like a moth to a sad, blue flame.