Stop for a moment. Think of your life up to the age of 21. Now remember three moments in which you were really happy. When you've managed it, keep on reading.
How long did it take? A few seconds or longer? When I try this exercise I struggle to get beyond two and that takes me a couple of minutes.
Don't feel sorry for me, or feel that you have to comfort me. Melancholy shaped my early life and has been part of my existence since, but I don't reject it or fight it anymore. I now know who I could have been if misery hadn't changed me. It taught me the value of life and to not judge the experiences of others, or be harsh to them.
I have had happy moments since that time: the births of my children; my wedding day; my baptism; being on stage for the first time; having an article accepted for publication. These events may have occurred after I was 21, but they did occur.
People who have had good, relatively trouble-free lives from birth tend not to appreciate how lucky they have been. They have been:
- born to their parents and not someone else's
- given a random set of genes that have given them their looks and abilities
- given an education that equipped them for the lives they lead etc.
The list can on a long way and will point out plenty of things that they had no control over, but helped them have the life they live now. Would any of them have their current job if a different person interviewed them, or a different person had marked their degree course?
I have my own genes and my own life that was handed to me before I knew that I could make choices. I can do nothing about that, nor was I given the choice before birth of where or when to be born, or to whom. I couldn't choose my genes or the early influences on my life. No one can.
If life is a cloth being woven as we get older, then my cloth will be mostly black, but it will only serve to illuminate the occasional happiness. Not just my own, but the happiness I have brought to others. The smiles when I tell a joke; the relief when I assure them that they are not wrong; the comfort of a hug or a kind word. I have been able to draw on my darkest moments to help people, but only because I have learned from those moments.
Had I been the recipient of some better luck, or been able to take the chances they were occasionally laid before me, I may have ended up an arrogant man, full of my own importance. That may still happen.
I have made the most of the life I've had. I sometimes wish it had been different and spend some time wondering what may have been. But I can't change any of that, nor can I be the person that others wish I was, see in me or want me to be. I am who I am: a melancholy man.