Excerpt from The Art of Amateur Sadness

Monday, November 8, 2021

Match McGregory’s “Excerpt from the Art of Amateur Sadness” debuts an unwritten anti- self-help book that lists the ways to remain unflinchingly sad. Spread with a thick layer of dark humor, the writer takes the formulaic aphorisms of self-help and turns them on their head, pointing to the ways unrealistic goal setting, social media use, and self-isolation can help boost sadness. The writer’s cheery tone advises the reader on exactly what they should not be doing, and this unlikely format carves new inroads into the frustrations familiar to those in medical or scientific training.

Welcome to Chapter 2 of The Art of Amateur Sadness. By now, you have hopefully gained some understanding of what it means to be sad and started laying down some of the basic foundations for your eventual success.

Perhaps you foiled yourself on date by getting too drunk so that there was an objective, external reason for someone to reject you, thereby avoiding the possibility that you’re fundamentally repugnant romantically.

Alternatively, you may have arrived at the bakery too late and found they were all out of chocolate muffins, forcing you to settle for blueberry.

Whatever strategy you have chosen, the important thing to remember is to practice daily. Sorrow can easily be forgotten, and without consistent awareness of yourself and the world around you, contentment can easily take its place.

Of course, talk is easier than action. That’s why in this chapter, we explore three simple tricks that will help keep your descent into hollow emotional death in a persistent, steady decline.

  1. Reach beyond your grasp. Every day is opportunity to push yourself a little closer to success, so make sure to push success a little farther away from you each day. Avoid falling into a pattern of setting checkpoints and reaching them. Instead, set your checkpoints far enough so that on the off chance that actually make it to one, the journey itself was so agonizing that you hate yourself for pursuing it in the first place. Alternatively, if you find yourself frequently meeting your goals despite this strategy, another approach is to immediately set new checkpoints every time you succeed. This method occludes a sense of pride by replacing it with a sense of inadequacy before the former has a chance to take root. This is what scientists refer to as disturbance ecology.
  2. Heed others. You are just a single person on a planet filled billions of people that carry unique experiences and insights that you will never enjoy. Therefore, your opinion of yourself if worth less than a billionth of everyone else’s. Rather than giving into hubris and formulating your own standard of success, cob together a definition from the impossible standards portrayed by others. One trick to make this process easier is to carefully filter out the flaws and short comings of everyone else, concentrating all the ways in which they are better than you. (For additional resources, visit www.facebook.com.)
  3. Be honest. This one is critical. While the first two tricks in this chapter will go a long way, they will inevitably fall short in delivering you to sadness unless you have honesty. As long as you hide your true self from others, it is possible to hold on to the hope that the real you is a success, a good human being that is unique, meaningful, and worthy of affection. Such hope is a poison lie caught on the lip of a beautiful jar, and real sadness means shattering that jar. Jump willingly into the lion’s den, and let the world relieve you of the soft flesh you’ve built up to hide your darkest skeleton. Let them know how much you’ve been drinking, or how you cheat to avoid having to break up with someone you like but don’t love. As you sit across from an acquaintance with a mere candle or excel sheet between you, tell them you’re not paying attention and probably still won’t even now.

Do this, and happiness will only ever be a day away.