I’m in a phase in life (I hope it’s a phase) where how well stocked the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter is symbolizes how I’m handling adulting. Whether I eat any of it or most of it rots away is secondary. So I make single-item grocery runs for guavas, bananas, apples to bring home some semblance of well-being, and I relax, rested, as I lose out to my BMI and to long-distance relationships over Instagram.
And I don’t know if it’s my Netflix recommendations or just content targeting millennials, but it’s almost like entire episodes in shows are written for me these days. Just when Uma and I were discussing how it sucks that our late twenties is when the Everyone is miserable phase of dating apps had to occur. Or when the question of “What’s the point of going to therapy when un-self-aware people seem to be doing okay” doesn’t seem quite so ignorant anymore? In times of a gently fading faith in being good, when those who burn others don’t seem to receive their karma, at least not within their lifetimes?
Last week I watched Beef on Netflix and it had several themes in common with Russian Doll, another Netflix show. It hit hard when Ali Wong said We were the guinea pigs, the 80’s kids. Except I’m a 90’s kid and I feel that way too sometimes in a world of illusory choices, somehow cheated by time and the only relief being that I’m not alone (I have a compulsive need to make sure of this, and often).
It feels like arriving late to a party that I didn’t know could look like that, and only a while ago I was happy at home watching TV by myself. Or was I not happy? I don’t remember anymore. And then I’m a little relieved that I’m not as late as some others. This is right about where I’m confusing myself with my own metaphor so I’ll stop.
The other theme Beef has in common with Russian Doll is generational trauma. In Russian Doll the ancestors had been Jews in the Holocaust, in Beef they are immigrants. The characters talk about the shame, anger, loneliness they carry within them, how it’s passed on across generations. If I introduced you to this idea, I am not proud.
When preparing for essay writing competitions in school, the golden rule to remember was to always end on a bright note. It could be very low effort – a village coming together to build a windmill that they obviously didn’t have expertise nor the funds for, a family supporting one another with no details added cos you’ve no idea how, or a lazy mention of world peace. Pretty similar to beauty pageants I suppose, or American workplaces.
The only positive contribution I have to make here is how after Russian Doll I told myself Looking back is a losing game, much like counting calories. But what about looking inwards? They talk about how Western therapy doesn’t work on Eastern minds, but does any therapy fully work on any minds? It’s helped me more than once, but this train of thought, in my case, boils down to free will (or the lack thereof), which also feels like a losing game often. Maybe it was better to never show up to the party at all?
The other option that I used to scoff at but have crossed over to now, like so many other things in life, is the gym.
The obsessive need for hope, the way I have seen it, seems to be a marked symptom of grown up life. It’s the adult evaluator of the essay who yearns for hope – cos as eighteen year old writers, our lives were usually full of it – even where our pasts didn’t quite justify it. We are burdened, and not by choice, by our own lives but also the truths of our ancestors. Maybe the hope is that we can see each other and the truths behind us, and get through it together.
Because what is the option? On days when life is not a gift but a chore, and then you find that the gym is closed, what is the option?