I used to loathe the fact that I felt so much.
Why did I cry at the news and feel my friends’ emotions as if they were my own? My family would always tell me to stop being so dramatic and that being so emotional is a waste of time. I wanted to tell them I cannot control it and how exhausting this is for me too. Make it stop.
Then I started playing the piano. My piano teacher, going against everything that I had been told up to that point, encouraged me to play the notes in front of me with ardor and passion. She pushed me to bring out emotions from the depths of my soul to bring life to the piece. She wanted me to cry (without getting tears on her prized piano, of course), laugh, and feel the music. I could play a score with complete and utter precision, no mistakes being made, and she would still be dissatisfied if she could not hear my heart in the sounds.
Then I began to write. English was always one of my favorite subjects in school, not because I particularly enjoyed the mundane classics that my teacher would assign, but because I loved to write. When I could not articulate my thoughts and emotions into spoken words, pen and paper were always there for me. As soon as I started writing, I could feel every single word on that page. Suddenly my English teachers were praising me for my emotions, and I began to realize, maybe this could be a beautiful thing?
Then I enrolled in my first art classes. Art was never exactly my strong suit, and I am not trying to be humble when I say that most people in that studio were definitely better than me. Yet, my art teacher always praised me: “Mia, you just have such a way of expressing yourself.” Perhaps this was some sort of euphemism and my art teacher was merely trying to be nice, but I would like to believe that this was another one of those moments. “Expressing yourself”— what a brilliant yet simple way to convey the value of emotions.
Then depression crept into my life. In times like these when I could not feel anything, I missed the intensity of my emotions that I once had. I desperately wished I could just cry, and be angry, and feel love, and give love, and feel joy again. I could not create like I used to. My music, my writing, my art — they all felt empty without my emotions. This was the first time I longed for the aspect of myself that I had once desired to suppress.
Especially in Asian households, emotions are often seen as a negative trait, a sign of weakness. As someone who has spent years forcing myself to conceal my tears around others, it is not an easy task to reverse that way of thinking that has long been embedded into my being.
But for those who struggle with feeling “too much,” you must understand that this is actually a gift. Being able to cry and feel sadness so easily also means that you are able to feel genuine happiness and love for yourself and others. It means you are living, not just the breathing kind, but the one where you feel truly alive. You are able to create things, even if they are not perfect, that bring out certain emotions in others and make them feel alive too. Just writing this makes me a bit emotional, and I have stopped feeling the need to “control” that part of myself anymore.
I used to loathe the fact that I felt so much. Now, I would not trade it for the world.
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphic by Maya Kubota