Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Looking Up: The Election, Screenwriting, Anxiety, and Moving Forward


It's been quite a year, hasn't it?

Seriously, 2016 can just...end. Any time now. It's probably one of the worst years in recorded history, right behind the year of the Black Plague and when the meteorite killed the dinosaurs - although depending on your perspective, it could be considered worse, as that enabled us to survive. So, worse than a meteorite destroying most life on Earth. Yes. That sounds right. 

I feel like we'll all be able to breathe a little easier once this election's over - I'm hoping, anyway. I won't get into political affiliations or which candidate is better/worse, as that seems to simultaneously increase the blood pressure of anyone within a five-mile radius, whether they're actually reading the article or not. It's like everyone's all ready and raring to lose their minds on anything that sounds remotely like it could somehow disagree with them. No matter what your views, I think we can all agree that this election has brought out the ugliest side of America - a hateful, divisive side that I'd hoped was something that no longer existed in modern society. I was wrong - and that makes me sad and frustrated and discouraged more than anything else.

Anyway. What am I here to talk about? Well, my life, I suppose. It's a strange thing - life - especially with the surging political environment surrounding it right now.

I read somewhere that dogs who pull sleds, up in Alaska or Canada, for the Iditarod and such, love their work so much, they will literally run themselves to death unless they're told to stop. That's been me the past year and a half.

I love screenwriting. I found it my junior year of college, and I only wish I'd found it sooner, because it is the best. I love typing out a scene, seeing it form in my head, and (if I'm lucky) watching it unfold on screen - a dream somehow brought forth, crossing dimensions, into reality. That is the closest thing we have to magic, my friends. Through editing and VFX and great directing and choreography and acting, we can make the impossible possible. And that is what I love about film and television.

But, passion is a double-edged sword. I can write for hours - four hours at a stretch, sometimes longer if I get really into it and don't want to lose the "flow" (which is a real things, by the way, however corny it sounds). But there's never been a time I've gone past four hours where I haven't regretted it. That passion lights me up for the day, makes me feel invincible and ready to take on anything - and then the next day I'm an empty shell, the light extinguished, any trace of energy gone, aching through to my very bones.

In other words: urrrgh.

I don't know if it's a high I'm looking for, an escape or what; I have learned to balance it a little better, although it's been a struggle sometimes to rein myself in when I just know I could keep going, on and on into the night, and who knows what story idea or character arc will fade forever if I don't keep going...! I am like those sled dogs - I love it so much that I work myself into the ground.

I think now I may be using it as revenge against my adult life. Because I am an adult now - and it's a lot harder than I thought.

I refuse to let college be the best years of my life - but sometimes I understand why people say that. Adulthood is hard, man. You can't pass the buck. You have to take care of things - sometimes unpleasant things. A lot of boring things. Things that just need to be done, and no one else is going to do them, no matter how inconvenient or irritating they are. So you do them. And you finally appreciate your parents doing them for you for most of your life up to this point - and cringe over the fact that's it now your turn.

On days when I'm working, just drowning in everything I need to do - job applications, scripts, networking, research - I try to look up at the sky, and find a name for the color it is. It doesn't have to take long - I've settled on "cerulean" before, or "the color of the marble I had in fifth grade when we played marbles that day in our living room" - just long enough to remind myself to take a breath, stop, and look around at the whole world around me, instead of feeling trapped inside my head with all my own little problems. I started doing this when I realized one day that I hadn't looked at the sky in awhile - I had no clue what it looked like or how the clouds even looked. I think it's a sign we've reached adulthood when we stop finding shapes in the clouds - it's kind of sad.

I read a book called The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster when I was in elementary school. In it, a boy called Alec, who can see everything except what's right in front of his face, shows Milo, the main character, the city of Reality. In it, the people living there go about their daily lives, going in and out of buildings, heading to work in the morning and heading back home at night, moving in and around the city like normal - except they haven't looked up in so long, they haven't realized that the city no longer exists. They open and close doors that aren't there, they go in and out of buildings with no walls. That image has haunted me; I know I don't want to live a life like that. Forgetting about finding hope or real joy in life, even in something as small as changing up your daily routine, from taking a different route to work or stopping to look up at the sky. Reality doesn't have to be like that - it shouldn't be.

New York City
I spend a lot of my time in pain. Most of it is mental - anxiety kicks me up out of bed in the morning, saying, "You need to get something done today, or else you're worthless!"; depression drags me back down, groaning, "What's the point, I might as well just lie here anyway, for all it's going to matter." In case you're wondering, yes, I know this is not healthy - I'm working on finding a therapist, and I've found different ways to cope. It still doesn't change the struggle of every day - those first few moments where the realization floods in: Oh, right. I am an adult. I need to get up and go make money. I need to get an apartment. I need to have friends, I need to check in with my family. I need to contribute to society. It's no wonder I feel like sometimes we're all going a little insane.

You know what, though? I'd rather have the pain than apathy. We are put on this earth to feel something - not just stare numbly into a gray and lifeless future. Sometimes circumstances aren't optimal. Sometimes, life sucks. But complacency is not something I choose to accept. If I'm here, I'm here for a purpose, damn it - and even if I don't know what that is right now, I'm going to find it.

Just look at this planet we're on - we are at the exact point in the universe, in the exact right atmosphere, where we are neither scorched by the sun nor frozen to death in deep space. We are alive in a world of seven billion people - and no one is exactly alike, nor has there been or ever will be another human being exactly like them. Incredible! Look at all these beliefs and religions and cultures and histories - what nuances, what momentous decisions hung in the balance to impact exactly how our world would look today, down to each culture's core values and what each country teaches its children in school. No matter how hopeless the world feels right now, it's still amazing to see what we've achieved, how far we've come - and how much we can still accomplish.

I haven't given up - in myself, or in the world at large. Wherever the coming year takes me, whether that's Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, or LA, wherever it takes our country after this election, or consequently where it takes the world, I have faith we can move forward - on to something better, with the help of Someone bigger.

I don't know what you believe; for me personally, I do believe in God and a heaven. And heaven isn't a place of white fluffy clouds and gently twanging harp music - I don't know who we can blame for that portrayal, whether it's Dante or Renaissance painters, but it's wrong. Heaven isn't boring. Heaven is that ache you feel in your chest when you've seen something so beautiful it grabs your heart and won't let go. Heaven isn't harp music - it's the 1812 Overture, with booming cannons and everything, blasting out til it fills your whole being. Heaven is beauty that makes your heart swell - not necessarily over something visually pleasing, but over power, strength, tenderness, anything that makes your blood sing through your veins and reminds you that you're alive. I think we see bits of heaven every day, if we can remember to look up - and I think that's what can save us from all the anger and bitterness left from this year. We can still look up.