So there’s a lyric I really like. It’s from a song you’ve almost certainly never heard of, but let’s just pretend you care for the sake of this post. The song is American Princes by Driftless Pony Club. In the second verse the song reads “Every time I read a book, I misinterpret what it means. I think it applies to only me.”
I know there’s a grand irony in this next statement, but that line speaks to me. I don’t consider myself to be a narcissist in any facet of life, save for one. Those who know me will speak on behalf of how occasionally selfless and normally in-between-kind-and-rude I am. But in the realm of application, I’m definitely a narcissist. Any time I watch a TV show or a movie or read a book or even just learn about a historical figure or the backstory of a celebrity, I immediately draw parallels between my life and the life of the subject, good or bad and true or false. I think it’s just natural human instinct to see life through your own eyes, but for me, it’s a bit of an obsession.
I bring this up because this weekend I watch the new Netflix series “Love” in its entirety. Now for those of you who expect an analytical synopsis of the show’s first season, that’s not what this is, so you don’t have to click away. Come back. Bring that mouse icon off the X button. Come back to me. Good. You’re back. The reason I bring this up is because of how I felt watching it. From the beginning of the spectacular second episode to the end of the opposite-of-spectacular season finale, I felt myself not only drawing parallels between my life and a particular character in the show, I also pigeonholed which of my friends and family members were most like other characters in the show. Instead of watching it for the work of fiction that it is, I made myself watch it as a window of reality, a reflection of what I see in life, written for me by the scribes I look up to.
I don’t necessarily think that’s healthy, especially with a show that has as bittersweet of a tone as Love does. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the show. I did. If there’s a second season, I’ll consume it quicker than you can read The Cat in the Hat 300 times. But the show left me with a weird taste in my mouth; it made me reflect on what it is I want in this world and what priorities really are in the first place. And that wasn’t the first time that happened to me last week.
I had a difficult time figuring out what to give up for Lent this year. The past few years, I’ve given up caffeine as a way of weaning myself off of my addiction. The first year it was really tough and I had withdrawal headaches for two weeks. Last year it was pretty easy; the headaches only persisted for a couple of days. As a result of last year, I kind of don’t drink that much caffeine anyway, so I knew I needed a new task. But Ash Wednesday came and went and I hadn’t thought of a sufficient task to test and tempt myself with, so I decided to use caffeine as a surrogate and give it up until I thought of something actually challenging to hold myself to.
Then last week, about an hour into my daily routine of refusing to get out of bed until I had watched about a dozen subscribed YouTube videos I was backdated on, I noticed a new video from WheezyWaiter, a personal favorite of mine. Throughout his vlogs this year, Wheezy has catalogued some troubles he’s gone through with stagnation, trying to hold himself to a constant schedule to get out of a rut. And when he felt that wasn’t working, he decided to instead of hold himself to his old schedule, come up with a new one. I passively observed this, watching his daily vlogs and definitely gleaning enjoyment from his sense of humor which I so directly relate to. (There’s that word again. Relate. Why does that matter if I think it’s funny? Do I have to compare my sense of humor to his to like it or can’t I just concede that he’s funny without narcissistically inserting myself into the video I have zero effect on?) But then last week he said something that really hit me close to home.
Craig (that’s his real name) made a video – I believe it was last Wednesday – about how he doesn’t let himself use the Internet as much anymore, especially not on his phone in bed. As I watched this video – on my phone in bed – I realized that over the past 18 months I have probably spent on average two hours a day on my phone in bed on the Internet, be it on YouTube or Twitter or checking email or sometimes all of the above. It was then that I contextualized all of the videos he’s made so far this year. And yes, I related. Which in this situation is OK, because – as you almost certainly didn’t know – the same man who made these videos sang that lyric from the beginning of the story. Circularity!
I promised you at the beginning of this year that I would make more consistent content on this site. And then I fell flat on my face because the content I wanted to provide to you guys is what Nick from two years ago would’ve liked to do. I’ve changed. So I’m not going to be able to do that. Instead, I’m going to do what I want to do now, which involves a few different kinds of ideas. Then I thought about how Craig said he’s cut using his phone in bed out of his life, and now I’m doing the same. I am five days into my new pledge to no longer use my phone in bed and as a result I am far more productive in the mornings and also far happier in the afternoons and at night because I’ve gotten things out of the way.
Then I remembered the video Craig made the next day about how he’s set a schedule to write the kind of things he wants to write. And how if he takes it one page at a time, nothing seems that daunting. It’s like that line in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Anybody can do just about anything for 10 seconds. So this weekend I got back to writing. I came up with ideas for two book-ish, short-story-ish things, one of which I’ve already written a huge chunk of.
It’s extremely juvenile to glean meaning from anything that you have no influence on existing, be it a Netflix show co-created by one of my personal heroes or a YouTube channel run by a man with a beard who likes coffee. But I needed something to jolt me out of my post-college rut that had me simultaneously wanting to write something for this website every day and also never write anything ever again. And now I know what the problem was: I was in a routine, but not the right one.
And if it took me bingeing a show I didn’t want to binge and giving up my personal morning time for the sake of taking one more step toward growing up, I don’t care. I needed it.