Now I’m Just Somebody That I Used to Know

I apologize for my long absence, lovely people of the interwebs! Last semester I had to hold an intimate and heartfelt memorial service for all the deceased white spaces of my Google calendar, which meant that I emerged from my library cubicle only when I felt it absolutely necessary to rant about feminist issues and pop culture. Thankfully, the gods of course scheduling, mental breakdowns, and resolutions that have nothing to with the New Year (so you know, perhaps I’ll actually keep them) collaborated on a little project known as my restored happiness and sanity. And here I stand (symbolically) before you, ready for another go at self-reflection!

Really it was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon some unsuspecting event to fire the imagination and leave me scrambling for the first available writing surface. This afternoon that moment arrived in the form of gloriously buttered popcorn and Spike Jonze’s latest masterpiece, Her, which could probably inspire a pile of laundry to wax philosophical. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if my dirty jeans just got up off the floor and started discussing Plato’s Cave and the nature of human perception, just from the sheer magical power of sitting through the movie. Apart from being ridiculously quotable and hilarious, the narrative refuses to be in hurry and remains sassily disinterested in capturing your attention with frantic plot or gratuitous stimulation (which perhaps paradoxically explains how three hours can fly by completely unheeded). But damn, I have never heard actors utter such raw, simple words or explore such intangibles as truth, love, and reality, at once with profound accuracy and without presumption. I’m pretty sure I audibly gasped at several points, literally winded from the perfection.  Whoosh, breath gone- thanks for punching me in the stomach, Spike (in the most delightful way possible), with your variations on vulnerability. Without the slightest hesitancy, Theodore casually confessed one of my greatest fears: “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I’m not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” Scenes and scenes later, Samantha, the independently evolving consciousness of a computer operating system, revisits this theme, struggling to find words to express that “We change constantly. The us of yesterday will never be the us of today, and perhaps that is how it should be, but it’s very…painful.” Bam, right there, in beautiful, ordinary words, everything I’ve wrestled with these past few months.

By the end of last semester, I had struggled and struggled with some serious shit. And when we experience pain, trauma, depression, anxiety, and self-doubt, it’s so, so easy to glamorize the past and desperately fear that we’ve lost some crucial part of ourselves along the way to recovery. I needed a break, I needed to remember what it feels like to live. And whenever I need to remember what it feels like to live, I open a book. As my wonderful roommate once explained, we accumulate so many emotions and experiences over even a short lifetime, but in the course of a few months, we encounter the exact same people and deal with the exact same problems  until we forget what it’s like to feel more, to live out other possibilities- and that’s what a truly good book can do: make you remember. So, over winter break, I turned to Ender’s Game (in times of crisis, however mild, it’s good to have a few creases in the spine), and found within its pages a yardstick by which to measure how much I’d changed. So many things have emerged over the years, across readings, but  all I could see was a lake in a bowl, sun on my skin, eyes closed, and I never wanted to leave. I was Ender on a raft I’d built with my own hands, drained of all ambition, afraid of who I’d become, alone and too paralyzed to change, transfixed by the beauty of the moment when nothing is everything. Sometimes I was afraid of falling asleep for fear that soon I would have to wake up again, and I never used to be that way. I felt that I’d lost something essential to who I am and I couldn’t remember how to find it again. But when I read that familiar book, I rediscovered it and was comforted to know that at least it still existed, even if only in my mind.

And with a little time and some active changes, I’ve realized that I can still exist. Perhaps changed, perhaps older, but never less. And so, as Theodore’s friend, Amy, so clearly summarizes, “I can over think everything and find a million ways to doubt myself. And… I’ve been really thinking about that part of myself and, I’ve just come to realize that, we’re only here briefly. And while I’m here, I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it.”

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3 responses to “Now I’m Just Somebody That I Used to Know

  1. Books (and art and music, for that matter) are pretty magical, huh? They let us escape from our reality just as much as they relate to it.

    I hope your new semester isn’t as tough for you!

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