Friday, August 30, 2013

My future yellow umbrella

The yellow umbrella, a symbol of the promise of the future.
To understand the yellow umbrella reference, perhaps you should read a bit about it. However, I must warn there may be spoilers for non-How I Met Your Mother fans.

It was the beginning of the summer when I decided to start watching How I Met Your Mother. I'd never thought much of the show, never wanted to spend much time with it. After seeing an episode here or there, it seemed like yet another multi-camera sitcom with a built-in laugh track and little desirable comedy. I guess you could call my taste pretentious; I certainly wasn't willing to accept that a show in (what I assumed was) a traditional format could engage me much.

There have been many times in my life when I've misjudged, assumed and downright falsely postulated about things before actually giving them a chance to prove their worth. It's human nature to trust our initial impressions, to judge swiftly and move on.

But I think my rightfully-discovered passion for this show has come just at the right time, coinciding with some general life troubles.

I've been thinking lately about that quote from The Great Gatsby: "I hope she'll be a fool--that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." How much simpler life would be if I could take it all in stride and see it through rose-colored glasses, with a lens of silliness to shroud my sensitivity.

Being an unlucky sort of person, I was both blessed and cursed with a hopeful yet future-fearing outlook, capable of feeling in equal parts excited and anxious about what lies ahead.

This has manifested itself lately in a few episodes of what I can only deem as minor depression. I'm constantly worrying that:

1. I'm not on the right path to happiness in my own life
2. I'm not going to figure out the correct path in time
3. I'm putting a burden on others because I'm in a sorry state

Nothing seems to reduce the constant fear that I'm doing everything wrong, save for distractions. One of those distractions that I've had since the beginning of the summer was How I Met Your Mother.

Contrary to my previous beliefs, this show has more depth than it does foolishness. With eight seasons under my belt in three months of watching, I feel confident in that assessment. I'm also confident in the few things I've walked away having learned from my time spent immersed in the story of Lily, Marshall, Robin, Barney and Ted...mainly Ted - the romantic lead and narrator behind the whole story of How I Met Your Mother.

I don't like to think that life is all about finding a mate. Surely there is more to the future than getting married and having children. I'd like to think that my existence has more significance than to simply perpetuate my species' existence.

However I have always believed that there is someone out there for me, somewhere. And though this potential "soulmate" has eluded me these 20 years, the blank space they leave in my life has never lost its potency.

My biggest worries lately have been about finding my way in life, and choosing a career path that suits my needs and grants me happiness. But that's only half of the journey.

Watching the eighth season of HIMYM today, I reminded myself of all the hopes I've had since I started dreaming of a lifetime of wedded bliss. Planning out a fake wedding to my favorite pop star at 10 years old was just the beginning, but that dream never really fades.

I lost my way a bit when I was uprooted a few months ago - I started to consider a different career path, had to think about dating again (and the Lord knows I hate dating, at least when it comes to the modern sense of the word) and most recently I've felt a strain in some of my relationships with others.

All of the uncertainty has been piling on me, and the pressure of it only gets stronger with time. I try to watch television or surf the internet, anything to take my mind off of troublesome mysteries. But then in a strange turn of events, my escape (in this case a TV show) brings me right back to where I started.

It's hard to tell whether that's a good or a bad thing yet.

I made a mistake in thinking when I started watching How I Met Your Mother that it would be a retreat from the doldrums of daily life. In actuality, that's quite a bit of what the show is. There are antics galore and lightness of course, but HIMYM is all about the build-up to that climactic moment of clarity and happiness. This isn't just the story of Ted Mosby's life. This is "How he met his kids' mother." And throughout much of the show's timeline, his character mopes around complaining about not finding his life partner, not making it in the architecture world, not fulfilling his dreams.

That's where we're all at, isn't it? At least, many of us. We're living in an incomplete moment, feeling uneasy with the current circumstances, judging the future on a set of data that is incomplete.

This is the problem with my perception of things at present.

I'm so concerned with the future, with how things are meant to be, that I'm no longer considering that where I am now is not the be-all, end-all.

The only reason I really have "life troubles," as I see it, is that I'm too short-sighted to realize that the issues I'm facing now are only temporary, and that as time progresses, so will I. Eventually, this part of the story will be the extended cut of my own "How I Met Your Father" or "How I Got My Job" or "How I Made a Life For Myself" story.

Who's to say that these troubles aren't exactly what I need to get me where I need to be?

Above all, How I Met Your Mother is about retaining hopefulness despite the mundane and uninspired daily existence that makes the present seem to drag on and the future so unreachable. All the mistakes, all the terrible and disheartening experiences - well they are necessary, because they bring us to where we need to be.

Even though I'm currently in a false state of on-and-off sadness - one that is, in my opinion, not grounded in any sort of logical thought - it's only because I'm in the in-between stage and I don't know that everything's going to work out just yet.

But if I really look inside myself, I can see that mine and Ted Mosby's stories aren't that dissimilar. That nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach suggests there's a dream out there waiting to be achieved, and if I just stop being impatient and keep trying my best, eventually it will work out.

Life may not be simple. It may not just fall into my lap and it may never make sense why I had to go through this period of uncertainty and fear just to arrive at contentment. But it makes some sense to me now that if I just weather the storm, I'm going to come out with a yellow umbrella.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wordless encounter

I've been in the car for many extended periods lately and because of this I've had a lot of time to think about life whilst my hands rest on the steering wheel. The other day I had an idea for a short story. It's slightly derivative, I am aware, and I don't plan on necessarily doing anything with it. But I decided I wanted to share it somewhere.

She saw him at a glance. He drove past her in his flashy, overly blue and noticeably economy-sized car and in that instant she knew there was something. It wasn't something they shared necessarily, but something it was.

You know how in that moment of first noticing a something or a someone you find intriguing? How you almost feel as though you've come to know it inside and out? They say not to judge a book by its cover, but it's impossible not to do just that. You look, you perceive, you assume. We all know what happens when you assume.

Well she assumed. As he drove past her, the car in front of her screeched to a stop. Her senses were lagging, she was consumed in her own foggy daydreams. He had disappeared, though, so what was left of the daydream was slowly dissolving.

But as she began to speed up, there he was again. With a tinted back window, a few cars ahead, moving at a steady pace. He still had no idea. His lane began to slow; he merged in front of her. Her mind raced.

Unsure of how to act, but convinced something needed to be done lest she reluctantly admit defeat, she decided to work with the tools at her fingertips.

Turn on the brights. That's sure to get his attention. She flicked them on and they blinded her for an instant. She tried again, but no reaction other than her own wincing at the sight of the reflected headlights on his practically highlighter blue back bumper. Why isn't he realizing what's going on?

She resigned herself for a moment. This is ridiculous.

She merged out of the lane, now on his right, moving at a slightly faster speed. Then with an effort towards nonchalance, she glanced over past his empty passenger seat, to the driver whom she had set her literal and figurative sights on.

He wasn't oblivious.

He looked back at her, boldly but kindly. He smiled, but only for a moment. After all, the eyes can only flick away from the road for so long before they must return to the task at hand.

She kept at his pace, tried not to seem deliberate. She ignored the obvious question in her head: How do I keep myself from looking deliberate when I'm deliberately moving a steel vehicle down a freeway?

As she spent time conversing with herself in her mind, he managed to move his car behind hers. He flicked his own bright headlights on and off and when she didn't notice, honked his horn.

Startled, she broke, expecting that there was something dangerous to evade. Rather than prevent an accident as was her intention, she managed to cause one of her own.

The girl and the boy in their respective cars stopped traffic. Everyone looked around with bewildered eyes, unsure of what to do as most looky-loos are. It was just a rear-ending, no cause for alarm.

As they pulled over, however, the rubberneckers glued their eyes to the sight, not for the damage or to see the arrival of tow trucks and police cars. Rather to watch the girl and the boy as they stood still, exposed to the elements, at the side of the freeway, staring at each other, not saying a word.

The End