Over the past few weeks, having moved back into my home, I have been greeted with the cries of a distressed dog in the block next to mine. The barking starts in the evening and ends only after 10pm, presumably due to it being left all alone at home (other logical explanations are substitutable). Finding it impossible to ignore the incessant nature of its daily outbursts, I began to ponder: What would I hear if the poor animal could speak?

Would it describe its loneliness? Its hunger? Perhaps a longing? Fear? Pure, genuine expressions in the human realm. I recall that at some point my mom remarked that all this barking and distress would only serve to shorten its lifespan. Indeed, an unjust reality for a being that merely wants to be Man’s best friend.

Diving further into this hypothetical monologue, I found that a comparison can be made with our younger selves. Growing up, crying was the go-to medium of negative expression. Be it, sadness, fear, anger or any other kind of discomfort. Slowly but surely, things became increasingly complicated. Sadness branched out to anxiety, loneliness, melancholy, denial and depression (and so on..). So did all the other primal emotions, both in depth and breadth.

In fact, our emotions developed along with our self-perception, sense of logic, and ego. So much so that, the way we express them becomes almost unrecognisable to the younger us. ‘I need to do work to distract me’, ‘I need to make sure people know that I am happy on social media’, ‘I need to sound passive-aggressive’, ‘I need to cut people off’, ‘I need to be strong and hide my emotions’, ‘I need to be super optimistic about life’, ’I need to treat myself to feel better’. While it seems like we have found a much more tolerable way to express ourselves, we end up in a grand irony. So many of us have ended up wearing masks over our faces and built up walls to keep us in the within the self-designed comfort zone.

And as if on cue, the shrill barking ended my musing brought me back to real-time. Both the dog and everyone living nearby needed some respite. Its cries were heard. Of course, we all wished that it would be quiet. But in all honesty, would we want a passive dog that never ever barks or opens its heart to us? Perhaps the canine is a mirror through which we should judge our true selves. I do not think every emotion should be expressed as vehemently as our hero here. But it should be experienced, acknowledged and let to flow however it needs to. Let us be real this year, and quit lying to ourselves.

(My parents and I agreed that some action needs to be taken for the well-being of the animal. So little buddy, maybe your energy wasn’t a waste after-all.)