What expectations should you have in your life? (and Zoolander 2)

Last weekend I got the chance to watch the incredible masterpiece that is Zoolander 2. Ah, yes, Derek and Hansel are back at it again, taking the fashion world by storm with a magnificent display of courage, skills, and intellectually stimulating humor.

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Just kidding.

The movie isn’t great – most people would say the reviews and Rotten Tomatoes score are not far off. And this could’ve been a huge bummer… but just one thing: I definitely didn’t go to Zoolander 2 to see a cinematic classic.

I mean, did anyone have high expectations when watching Zoolander 2?

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One thing I’ve started learning is that your expectations can make or break a relationship, event, anything.

As someone who is a bit sensitive to surroundings, I’ve always set high expectations for the people and places around me. (Growing up obsessing over Hollywood films with happily-ever-afters did not help my case.) I’m easily disappointed when I build a scenario up in my head – how I think something should be – and it doesn’t work out. Which is a lot of pressure to put on everybody involved, including myself.

Overall, I do truly believe the highest majority of people in the world have good intentions for themselves, the people around them, and the space they’re occupying. Sometimes complicated problems and feelings can get in the way of these good intentions, but that doesn’t mean kindness isn’t there below the surface.

Because nobody’s perfect. So if you want to keep someone in your life, you have to be prepared to take them, and hold onto them, as they are. This may mean working through how frustrating your parents can be. Or putting up with your partner’s annoying habits. Or understanding friends sometimes hurt, but then forgive, each other.

One thing I’d like to work on is adjusting myself and seeing new people and places as they are, not off of some idealistic expectation I have. If someone can do this, then they can work on improving their everyday relationships and situations in a realistic manner.

But some people, or places, or events you witness are going to be the Zoolander 2‘s of your life. Nothing to take seriously… and then others may be The Revenant‘s of your life. Either way, take them as they are. (Or, hell, you can decide you don’t want them in your life. No one’s being forced to watch any movie.)

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On the way to Zoolander 2, I easily expected to walk out of the theater saying, “It was chill watching Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson run around in costumes for two hours. What’s next?”

You know what you’re getting yourself into with the movie. Not a lot of sense (but plenty of repeat jokes), weird and overplayed characters, some hot girls, and a pointless plot that only exists as a platform for the silliness of it all. I personally really enjoyed the sequel and have been recommending it to fellow Zoolander fans. But I can confidently say the filmmakers were not preparing for an Oscar nomination.

And that’s okay.

On How Adulthood Ruins Romantic Films

I have a secret: when the first Twilight movie came out in 2008, I was way into it. More like obsessed. After taking a glimpse at the trailer, I quickly read the novel before the movie was released to theaters. I ate up chapter after chapter, reveling in the romance and mysteriousness of Edward Cullen. I wanted a relationship just like his and Bella’s to call my own – passionate but forbidden. I was like, 15, okay?! Gosh.

All jokes aside, there is a reason why people everywhere fell all over Twilight – if it was nothing more than a laughing stock, well, it wouldn’t have become a best-seller and successful movie series. Was it the fantasy romance? The fantasy guy? The thrill of a forbidden love? Probably a combination of all three, and add in some skilled plot and writing techniques a la Stephanie Meyer, and the novel is what dreams are made of for teenage girls and bashful adults all over the world.

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Which brings me to today, 2016.

I recently watched The Age of Adaline with a group of friends. This 2015 film follows a young woman (played by Blake Lively) after she stops aging, on the inside and outside, due to a terrible car accident.

I’m not interested in giving away too many spoilers, but I will say a relationship between Adaline and a male suitor makes up the plot of this movie.

And one thing I will say is: What a terrible example of a relationship! This story should absolutely not be pushed on impressionable kiddos as a healthy, worthwhile romance.

Let me give some examples of why (okay, this might be slightly spoiler-y):

  1. Forcing a girl into going out with you is not a-okay! Even if you do it in a pseudo-charming and smooth way. If a girl tells you she is not interested in seeing you again, making cute little bargains (or threats?) to get her to see you again is scary.
  2. Taking a girl to excluded, dark areas for a first date is a usually guarantee way to make her heart pound faster, and NOT for the good reason. You know of a really secretive, hidden area of your local bustling downtown? That’s cool! Save it for when she’s 99% sure you’re not a serial killer.
  3. When a girl breaks things off with you, showing up around her house (especially when she never gave you the address) is good reason for you to walk away in handcuffs. What. Just, don’t. No.
  4. Sorry, Romeo, this girl isn’t the love of your life after knowing her for about six days. And if you try to convince yourself and everyone around you that she is, you might have some hidden but lingering attachment issues below the surface.
  5. Lastly, changing a huge, complicated part of your life for someone you’ve known for about six days is not healthy.

Don’t get me wrong – I did enjoy the movie overall. But I couldn’t see past the over-the-top cheesy romance, which would be totally unhealthy in the real world.

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But this kind of film is something I would have been really into as a teenager, wishing for a similar relationship of my own. But, now I am older, and aware of how relationships really work and the painfully high statistics of violence against women (which stalking and aggression are known to be signs of the beginning of verbal abuse, physical abuse, etc).

So, here is my question: are romance films ruined for you once you become older and more mature, more aware? Where are the realistic movies that portray relationships in a healthy, honest way? (Don’t worry, 500 Days of Summer, I know you exist and have not forgotten you. Don’t ever change.)

But there should be more.

Where are the films about slowly, steadily moving into a relationship because you need to find balance between that and work? Or the film about the girl who ends up alone because, as kind-hearted as that guy was, she wasn’t in a place to commit?

Real life can, at times, be hard and boring. But I would love to see more healthy, real life relationships portrayed on the big screen.

On the truth about tragedy (and Amy Winehouse)

Recently I finally got the chance to watch Amy, the 2015 documentary about the meteoric rise, and ultimate fall, of Amy Winehouse. Although I have never truly listened to Amy Winehouse (besides hearing classics like Rehab and Valerie creep on the radio every now and then) I was really excited to watch the film. I heard great things, and to be honest, who can resist a tragic, true story about someone who seemed to have it all?

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To me, the documentary lived up to its reputation. It was raw and honest, showing real video footage of Amy as her stardom grew, accompanied by voice interviews of people who met her or were close to her heart. There was no moral of the story – the writers didn’t seem to be creating any theme. So it looks like the viewers get an honest, objective perspective, and can take away from the film whatever they wish.

And, while the film was also an emotional rollercoaster, one thing stood out to me more than anything. As Amy’s spiral into substance abuse continued, and her fame grew – her right to be a human being had slowly, steadily disappeared.

This could be seen in the way that she was dragged to a festival performance she made clear she didn’t want to go to. Or the way her dad brought video cameras for a reality show to what she wanted to be a seclusive vacation away from her normal life. Or when she was walking down the street, trying to get into her car as paparazzi shoved lights and cameras in her face, while the voices of her friends pointed out how badly she wanted to give up her life of fame. Those scenes hurt my heart more than anything.

On the outside, to fans, Amy’s life may have appeared as a glamorous train wreck. But, watching the film, it was just…sad.

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When I think of sadness and tragedy in people’s lives, I think about an article I once read a long time ago (I’ve tried to find it for the purpose of this blog, but my efforts were in vain). This article expressed how, in real life, sadness is mundane. Pain is boring. Tragedy can ruin people’s lives, stability, and mindset. And experiencing these things is not the slightest bit interesting.

However, in movies, music, and often our minds – pain, sadness, and trouble are romanticized. Tragedy seems interesting – almost thrilling, like it’s something to keep us alive. It tells a story.

After watching Amy, it looks like Amy Winehouse’s media image was a victim to this romanticization. From the outside, she was an entertaining story. A topical piece of drama. Fans and casual internet surfers alike could come across the latest update on Amy Winehouse, and whether they let out a chuckle or felt pain in their heart for her, it was just a story to them.

And, of course, as her story grew and continued to be interesting, why would the paparazzi leave her alone? It’s their job to get a good glimpse of a bigger picture. To film Amy Winehouse walking down the street was one thing. To catch Amy Winehouse stumbling around drunk…or tripping…or having a meltdown?! That was huge.

But to watch all that happened through Amy, it just looks sad, cruel, and lacking of any sort of empathy whatsoever. At one point in the documentary, a video of George Lopez announcing the 2009 Grammy nominees pops up. George announces Amy Winehouse and what she was nominated for, and follows with the joke, “Someone call and wake her up at 6 PM to tell her.” (Some people say he also calls her “a drunk” after the clip, but I have no proof of that myself.)

Speaking honestly, if I heard that joke at the time, I probably would’ve chuckled, or at least acknowledged the humor in a lighthearted manner. And my subconscious would not have been thinking, ‘Ha! That’s funny because Amy Winehouse is a sad train wreck spiraling downward to serious health problems and a young death.’ The chuckle would have come toward the honesty of the observation, and my little knowledge of Amy Winehouse as someone who didn’t appear to have it together. And I would not have thought of it any more.

But if it was I, or someone I loved, who was dealing with such substance abuse and mental health issues being mocked by the public – god knows how painful it would have been.

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The truth of Amy Winehouse’s life was not romantic in any way. A lot of it was a tale of sadness, lack of control, and issues that were not properly resolved in a healthy manner. But, in the media, it was a spectacle. And by so many, it was romanticized as a tale of a talented, deep singer with too much passion, and a simple lack of supervision.

And it kind of makes me sad for those we see in the media today, who have become a bit of a, well, train wreck.

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And I hope I’m able to spend my life being empathetic toward others, whether they’re my closest friends or some story on TMZ.

On believing in magic

 

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I first realized I wanted to be an author at the age of three. I would steal piles and piles of computer paper from my dad’s office, scribble stories and pictures on each page, and staple them together into little “books”. I have no clue where any of those stories are today, but I’m sure they’ll be back to haunt me at some point in my life.

Then I became a pre-teen and was given tons of cute little notebooks for birthdays and such. I started scribbling (in a more coherent manner than when I was three, mind you) in those. I wrote about what I knew – so basically all my stories were about girls and boys and the roller coaster drama of middle school.

At that time, I would stay up late in the night writing in these tiny notebooks furiously. It could be 3 a.m. on a school night, and I would not be able to put the pen down. Once I got going, I just could not stop. And THAT, as a writer and human, is one of the best feelings in the world.

I think any artist could agree that when they start on a project, getting in the groove of your art and not being able to stop is unlike anything else. You feel so fulfilled and powerful, taking something that existed in your head and churning it out into a thing in space. And since we so often have to moan and groan through writer’s block, getting it done easily with passion makes it all the more victorious. All the more magical.

At some point in college, through all my literature, creative writing, and journalism classes, I realized it was no longer my dream to become an author. I would sit next to insanely talented, visceral kids who could make a McDonalds order sound like pure poetry. These kids wanted to write the next great American novel. And shit, I hope those kids pursue their talent and dream of writing a book for as long as it suits them – each one of them deserve success.

But for me, I realized I didn’t have that kind of passion for a set goal in a writing career. It wasn’t really what I wanted. And then, from there, I just got kind of confused. I had no stable plan when I graduated.

I’m so glad that happened. It made me realize why I write. Why the word “author” had popped up in my head as a three year old, as the only synonym for “good storyteller” I knew at the time, and stuck with me for so many years.

I’m not passionate about the idea of becoming a famous author. I don’t have the goal to be a successful writer. But I do love telling stories. That’s why I spent days, weeks, months of my childhood with my nose hidden behind a notebook. Even though maybe 95% of what I’ve written in my life has never reached any eyes beside my own.

I just loved to turn a story into the written word. As an often quiet person, writing was (and is) how I could clearly express my thoughts and feelings. And the thoughts and feelings of others – there is nothing greater to me than an individual telling me their unique story, which I can replay in my head and possibly share with others. It makes me giddy just thinking about it.

For any artists, ESPECIALLY writers, I highly recommend reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She talks about why it’s important to pursue your creative passion, even if it’s not successful, even if you’re no good, even if it amounts to nothing. It’s what I’ve always believed in, but never really knew how to put in words.

The novel is changing my life at the moment – as someone who has lost a bit of inspiration, of motivation, to write, with a demanding day job and other priorities. Elizabeth is reminding me of why it’s important to pursue your creative passions without fear or agenda, and without this, I wouldn’t be close to sitting in a coffee shop, writing this post, and thinking about what I love.

On being a writer

I’ve been staring at blank documents for weeks now. A writer always has the goal of taking more time to write for themselves, and it has been a long time since I took on that challenge. I know why — I worked full-time as a writer for the past year. I would write on my computer the whole day, and when it was time to go home, I wanted to relax, spend time with my loved ones, be active. If I tried writing some more, it would be like a tedious chore. So writing was my job, no longer my hobby.

And then it became my job no longer.

It really sucks to find yourself out of a job through no fault of your own, and I would only wish it on my worst enemies. And I’ve looked back on my four years of college and have mentally kicked myself for getting a Creative Writing degree. Why did my parents let me do that?! Ugh. Pity. Woe is me.

But this has also forced myself to look back and ask: Why did I get a Creative Writing degree? I worked, struggled, cried, and had the best time for it. I briefly considered a Politics degree, but that was only because I wanted to be Leslie Knope. I used to be so in love with writing stuff down and telling stories, and I know I still know that feeling, but it’s a little hard to embrace when you’re in a foggy state of “Holy shit I need a job”.

So now I really wonder if I can get back to writing as a hobby, as something I love and do for myself and don’t care if it’s good or if anyone reads it. And I’m starting to think maybe that’s what I should have been doing all along. Time will tell.