Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 192,755,061 Issue: 660 | 29th day of Hiding, Y16
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Being Painted Grey Doesn't Mean Feeling Grey

by headtotoe


I get sad sometimes.

But, like, really sad. So sad that I want to crawl under my covers and never come out. The things that make me happy, like playing Tyranu Evavu or dancing at a concert, just don't seem appealing.

I think it's because I'm tired. I feel like I work hard to be perky and happy with other neopets in order to be liked, and it just makes me tired.

Maybe it's because I'm grey.

We are supposed to be like that, right? With our downcast, reddened eyes, and our heads bent slightly low, it's not like we are supposed to be happy, right?

"No!" My friend's reaction surprises me. I thought she was going to agree. I thought that you were going to agree. I thought that what I was feeling was normal grey behaviour.

"No!" she says again, her voice rising in pitch.

I don't fully understand.

"What makes you think you should feel sad?" Her Kougra tail flops to one side. She is also grey. She is a beautiful grey Kougra and her red eyes and floppy tail match mine. But she says no.

"I just... what do I do if it isn't normal?" I question. That's the issue, I guess. If it isn't normal, what is normal? And what do I do to achieve normalcy?

She laughs. "Graydon," she says, "what is normal? Can you define that for me? Because I'm at a loss. Nothing is normal. Nothing is abnormal."

"But..." I interject.

"Shh." She stops me. "But that doesn't mean that some things aren't better than others. Or more appealing."

"Better... how?" I'm confused. Things aren't normal, but they are better? Isn't better a way of saying normal, more acceptable? More in line with societal expectations?

"No!" It's almost like she can read my mind. How can she do that? I'm not a blank slate!

She laughs. "Graydon, I've know you for three years! I can read your face like a book." She pauses. "Except that I'm not good at reading books, so I can read you better than that, okay?"

"...Okay." What is she getting at? Do you understand? I don't understand.

"When you get sad, what do you think of?" She asks. I wonder if she's changing the subject. I would.

"I don't know. How I'm not good enough. I think about how I could try harder, but I already try so hard so I'm not sure what I could be doing differently. So then, because of that, I just feel myself getting tired. Because I already try so hard." I try to explain, but the words feel clumsy and awkward in my mouth. It's like I'm chewing, and trying to spit out, soap.

My friend chews the lock of hair that falls onto her face. It's a nervous tick she has. Oh gosh, I haven't introduced her, have I? Her name is Mitsy. She's beautiful, with her grey coat, and oh so clever.

"Can I... Can I make a list?" she requests. "Things that will make you feel less... grey?"

I nod – where is she going with this? A list? What am I going to do with a list?

But she's already formatting a page of paper for a list. The numbers 1-11 appear on her sheet of paper. Here, I might as well not transcribe:

1. Exercise. Play Gormball or Meerca chase and run around a lot. It doesn't matter if you win, moving will make you feel better.

2. Sleep enough. Sometimes it's easy to forgo sleep so as to fulfil other goals, like working or writing or seeing friends. But sleeping 8 hours a night is imperative (how did Mitsy even learn that word?) to functioning properly.

3. Play games like Tyranu Evavu or Pyramids. Concentrating on a task like that will help block out negative thoughts, and will help pump you up for other tasks.

4. Eliminate neopets you don't like, or who drain your energy, from your life. It should be easy to identify them: you are thinking about them right now. Don't speak to them, don't hang out with them. They are making spending time with more important people seem more taxing because it's hard to accommodate the needs of demanding people when you hang out with them. So, just don't.

5. Find time to relax. Whether that means reading or taking a bath or whatever you need to do, find time to do it. It will help make the more strenuous activities in your life seem less strenuous, because you will be going into them with a clearer mind.

6. See your family. They are the most stable support network you can ever have, because they are always going to be there regardless of your actions. So there is no need to stress about how you act around them. And, if your family don't fit these criteria, don't worry. The friends you have can substitute this role in our life.

7. Set goals. They don't have to be lofty, like winning the Neopian Lottery. They can be minimalist, like getting up before snoozing your alarm even once, or beating Punchbag Bob in the Battledome. You know, it's even better if they are easy and achievable. Make a list of them, and cross out each one once you've completed it. This will make you feel more accomplished.

8. Get a petpet. Though they may seem silly or what have you, they serve a very important function in a neopet's life: they provide a sense of purpose when you may not have one. If you need to look after another being, it gives you a sense of urgency about a being outside yourself, and can propel you to think less negative, self-indulgent thoughts.

9. Eat well. Though it's great if we all enjoy those neocrisps or that piece of chocolate, these are not necessarily the things that will give you energy and make you feel better about your day-to-day life. Though we all may be concerned about the worms in our apples, if we eat enough apples to find worms in them, we will feel healthier more generally. So eat apples, throw out the worms, and enjoy how much better you feel despite the worms.

10. Stop criticizing yourself, Graydon. Some of these other items in the list I know you need to work on. You stay up too late, focus too much on your own actions, don't eat well, and never exercise. But the main thing is that there are so many neopets out there. The idea that any of them is spending an iota (actually, is she a dictionary?) of time on thinking negatively of you is ridiculous. Really, they are too focused on their own lives to consider how you may act, unless your actions are particularly egregious. So stop being harder on yourself that other neopets are on you. You are doing fine.

11. And, if you feel like you aren't doing fine, talk to your friends, your family, a teacher, anyone. Just because you are painted grey doesn't mean that you have to feel grey!

I read the list and think. Mitsy is right. Her list I exactly what I should be doing, but am not doing.

"Thank you, Mitsy," I say. I think of the things I will do later that day: play soccer, take a bath, talk to my mom. I don't feel less grey yet, but I know that I will. And, if I don't, I will talk to Mitsy again. Or someone else. Because I don't have to feel grey. And neither do you.

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