Living Like Lester Burnham Killed My Optimism For the Better

Living Like Lester Burnham Killed My Optimism For the Better

"Look Closer"
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Ninth grade: I lost my identity by watching a movie.

To clarify, I lost it the second time I watched this movie.

In every connotation of the phrase, I am my father's daughter. My father raised me into quite the movie buff. Bonding with Ken is watching movies. My father and I share an innate form of conversation when talking about cinema that only a father and daughter can possess. My eye for films is his eye. So, when one suggested a movie, we always came out the other end of the credits fully appreciating the other’s pick. It was our way.

So one familial night, as I flopped down into my movie-watching-spot on the couch, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I, Lauren 1.0, sat completely unaware of the inevitable change that was about to be awoken in me as I drank in the opening lines of the film that made me “me.”

“My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This… is my life. I’m forty-two years old. In less than a year, I’ll be dead.”

Just like that, six sentences set my creation's history in motion.

These are the opening lines of my beloved “American Beauty.” Now unbeknownst to me at the time was the power that such text would hold over my life in the coming years. In those few hours sat on the couch, however, no change was brought about just yet. No, as the minutes of the lead character Lester Burnham's life wore on, the only response to the film brought about in me was anger.

Watch this movie. The selfishness of the society that surrounds the Lester and their disgusting greed to steal any joy away from those who succeed in escaping that societal suffocation will make you that keen-with-anger kind of mad. That’s what it did for me. But the first time I watched it, I watched it wrong. That anger, that full body reaction, was directed at Lester.

“Wait. Why doesn’t he throw their food at them! Why isn’t he doing anything to get them back! Why isn’t he getting mad! ” I remember very vividly begging my father for answers to Lester's calm. I was shaken at how much this world abused him and yet he stared that world right back, but with a smile. I will never forget this. My father just looked over at me, with that same weightless smirk as our protagonist and said, “Because he doesn’t care.”

That response just made me angrier.

Finally, my virginal viewing concluded, and as Lester’s immortal words rang in my mind for the first time, I sat there livid. Never before have I not liked a selection from my Father, but something about this movie made my teeth clench. I absolutely despised the entirety of this movie.

Luckily for the future of my well-being, many months, maybe even a year pass before I am faced with this film once again. I don’t know what exactly made the difference. In that year I think my heart was broken for the first time, I lost some friends to shiny newer ones, my sister woke me up to some harsh realities too, but I wasn’t the opalescent Lauren brimming with sunshine and twinkles in her eye anymore like I was during my first watching. And because of that, it finally clicked.

It’s just me, in the quiet of a solely sun-lit room in the emptiness of my house, and Lester. Round 2. Looking back, something about the perfection of this memory seems almost fate-driven. Finally, I was watching this movie correctly.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, my father’s words finally made palpable sense. Finally, Lester’s stony demeanor echoed the reaction of a freed person, not a fool like I initially thought him to be. Finally, as that last monologue began to play in the confines of my empty room, did I truly hear him.

“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.”

Black out. On that inconclusive and ominous note, I began to cry. I began to sob absolutely uncontrollably at the perfection of a story, at the cold truth of reality, at the death of my innocent naivety.

I arose from that film, eyelashes clumpy with tears, the Lauren I am today.

I realize now that this film angered me so much the first time because, at that moment, I was still a part of the disgusting societal mentality the film demonizes. I was unfulfilled like Carolyn, I was hateful like Colonel Fitts, I was narcissistic like Buddy, I was boring like Angela. I was completely unaware that my life would’ve continued on to be just like there’s- unaware of the beauty that can be had from actively living.

And I mean really, truly, living. Breathing in crisp, cold air. Feeling your skin prickle from the sun’s heat. Walking in the grass- no shoes. Living by separating yourself from the mechanics of society and reconnecting to just simple and pure life.

Stepping outside my house that day and into the sunshine of the summer of 2015 is a moment I will never forget. Had I even felt sun until that day? I don’t know.

I realized as those hot rays dried my tears that the bubble of my contentment burst. Nothing would be acceptable ever again. Nothing would be acceptable because we as a society were living unacceptably. I would no longer be the Lauren who smiled through everything, who happily was complacent, who was sunshiny through discontent.

Life would no longer happen to me. Lester Burnham taught me to be an active participant in my own years and to also never steal the beauty that others found for themselves.

I got in my car, wiped my eyes one last time, and rolled down the windows. Heat. Air. Life. Pulling out of my driveway rang those life-shattering and life erecting words-

“But don’t worry… you will someday.”

Here it was. My someday. The first someday of the rest of my stupid little life, and it was beautiful.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."
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It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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10 Pieces Of Advice From My Parents That Have Helped Me Survive This Thing Called Life

I don't like admitting that they're right, but they've helped me through more than they'll ever know.

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As I've entered my 20s and have made it halfway through college, I've learned that life can be hard and challenging at times. Like many kids, when I was growing up, I could care less about what my parent's advice or opinions were. Nine times out of ten, I would do the complete opposite of what they said. Once I got older and actually started listening to their advice and put it into perceptive, I learned that they're right more often than I'd like to admit.

1. Don't take things for granted

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I've learned to cherish what I have because I might not always have it. It's easy to take life itself and many things it involves for granted. They've taught me to take a step back from this crazy life sometimes and be grateful for all that I have.

2. Don't be afraid to put your heart on your sleeve

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My parents have taught me that if you feel something, don't be afraid to say it or embrace it. If you love someone, then tell them. Don't be afraid to put your heart out there just because you might get hurt.

3. Be vulnerable

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In life, in relationships, in your work. Take risks, get shot down, and then try again. Being vulnerable is scary yet so powerful.

4. You can never have too many shoes

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Otherwise known as it's okay to treat yourself. Life is hard, so take care of you. If that means going on a shopping spree every once in a while, then so be it.

5. You're going to be okay

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Whatever it is you're going through, you're going through it and you're going to come out on the other side. It may seem horrible now, but you'll learn from it and be okay in the end.

6. You have to have friends in life

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It's important to have people to lean on, especially on your bad days, and to celebrate with on your good ones. You can't just have you or a significant other to rely on.

7. Never be afraid to share your opinion

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Don't be afraid to put your thoughts and opinions out there because they might be wrong. They could have a huge impact on someone or something.

8. Don't stress over things you have no control over

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Everyone is on their own path, which means everything will work out the way it's supposed to, even if it doesn't make sense right now. Again, you're going to be okay.

9. Happy, healthy, wealthy, wise

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My dad always says if you tell yourself every day that you're happy with yourself or your life, you're healthy and strong, you're wealthy in love and surrounded by great people, and you're knowledgable or wise, then you can achieve anything in life.

10.  S*** or get off the pot

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My all-time favorite piece of advice. Making decisions can be hard and scary, especially if the outcome could be getting hurt in the end. So, you either make a decision and roll with it no matter the outcome or you walk away.

Thanks, mom and dad for always being a phone call away when I need it! Just know that your advice and words of wisdom don't go unnoticed. For others, your parents have been on this planet much longer than you have and most likely experienced the same situations that you're dealing with. They don't have all the answers, but they are there to help.

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