At the risk of outraging every feminist I know with this sweeping generalization… What is it with chicks and rom coms?
I count myself among these trash-watching women. In fact, the trashier the better. Former Disney stars, straight-to-DVD movies, terribly unimaginative plot lines? Bliss. I secretly relish those Friday night trips to the video store when my boyfriend is out with friends and I can unashamedly pluck any terrible flick from the shelves. Well, almost unashamedly. My lowest point would have to be when the male cashier at Blockbuster looked at me, looked down at the cover I’d covertly slipped him across the counter, then looked back up at me and said “Really? High School Musical 2?” But I digress.
It’s a strange love/hate relationship with these films. With their dreamy Gosling and Tatum leads, beautiful pre-war houses and even-death-cannot-kill-us love (literally, thank you Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo). I pass it off now as escapism, but watch them in a moment of impressionability at your peril. Because as sure as I’ll see a new Ryan meme this week, if you watch them while pre-menstrual or post-break-up they’ll either make you feel shit about your own life or delusionally optimistic about how it’s going to play out. As an adult, it’s usually the former. Discontent, served to you in a plastic case for seven dollars (or two for ten on weekends). But I recall being burned as a child, when I was naïve enough to believe that life would genuinely turn out that way.
(Image courtesy of butyourelikereallypretty.com)
I distinctly remember it, the morning after my first kiss. The memory of last night’s disco swirling through my head, starring some awkward, scruffy boy who I don’t think even knew my name ramming his tongue down my throat. Not only did I feel orally violated, but in a weird way, I felt loss. I felt like I’d been robbed of this enriching, heart-warming, coming of age moment that every movie ever told me I was going to experience. And it dawned on me that day that life was NOT going to turn out the way my third parent – the television – had told me it was going to. I had seen beyond the curtain. And I kid you not, I lied in bed that morning and cried. Not for the sub-par experience – though it was especially sub-par – but for the fact that my long-held expectations of how my life would unfold had been instantly shattered beyond repair. Okay, I was a sensitive kid. But it was greater than that one, sloppy moment. My rose coloured glasses had been clean swiped off my little adolescent face and were never to return.
Yet, as an adult, I still can’t help getting swept up in the idealism of these films. No longer as an insight into the future and rarely as a misguided yardstick for measuring my own life, but rather the opposite. Escapism, in its trashiest form. Because you know it’s exactly what your life ISN’T going to look like.
Just don’t, for the love of God, watch them while sobbing into a tub of Cookies and Cream.
I dreamt this week that I was being attacked by a frenzied, Terminator-esque snake. Luckily, my friends were with me. But on the way to get help, they kept stopping to do trivial things like chat to passers-by or fix the hatch of the car we were in. Despite my loss of vision and objections of “I’m seriously dying guys, this is important!” no one really seemed to appreciate the urgency of the situation.
Now I’m not particularly phobic of slithering reptiles, but I have been watching a lot of Brene Brown lately. So I’m fairly certain this is all about self worth.
If you haven’t already watched Brene’s TED talk, it’s an absolute must. I don’t say wanky things like ‘absolute must’ a lot. If I was speaking to you in person, I’d probably tell you that you “seriously HAVE to watch it” while flailing my arms about wildly in demonstration of the most insightful moments. In any case, you know I’m serious. And look! Here’s an embedded video, so you needn’t put yourself through the arduous task of typing her name into Google:
I was incredibly lucky to hear Brene speak in Sydney recently as part of the CBA’s Wired for Wonder conference. In addition to some fascinating insights into shame and vulnerability, a lot of Brene’s research centres on worthiness. For example, her studies have shown that the only difference between people who have a deep sense of love and belonging and those who really struggle for it, is that those who have it believe they are worthy of it.
Like any other reasonably well-adjusted person, my first instinct is to say that of course I know I’m worthy. Worthy of love, of acceptance, of success… That’s not an issue.
But if we truly believe that, why do we feel the need to hold back little bits of ourselves? Why do we frame the way we want the world to see us? Why are we so hesitant to put our art out there? Could it be because underneath the logic and bravado, we really are just a little bit afraid that if someone truly saw us, all of us, we wouldn’t be enough?
It’s really worth thinking about. Because if Brene is right, developing a deep sense of worthiness and being open to vulnerability is the cornerstone of a wholehearted, connected and happy life. Seriously, go watch the talk.
Brene also just released her book ‘Daring Greatly’ in Australia, which I’ve cracked the first chapter of and will be sure to post more on once I’ve finished.
I stopped writing almost five years ago. I had just started seeing my current partner when I came across an article that linked personal writing to anxiety and depression. It suggested that the introspective activity – complete with deconstruction and over analysis of every life experience – was like crack for neurotics.
Do we writers write because we’re always in our heads, or are we always in our heads because we write? At the time, it was a curious enough question to make me stop the activity altogether. I must have been having a particularly dramatic day, as I recall ripping up the pages I’d written about the relationship to date and stuffing my little black notebook into the top shelf of my wardrobe.
Around the same time, I started thinking about what I should be writing. I decided that since the holy grail of a wildly fulfilling, self-funded life path had not laid itself before me, it was time to start actively creating it.
I filled a new binder book with lots of very responsible words and diagrams. Start up ideas, capital sources, ways to potentially monetise a blog… But nothing of any real substance. Even those that started authentically quickly morphed into scalable business models, until they were so far from my true interests that they felt daunting and impossible to start. So I didn’t. Insert a few years at this point and frankly, life became stagnant.
Don’t get me wrong, I had it good – good job, good rental, good social life. I was leading a perfectly comfortable yet soul-deflating existence. I’d repressed my creative impulses for so long that they were practically non-existent.
So, I took a filmmaking course. I went to fashion design workshops. I tried (unsuccessfully) to learn guitar and I immersed myself in the philosophies of everyone from Eckhart Tolle to Friedrich Nietzsche. And these mini creativity fills were enough to sustain me, for a while. But I wanted a bigger change. I had accepted that the ‘good’ life just wasn’t cutting the mustard and I was ready to give it up for one of meaning and authentic purpose.
But here’s what I found about having it good; it’s a really effective roadblock to going out and getting something great. I felt like I had to uncover one hell of an artistic talent, a legitimate creative endeavour that I absolutely, unequivocally, 100% wanted to dedicate my life to, in order to justify leaving this comfortable existence. Not only did having it good give me something to lose, but it was starting to shape what I perceived to be a valid risk, a valid reward and a valid lifestyle.
So I did what any rational person with two maxed out credit cards would do. I gave notice at work, shipped my furniture off to my parents’ garage and myself into a share house to save money, armed with a big idea to trek across the Americas and absolutely no idea what I’ll do when I return home. I forced myself into a position of having nothing to lose. And for the first time in years, I’m facing an entirely uncertain future – with honest excitement.
So here we are. With twelve weeks left at work and home, one foot still in the ‘real’ world and the other already in an all-weather hiking boot. With all notions of what I should be doing now completely disregarded, it felt like as good a time as any to pick up personal writing again. After all, what’s a creative life without a little neurosis?