With the fall season upon us, we’re finding ourselves heading back to college, moving, starting new jobs, and generally entering into yet another chapter of new territory, vulnerability, and inevitable mistakes. For all of you who are beginning new chapters and entering into the unfamiliar, I highly suggest consuming as much familiarity as possible to help you navigate the unknown.
I recently moved to a new state for work, a state where I have no family, no close friends, and no geographic familiarity of what coffee shops, bookstores, parks, or neighborhoods I would like best. Although I had previously interned here with my work the summer before, I never had the pressure of settling down in the sprawling, vast city that is Los Angeles until now. There was always the comfort of an end date where I could return home to Seattle with its trees, coffee, rain, mountains, and fresh tap water. (Although looking more closely at Seattle, it’s definitely not the place I hold in my heart anymore, what with its mass gentrification, corporatization, and hushed racism. But I digress.)
Starting a new chapter with no clear visual of what the future consists of can leave us desperate for familiarity. I suddenly find myself pointing out all that is wrong with my new environment and adding to my running list of every reason I should leave and return back home. Except the home I have etched into in my head is no longer the reality, leaving me in a weird state of newness that I both want to embrace and run away from. How do we navigate the new without the comfort of the old to fall back on? If I could sum up what it’s like to be 25, it’s exactly that: Life is a constant mixture of the new battling the comfort of the old, and the old is no longer an option.
I get myself into these new chapters of life without thinking about the implications of my actions, that all this newness would wipe away familiarity and force me into a phase of life where I would have to yet again search for comfort and solace. I find myself jumping into situations because my logical self knows that it’s the direction I genuinely want to go. But the minute the newness is confirmed, my vulnerable self screams, “Oh shit!” and before I can turn around to jump to the familiar, the door is already shut. It’s in these moments that I search for bits of comfort and nostalgia that might help hone down my uncontrollable desire to flee and hide in a hole.
If I can recommend one thing that has helped me remain calm, divert panic attacks, and occasionally feel comfortable, it has been re-watching movies and TV shows. For me “Sleepless in Seattle” (I know, cliché), “Beginners,” and “Mad Men” have been my comfort blanket throughout these overwhelming changes. Luckily all of these items are on Netflix, so my bank account isn’t dropping to zero when I watch “Beginners” for the 30th time.
When I suggest re-watching something, I’m not talking about for the second or third time. I’m talking about for the 20th, 30th, or even the 40th time. Why? Because it is familiar in every sense. Each movie takes me back to a specific time and place that I feel so much love towards that it feeds my soul. When I watch “Beginners,” I’m thrown back to my senior year of college where my schedule was filled with film classes, the internship that would one day bring me to my current job, and the first time my significant other and I exchanged I love you’s. It reminds me of fall and the rain, late-night bus rides and drinks with friends. Watching “Beginners” takes me back to the first time I really starting unfolding myself and figuring out what I love and want out of life. These things that have resonated so strongly within me have no other job than to provide me with nostalgia, pleasure, and predictability.
I’ve found that no matter what we do, life is unpredictable. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but at times it can be less than enjoyable. I’ve found revisiting these harmless bits of pop culture familiarity are key to embracing the unknown. If something as simple as a movie brought you joy before, what is the harm in having it bring you joy over and over again?
I often debate whether or not re-watching or re-reading something is a waste of time. There’s so much to consume and so much being talked about. I could argue that my love for “Mad Men” and “Sleepless in Seattle” is a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about these simple things that help me feel grounded. I feel that these things help me get through each day without constantly ragging on Los Angeles and my new life. Even as I write this, I have “Beginners” cued up and ready to play. Re-consuming simple bits of pop-culture helps give me incentive to explore my new environment. They give me just enough comfort to go out and have adventures in my new surroundings without feeling overwhelmed by all of the newness.
To those of you out there swimming through unfamiliarity and using your energy to steer clear of sadness, panic, and all the emotions that accompany change, I highly recommend and encourage you to resort back to a treasured book, movie, song, or TV show that brings you joy. Life doesn’t always have to be about constant growth and expansion. We all need to have small moments of grounded familiarity to be able to take on the constant forwardness of life.
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