, starring Zach Braff and Natalie Portman, is absolutely, hands-down, one of my go-to films. (Ask friends or family members, and they will surely tell you that I’ve seen this movie too many times to count.) The soundtrack is pivotal, the narrative is refreshing and quirky and deep, and the protagonist’s growth throughout the story is commendable. We meet an emotionally detached individual (Andrew), who’s been on psychiatric medication for most of his life, robotically going through the motions. Enter Sam. She becomes a catalyst who ignites a spark, inspiring Andrew to wake up and to start really living.
Here are some selected quotes from the movie that have always resonated.
Andrew: What are you listening to?
Sam: The Shins. You gotta hear this one song, it will change your life, I swear.
I’m in no position to comment on whether you should stay on the meds or not since I don’t know your story, but my opinion, since you’re paying for it, is that, yeah, those drugs may help you as a means to an end, but sooner or later, if you’re not in some form of therapy, whatever’s going on in your mind will find a way to peek its little head out of the water. Dr. Cohen
Dr. Cohen: Are you alright?
Dr. Cohen: Yeah, you’re alright. You’re alive.
Do you know what I do when I feel completely unoriginal? I make a noise, or I do something that no one has ever done before. And then I can feel unique again, even if it’s only for a second. Sam
Andrew: Why are you crying?
Sam: It’s just so sad. It’s like real life tragedy or something.
If you can’t laugh at yourself, life’s going to seem a whole lot longer than you’d like….What do you do? You laugh, you know. I’m not saying I don’t cry, but in-between, I laugh. Sam
You’re in it right now, aren’t you? My mom always says that when she can see I’m working something out in my head, she’s like ‘you’re in it right now.’ And I’m looking at you, and you’re telling me this story…you’re definitely in it right now. Sam
I like you. So there’s that. I guess I have that. Andrew
But you know what? That’s all ego. None of that really matters. If I get to be with this person right here and our beautiful baby, that’s all I need. Albert
Andrew: Hey Albert, good luck exploring the infinite abyss.
Albert: Hey, you too.
This necklace reminds me of a really random memory of my mother. I was a little kid, and I was crying for one reason or another. She was just like, you know, cradling me and rocking me back and forth. And I can remember seeing the little balls on this thing floating back and forth. And there was snot dripping down my nose. And she gave me her sleeve, and she told me to blow my nose into it. And I remember thinking even as a little kid, like…this is love. This is love. Andrew
Andrew: Fuck, this hurts so much.
Sam: Yeah, I know. But that is life. If nothing else, that’s life, you know. It’s real. Sometimes it fucking hurts. But it’s sort of all we have.
When I’m with you, I feel so safe. Like I’m home. Andrew
What I want more than anything in the world is it to be okay with you to feel something again. Even if it’s pain. For the first time, let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are. Andrew
You changed my life. You’ve changed my life, and I’ve known you four days. This is the beginning of something really big. Andrew
I’m really messed up right now, and I’ve got a whole lot of stuff I gotta work out, but I don’t want to waste anymore of my life without you in it. Andrew
It’s the thing we bond over first and most. It’s almost embedded in our interactions, in the way we feel people out. We make our best friends and most unprecedented connections when we open our secret vaults to the raw and unflattering truths of troubled days past — the things we’ve done and been through, the things we’ve survived. It’s as though our deep connections can only come from matching our fault lines up with someone else’s. As though we need those openings for them to fit into.
When we find these people whose unhappy pasts align with ours, not only do we find comfort and company in the misery, but solidarity. We judge the happy people. We call the ones who are content mindless and childish. We point fingers at the girls who are light and airy and enjoy their lives. We call people names. We call them stupid. We call them naïve. You have to have suffered to have merit, it seems. But empathy doesn’t always come from experience (despite often being the case) and you cannot gauge a person’s depth by their disposition.
We have to stop making problems where there are none. Stop contouring our edges for the sake of effect. Stop holding on because the nuance of doing so — of talking through another problem, of having a life that’s important enough to have problems — gives us a sense of purpose.
It is not about coming out on the other end with a badge of merit. It’s not about offering your story to the people who don’t deserve to hear it. The things that have hurt us deeply are not the only ones so defining of us that they should be the foundations of our relationships.
We’re not more dignified for having hurt, we’re more dignified when we overcome it and move on. This element of the human condition, the one that breaks us open, does not have to remain open to fit someone between the cracks. If they care about us, they will worm their way in regardless. If they truly belong, they will heal our broken parts without even having realized they were doing anything at all. The best healers and teachers and lovers work without their even having noticed. After all, at its core, love is an action first, a statement second.
We have to fight our way out of the addiction of feeling sympathized with, re-think the weight and value we assign to having been someone who has suffered. Realize that we respect the ones who have seen their own hell not because they’ve been hurt, but because despite it, they’re still standing, still surviving. The thing we value isn’t connectedness over pain, it’s showing each other we can be okay despite it.
You do not have to be broken to be loved. You can find love even when you’re broken, but you don’t need to shatter yourself first before you find something truly worth your while. You don’t have to reach into your endless sea of painful past-whatevers and use them as proof that you’re someone who understands, who is important, who can relate. We can’t keep re-living those parts of us just for the sake of pity. Sympathizing is very different from smothering, and sometimes, you need to put your pain out of sight and out of mind in order to remember what it feels like to be whole again. Because the people we love deserve a whole love, and we deserve a whole us.
Being in your 20s is what others call “your prime.” It is, supposedly, the time when you get to explore and bask in adventures. It is about drowning yourself in the dreams that are within reach, such as traveling, partying with friends and creating something with your skills and sharing it to the world. I’ve seen it in movies and read about it in books too. But sadly, as a 20-something year old in a society that seems to be getting costly by the minute, I am far from traveling, partying, and creating to share. I have responsibilities that relent me from achieving free-spirited short-term goals that others have the privilege of getting right after they wave goodbye to college.
Recently, I just got over cosplaying as Princess Leia at a Comic Con here in my city. I’m 23-years-old and all I could think about is the weekend that’s approaching so I could get a start on reading books again. It At the back of my mind, kin-related financial priorities cloud everything else and I end up moping. I love to help others and take care of my loved ones. But postponing the security of my future feels like it’s directly proportional to nurturing a dragon that will eventually swallow me whole. Tomorrows are blurry. What more of the years that are yet to happen?
With the provision of technology where almost everything can be done through the internet or by a machine, human contact and appreciation is lessened. Business entities run by huge amounts of cash value their employees based on their productivity rather than the dedication exerted with every task. It is about “getting the job done” and not about “the passion for the job”. In short, you can get fired anytime. If you were devoid of a savings account, it would automatically mean sleeping in your car, crashing at your mate’s couch or living in your parents’ basement. Knowing that your future is in the hands of strangers is a frightening fact.
Experience and even the elderly teach you to live in the moment. It’s all about here and now, they say. But what about those people who carelessly waste their lives away for momentary joys? Such as sleeping around, depending on wealthy parents or simply indulging on wants based on impulse? With a list of duties in my head enumerated based on level of importance, it is hard to focus on well-deserved joy. Be it a weekend getaway or a free movie ticket to a much-anticipated film, the excitement doesn’t last long. I get a panic attack if I lose myself in a good moment and I forget about what to do next. I do not have OCD, but I have anxieties and worries that prod me to construct my next move.
Right now, all I wish to do is sit in a cafe and take in the fresh air from the seaside, while feeling the warmth of a chocolate cup in my palm. I want my feet to rest on my doll shoes and feel the wind dance between my toes. I want to calm my nerves. I want to rest in the arms of the one who willingly shares my burdens with me. I want to unlearn the forgetfulness I’ve accumulated towards my inner child.
Most of all, I want to be happy without worrying about what happens next.
As a resident of the Internet in 2014, I constantly read things about how men should talk to women—what’s appropriate, what’s respectful, what isn’t a rape culture way of thinking. I hear people saying, “If you are smart, kind, and not a woman-hater, you will only say these kinds of things to women.”
I get how this might be confusing, so here is a list of things you can talk about with me, a real, live woman:
You can address me as “ladies” or as “dude” or as “bro” or as “guys.” I know what gender I am. Your choice of greeting doesn’t impact that. Words are fun to play around with. They have dictionary meaning and colloquial meaning.
You can compliment my appearance. Because it’s a compliment. I don’t operate under the assumption that a person can’t both be attracted to you and respect you as a human being. That’s ludicrous.
You can give me your opinion on my appearance. I want everyone to have opinions. And, well, even if I didn’t they are going to have them anyway. It doesn’t hurt me if you say “I like long hair” when I talk about getting a haircut. Opinions and preferences are natural. It doesn’t hurt my feelings when someone has a different preference than me.
You can talk about having a sex drive. It’s not inherently anti-women to have sexual desires for women or to express them. I can’t imagine someone telling me my sex life was misandrist if I ever expressed a desire to a person that didn’t include “…and I also respect you as a person.” That part is assumed, and if it isn’t, the expression itself is not the problem.
You can say, “You’re pretty smart for a girl.” I’ll know that you’ve probably not been around women who were comfortable expressing their opinions around you. Thanks for giving me this valuable information about you! That saves me a lot of time rather than you not saying it and me not knowing how you are. Asking someone not to say this is avoidant; it’s playing Whac-A-Mole with something that’s going to come out eventually—and I would rather know sooner than later.
You can say something “creepy” to me. Because chances are that the “creepiness” of it is determined by how attractive you are, not whether what you are saying is truly inappropriate.
You can criticize feminism. Criticizing a movement is a gift to the movement. Here’s (feminist icon and) philosopher Simone Weil talking about being critical of Christianity: “Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.” If feminism (or any movement) is the right thing to do, it’s going to stand up to criticism. When we don’t criticize, we act in fear that the movement or thing we love will crumble under further inspection.
The reason people tell you not to say these kinds of things is that people love to have an external locus of control because it is a lot easier than having an internal one. For example: It’s easier to tell everyone, “Don’t have alcohol anywhere in the world because I cannot manage my alcohol intake responsibly” rather than “I am going to avoid situations where alcohol is served or learn to be around it without partaking or going out of control.” People want the world made safe for them instead of making it safe for themselves. I don’t agree with this; it will never work. You will never convince everyone to only talk to you a certain way, so you will inevitably have to learn how to digest their words. Why not cut out the middleman and do this from the start?
Wait—I guess, fuck all those other rules because the only rule is this: You can talk to me any way you want to talk to me.
I’m not made of porcelain and I’m not going to break if you use the wrong words or reveal yourself to be a terrible person.
The things people say reveal more about them than they do about you. I would like to have this information and be in charge of how I process it and proceed. If you sound boring or unintelligent or disrespectful to me, I’m probably not going to continue the conversation. I may get up and leave. Because guess who controls my life? I do. I don’t need to police what you say; that’s your choice. Just like how you can’t tell me how to react to what you say; that’s my choice. I don’t need other people to tell me what I can and cannot handle or what should offend me, or what I should require in order to feel a certain way.
I don’t want you to talk to me like I am fragile. I want you to talk to me like any other human being—any way you want to. And I’m going to react to what you say like any other human would.
I was laying there on a bright orange comforter in a tiny room. It must’ve been 90 degrees because all I could do was sweat. Sweat and sweat and sweat until I soaked through my comforter in my tiny un-airconditioned room. I had only been in Granada, Spain for about 2 weeks, but I was already starting to worry that everyone was wrong.
When you ask people about studying abroad, there’s a ridiculously large chance that they will tell you it was the best experience of their life. Hands down. And so that’s all you expect. And then suddenly your imagination gets the best of you and in your mind you’re clinking beers in an Irish pub and eating gelato by some breathtaking river and speaking fluently with the natives all while “finding yourself” and falling in love and never experiencing a moment of self doubt. And it all seems so close and so obtainable and so beautiful.
But then you’re there. And two weeks have passed and the shimmer of it all has worn off. And so your imagination sets off again…this time with frustration. “Why do the Spaniards not apologize when they bump into me? Why do I keep getting lost? Why haven’t my friends tried to Skype me yet? Why haven’t I made true friends here yet? Why are there no free refills?” And it’s hard. That’s what no one tells you about studying abroad.
That it can be really really hard.
That sometimes you’ll want to just go home. Sometimes you’ll feel like your friends don’t actually miss you. Sometimes you’ll worry that maybe you shouldn’t be majoring in Spanish because that random old man (after many failed attempts at conversation) just says “ahhh no hablas Español” in the elevator. Or that sometimes…you’re just not going to like certain things about your host country. Plain and simple. Because sometimes driving to the supermercado sounds a little better than walking the 3 miles.
But what I will say is this. Here I am 5 months later, laying in my marshmallow soft bed. The AC is on and I’m comfortable and content and I know I won’t be dreaming in Spanish tonight. I’m back. I’m home.
But right before I fall asleep, I will remind myself of the difficult moments of studying abroad. Because it was those difficult moments that made studying in Granada the best experience of my life. Not the chupiterías and paella and traveling and funny stories of new friends in London. Those were all great. They were. And I’ll remember them.
But it was the difficult and ugly of it all that showed me just how strong I am. Just how resilient and resourceful I can be. It was every corrected word and reminder that I’m not 100% fluent that pushed me to work for a higher level of the language. It was in the bad interactions and good ones that taught me how there is room to appreciate the differences in cultures, but also remember how similar we all are. It was in every moment that pushed me out of my comfort zone and into the unfamiliar that helped me grow. That helped me become someone I’m really proud of.
The nights of dancing and laughing at the discotecas. The days of long walks around the Río Genil. The trains and planes and trips with new friends who became family. They all are forever embedded in those streets and that school and that town. But those lessons and how they altered me will stay. That’s mine. No matter where I am.
And that’s why studying abroad was the best experience of my life.