What Eternal Sunshine Taught 15 Year Old Me About Love

Movies and Books

A crestfallen, middle-aged man stumbles toward the exit of the bookstore at which his girlfriend works, crushing in one fist a necklace he’d bought her for Valentine’s. As he crosses the threshold, the lights fizzle out and the walls converge, morphing into the cramped living room of a grimy apartment in which his friends regretfully inform him that his now ex had erased him from her memory. It’s probably the most beautiful and heartbreaking scene transition I have ever seen—maybe ever will.

Out of all the poignant sequences Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind offers, this is the one that resonated with me most upon my first of four viewings. It stuck with me because it terrified me. At 15, I knew nothing about love and the control it has over the landscape of our thoughts. At 15, I had no desire to experience such a destructive and (in my naïve little head) overrated force, until I saw Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) stagger into that living room, shoulders hunched and eyes hollow, exuding shock waves of grief and vengeance. It was my first glimpse at just how suddenly and completely love can crumble, and how powerless we are to its crumbling. I was intrigued—no, addicted.

Oblivion terrifies me. To be eradicated from the consciousness of a planet to which I’ve literally devoted my entire existence is the saddest yet most inevitable thing I can imagine. To be eradicated from the consciousness of a person to whom you’ve devoted your heart—and invested an unwarranted belief in everything transcendent and beautifulis too cruel for words. Yet, there’s also a paradoxical sense of wonder to all this bleak bullshit, because the convergence of two souls is in fact the most transcendent and beautiful thing imaginable. Joel loved Clementine so much that he couldn’t remember a self without her; they were so connected that he had to eradicate her from his own consciousness to fill the void within it.

15 year old me was terrified of how much I craved that connection for myself. I still haven’t fallen for anyone the way Joel and Clementine fell for each other. I still want to as much as I did six years earlier because, really, how else do you defy oblivion other than by leaving an indelible imprint on somebody else’s mind? The perpetual nightmare of reality doesn’t grant you memory-erasing machines. If you get fucked, you carry those scars forever, but at least you know that someone, somewhere will always bear some remnant of your soul–no matter how small, no matter how bitter. And that’s pretty fucking neat.

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Uninspired, but at peace

My Awesome Life, Uncategorized, Writing

I’m on the cusp of a profound transition, arguably the most significant one in modern life: crossing the threshold from 20 to 21.

My grand initiation into the 21 Club is scheduled on Pi Day, which may be more than 50 days away, but I thought I might as well reflect on and immortalize in writing the bizarre and uninspiring person I’ve grown into over the last two decades.

The first 20 years of my life have been a collage of confused decisions, abandoned resolutions, disillusioned attempts down various career paths, and random epiphanies about both myself and the world around me.

My teenage years revolved around an emotional pendulum rooted at equilibrium, refusing to even flirt with either extreme. I’ve been frustrated and lost, hovering in a purgatory of mediocrity and indifference for the better part of the last four years. I’ve been sad but never heartbroken, I’ve been happy but never ecstatic, and I’ve dated but never in love. At times I feel like I’m incapable of feeling anything to the fullest extent, like anything I experience will only be a dimmer version of what others have already felt. I love writing–always will–but I’ve never felt that scorching thirst to sew my dreams into narratives, never been inspired enough to write for hours on end until the sun bled into the horizon and hours bled into days. Can I ever feel as passionate about anything as professional athletes do about winning a damn trophy, or as actors do about, well, acting? Can I ever commit to anything?

My state of mind is the Jamie xx album, “In Color”—not any particular track but snippets of the entire album. In electronic music, we anticipate drops. We dig bangers that take us on pulsating mind trips and emotional roller coaster rides. The spectacular is what expect from life, too, and if we don’t get it, we lash out: “I didn’t deserve this. I just thought there’d be more.” When the going gets tough, we tell ourselves to hang in there, push through the pain and wait for eminent arrival of better days. I think that’s been my attitude for the majority of my adolescent years: You haven’t seen shit. Just wait for the bass to drop.

The bass never drops in “In Color.” It’s just an impressionistic painting of intelligent beat-making and ethereal atmospherics, delicate but brimming with wonder. Some tracks (“Far Nearer,” “Loud Places”) bottle a fountain of youthful emotions–optimism, desire, dread, yearning–into a quiet and exquisite world of gentle, fluttering synth sequences and stirring vocals. “Gosh” builds up to a two-minute climax of lush keyboard soundscapes that douse you with euphoria and hope. On the other side of the spectrum, “Stranger In a Room” envelops you in spellbinding warmth using minimal percussion beats against deep baselines, hinting that life can be okay without staggering achievements or life-changing revelations.

Electronic music is an enormous and expanding world of countless sub-genres that defy categorization. Bangers comprise a recognizable but very small part of that world; extraordinary milestones comprise but a small part of ours. I’ve been so lost and frustrated that my youth–the most exciting years of my life–has so far been defined by a maddening indifference, and that I couldn’t find the motivation to reach my full potential to make my parents proud.

But maybe I’ve been asking too much. The way we package our emotions determines the way we experience them. I’ve never been euphoric about anything, but I’ve been happy about plenty: getting into college, road-tripping with mom, feeding my dog, hanging out with friends. I just need to believe that happiness can give me the same satisfaction as euphoria. I’ve never been obsessed with writing, but I want to write and I’ll continue doing so, inspired or not. What if you don’t need to live life to the fullest to be at peace with it? I’m not in love with life, but I feel lucky to be alive and to live this life.

I doubt much will change about my appearance or attitude 12 months from now. Maybe I’ll be single and jobless at 25; maybe I’ll be profiling Leonardo DiCaprio for Vanity Fair. I can’t see either happening, but I have always been dreadful at predicting the trajectory of my life. And I’m still young. I want to believe that one day I will fall in love with life.

 

Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die today

My Awesome Life

We’re responsive creatures, always yearning for some kind of carnal or spiritual fulfillment. So many of our conversations are dedicated to that one question: What makes us feel alive? For me it’s neither people nor adventures. It’s the shapes and colors that make up a city I love.

When I took a semester off in Cali, all I could think about was how much I missed NYC and how exciting it would be to blog about college life there. But four months after I returned to NYU I’ve only written four posts on my adventures here in the Big Apple. Ostensibly it’s because I just haven’t had the time. In reality it’s because I’ve kind of lost confidence in my writing. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer as I would like to be, and I certainly don’t think I’m good enough to capture the sense of wonder I feel every time I step out onto the streets.

I’ve experienced no shortage of epiphanies walking on the same blocks, seeing the same things in different ways. Paradoxes run riot: tattoo parlors next to corporate banks, museums sandwiched by takeouts, apartments stacked atop liquor stores, and chains of buildings in alternating colors – black, tan, maroon – adorned by staircases twisting like rusty vines. It’s homogeneous yet dynamic, indifferent yet inviting. None of it makes any sense yet it all feels so right.

It’s a convoluted maze with a constellation of neon lights and no exit. Horizontal and vertical lines converge to make intersections that look exactly the same whether you’re in FiDi or Dumbo. You’re lost every time you’re out, but you never feel more at home. Last night I was strolling through Washington Square Park in the nicest weather in a long, long time, and I see the arch–silver silhouette inked against the black sky–illuminating the fountain and everyone around it. It was just so liberating. In that moment I actually felt so blessed to be alive. And I just couldn’t help wondering: Why then? I’ve seen that sight countless times in the past year and a half, and I’ve walked through the park in every weather, every hour. But that moment last night was the only time I’ve felt that kind of relief, the only time that those random bursts of sadness and rage I experience everyday felt so far away.

Despite the incurable bleakness of life and the shittiness of human nature, the world itself is still as sublime a vision as you will ever imagine. That vision alone is worth the effort of waking up every morning with a smile. It’s far more beautiful than life is ugly. It’s far more sincere than people are fake. Loving a place is far more satisfying than hating everything else.

Live with hope and live with love, if only for your surroundings. Find somewhere you love. See as much as you can before it’s too late.

Disillusionment, Love Potions, and that Obsession with the Unattainable

Musings/Rants, Relationships and Shit

So I just read this from a NY Times article:

“A few months ago, I read several articles touting the health benefits of writing in a deeply personal way. Studies had shown that writing introspectively on a regular basis can lead to lowered blood pressure, improved liver function and even the accelerated healing of postoperative wounds. The study’s subjects had been told to write for short periods each day about turbulent emotional experiences.”

Interesting. I know from experience that writing in a personal, introspective way can exorcise the darkest of demons, but I didn’t know it has been confirmed by science. That’s encouraging, I guess, because part of me thinks it’s kind of toxic to ponder so deeply and frequently on all the bizarre and bleak truths of life. ANYWAY. That was a passage from the Times’ Modern Love section, which features some of the best essays I have ever read. 1500 words, packed with the optimism of finding love, the relief of losing it, the joys and misery of fighting through it. And those stories – bitter, furious, grateful, and so, so raw – just made me realize that I’d never been in love and never felt anything nearly as beautiful or devastating as they have.

Is that a terrible thing to say? I sure feel a bit guilty writing it down, considering that I’ve had memories and experiences that warranted those feelings. Deserved them. Demanded them, even. But everything is relative, and compared to people who wrote those stories, I really don’t know anything. I thought I did. I thought I knew what love is, how it feels like, and what it could do, but the problem is just you don’t see shit when you’re in the middle of it. It’s hard to know that you’re letting staccato bursts of joy overtake your ability to see how glaringly toxic your relationship really is. And maybe that’s a good thing, because I know that the best is still ahead of me.

Assuming that everyone has some epic love story written into their palm lines ofc. I’m not sure we all do. We speculate on the future with a dizzying mix of dread and excitement. They’re so closely interwoven that it’s hard to define one without mentioning the other. And with them there’s always uncertainty. Am I going to get into Yale? Am I going to make it into the music industry? Am I going to get knocked over by a scooter

Yet when it comes to love, questions don’t start with “am I going to.” Instead you get the 5Ws. What do you look for in a guy/girl? Where do you want to get married at? What kind of person do you see yourself with? Who can make you happy? 

They’re not bad questions, but what right do we have to feel so sure that love is meant for everyone? It’s not even about finding the Harry to your Sally. What if some of us never meet anyone, never fall in love, never know what it feels like to hate someone so fucking much that you’d shove a champagne bottle up your ass and fake your own murder just to ruin his life (yeah, my inner Amy Dunne’s back)? What if we really do die alone?

If that’s the case, do we only have ourselves to blame? Is it because we’re too shallow or too idealistic or too indifferent? It’d be easier if that’s the case because at least we have control over our flaws. I don’t believe it’s all about us. It takes a lot to foster connection and turn spark into fire. Circumstances have to work with you, chance has to work with you, people have to work with you. Not everyone can get all three on his/her side. I certainly can’t. Maybe that’s because I’m awkward as fuck and freak out every time I have to socialize with people.

I’m not saying I’ve given up on pursuing that intoxicating whirlwind romance that everyone should experience at least once per lifetime. I’m going to chase it, and I’m going to believe that it’s still in the cards for me because that’s pretty much all we have. Chasing is living. That briefest moment just before yearning becomes fulfillment is pure euphoria.

But I don’t expect it to happen. I just hope it does.

Masquerade

Relationships and Shit

I made a Tinder.

Okay, my friend and I made one together as a joke. It’s actually a lot of fun stalking and trolling people. I know that sounds creepy, but it’s not like I’m ever gonna meet any of those people, so I don’t really care. In theory Tinder’s a matchmaking app, but most people just use it to find hookups. I certainly have no desire to hook up with anyone I’ve never even talked to before.

To be honest, I think they concept of online dating is complete bullshit. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone because it’s just my worthless opinion. Talking face to face with strangers, especially people you’re attracted to, is hard as hell. You get nervous, you blush, you stutter, you wish you can just fucking kill yourself. I’m sure we’d all love to do the awkward introductions behind our laptops. But who says love is easy? God, that sounds so cheesy. Oh, well. We’re supposed to fight for love, aren’t we? Open our damn hearts and wait for some asshole to rip them apart, then sew them together and wait for them to be torn apart again. Then if we’re lucky, one of these days someone might decide that this heart looks better stitched together than ripped apart. Then and only then can we stop fighting and stop hurting.

I don’t believe in love at first sight or everlasting love, but I do believe that love should be ugly and real. Real is ugly. Real is embarrassing and painful and raw and transformative. Real is not the person we are on the internet. We always want to look good. That’s just human nature. On the internet, we have the luxury to embellish and edit our images without leaving a trail of suspicion. We can take as long as we want to think of a funny catchphrase or build a compelling alter-ego or construct some deep philosophical argument that we don’t actually believe in. That’s why online dating is so phony. Because you never know if you’re getting the person you think you’re getting.