Wednesday, March 5, 2014

30 For 30: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

I turned 30 on February 18th. I want to celebrate this, and get myself back into writing, by spending a few weeks rambling about the 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years. These will be from music, movies, books, videogames, and maybe even art and other things for good measure. I feel like my life has been much more about the things I've experienced than it has the people I've known or the places I've traveled to, and these 30 things have helped to make my 30 years more than worth all the innumerable bad things. Expect heartfelt over-sharing and overly analytical explanations galore! In part 14, things maybe get a little too real. And I talk about what the ending is really asking.

It's a good thing that nobody I know in real life reads this blog, because today is about to get pretty real. You see, after a solid five months of clean living, I have fallen off the wagon in spectacular fashion, and the last week has been an almost nightly routine of beer and cigarettes. I don't expect any sympathy for, or tolerance of, my problems; you shouldn't expect any explanation or further details as to why this happened. It's complicated yet I suppose it's very simple, too. And no, it's not something as simple as “I just turned 30, I'm getting old, boo hoo!”

Anyway, I think I'd have to be in the midst of a bender to be able to write about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind because of how much it brings up for me. This is the one entry in my 30 For 30 series that I dreaded sitting down to write. It's not necessarily that it stirs up memories of ex-girlfriends, though that is part of it. Moreso it's the way the movie makes me examine my own life, the poor choices I've made I wish I could forget and the mistakes I've made I wish I could take back. Though the movie is ostensibly about a troubled couple who erase memories of their relationship, I mostly experience it now as a mirror, by which I mean every time I've watched it for the past three years I barely notice what's happening on screen while instead staring at the stubble on my face and the bags under my eyes. Metaphorically speaking.

Perhaps the strangest thing about my continuing experience with Eternal Sunshine is that, when I saw it for the first time (with my first girlfriend) in the theater, I related to Joel but now I relate to Clementine. Whenever people ask me if I'd ever get a tattoo, and what it would be if I did, I just bluntly say “nah, I'm not a tattoo kind of guy”, although deep down I know I'd get a tattoo of Clem's line: “I'm just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me your's.” Would I change it from “girl” to “guy” for my tattoo? No, because I like the idea of confusing the people at the autopsy and/or funeral home someday.

I really can't think of too much more to say about the film without veering into sloppy, rambling stories about ex-girlfriends or explaining in detail why Eternal Sunshine is such a unique, well acted, and astonishing looking movie. And despite mentioning alcohol earlier in this piece, I am actually sober while writing this, so don't expect much sloppy rambling. Rambling maybe, sloppy no. All the same, watching Eternal Sunshine almost does qualify as drinking for me because, like booze, it makes me feel great for awhile before it turns on me and I start to feel guilty about relationships that went bad, or at the very least, to second-guess many things in my life.

One could say that the film's ending argues that certain events are inevitable and that certain people are naturally—perhaps fatefully—drawn to each other. However, this has never been my experience, and I blame Eternal Sunshine for convincing me (for a few years) to believe that way, much to my detriment. Nowadays I'm a realist. Or a cynic. So I'm a big second-guesser and “what if?” question asker, often neurotically convincing myself if I had just done X, Y, and Z, or done them differently, things would have gone the way they were supposed to. Maybe a better way to say it is that I subscribe to the Terminator 2 idea of “no fate but what we make for ourselves” versus the Terminator 3 idea of “you only postponed it, Judgment Day is inevitable.”

Did I really just bring up the Terminator films? I swear I'm not drinking!

All digressions aside, the ending to me has become less about “do you believe in fate?” and morphed into a litmus test for whether you're a romantic or a realist. If you think Joel and Clem will actually stay together and work through their problems, then you're a romantic. If you think they're bound to keep having the same issues over and over and never grow past them, then you're a realist. Or maybe the better term is cynic. Whatever.

All I know is, I don't have an answer anymore. And maybe that's the root of my problem.

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