I know I’m beyond fashionably late to the party, but over the past two months I’ve developed a keen and fascinating love for the TV sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.” I’m not going to go on and on about how smart the sarcastic banter between characters is, or how heartbroken I am that Marshmallow Marshall and Lilypad Lily aren’t a couple in real life, or how awesome it would be to have a group of best friends who live in the same city and drink at the same bar 5/7 nights of the week. Like I said, I’m not going to get into it.
What I am going to dive into is how each episode, for the most part, explores some kind of universal human condition. We sit down to lose ourselves in comedic dialogue for 21 minutes (damn those commercials) and the whole time, we’re relating what is happening in the show to our personal experiences. We’ve all pulled a Barney (OK, maybe not a full-fledged Barney, but making out with a random brunette in the back of a bar is close enough). I was your typical Robin for at least a year—no boyfriend, no commitment, no problem. I haven’t been a Ted since middle school, when writing my crush’s name in hearts on my notebook was considered normal. And lezbihonest, who hasn’t considered pulling a Lily, at least one point in their lives, with or without celebrity girl fantasies involved? You’re lying if you answered “no” to the last question, and should therefore refer to Jenna Marbles’ video entitled “Girl Crushes.” I wish I could say I’ve been the Marshall of the bunch, but he’s just too funny to even imitate.
Combined, they have a certain chemistry that has been absent from late-night television ever since the cast of “Friends” made us cry hysterically in fetal positions and wave goodbye to 10 years of Coffee House memories. Combined, the HIMYM cast, both separately and together, stumble upon conflicts and dilemmas that tug at our heartstrings every now and again. When you’re left at the altar, how do you learn to love again? When you lose a loved one unexpectedly, how do you cope with the loss? When your back is up against the wall and you’re forced to choose, which path will you take? Maybe they’re unsure at first, just like we are; but eventually, they listen to their gut reaction, because it’s never wrong.
In light of recent events (which I’ll divulge at the end, I promise), I want to talk about a particular HIMYM episode I’ve dubbed “Graduation Goggles.” Stemming from the original catch phrase “beer goggles,” which refers to one’s inability to view a person’s level of attractiveness clearly due to high amounts of alcohol intake, “graduation goggles” explores a similar phenomenon. Let’s compare our lives to novels. Each section is broken down into chapters that touch upon different themes within the novel; kind of like how our lives are categorized according to our age progression. When we flip from one chapter to the next, we’re leaving behind our experiences from the previous chapter and leaping into the unknown pages of the next. It feels as though we begin the first chapter, become bored with it, and prematurely anticipate the start of a new one. It isn’t until we get to that last paragraph, or that last day, when we start to wonder if we’re ready to flip the page just yet. Have we learned enough to prepare us for what lies ahead? Are all those annoyances that used to bother the hell out of us really that bad? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “graduation goggles,” the strange yet wildly common side effect of growing up.
Of course, the term isn’t limited to a “graduation” per say, but think of it as a metaphor for “moving on” in a more general sense; graduating from one part of your life to the next. Think back to your college graduation; which if you’re an actual twentysomething, shouldn’t be too much of a memory stretch. When I think back to mine, I remember feeling overwhelmed and sincerely shocked by my emotional reaction to leaving Manhattanville College. For four long years, I dreamed of the day when I would leave behind the awkward campus run-ins and 15-page research papers and finally start my journey toward editorial success. Wishful thinking on my part, because when those last two weeks rolled around, I was anything but excited to walk across that stage and receive my diploma. My emotions became clouded by all of the good memories I made throughout my college career: mid-day runs to Dunkin Donuts because campus coffee wasn’t cutting it; skipping class to sit on the Quad and do homework people watch; pre-gaming and photo shoots before taking the drunk bus Valiant to White Plains. They all came flooding back, serving as constant reminders that my time at Mville went from four years to fourteen days in what seemed like the blink of an eye. I forgot about the aggressive verbal altercations with the financial aid office because my balance was inaccurate. I forgot about the non-existent crappy Wifi that made Skype conversations completely useless. I forgot about the weekend stays in the library stacks because “procrastination” became my middle name. All of the negative memories took a temporary leave of absence and were replaced by candy hearts and smiley faces. Why? Because I was wearing my graduation goggles. Maybe fear was the catalyst, or hoping the timing would slow down just enough to savor the last few days. Regardless, I went from “I can’t wait to graduate” to “I don’t want to leave” in a matter of weeks.
It’s the same with every level of graduation: graduating from your parent’s house (but I’ll miss the home-cooked meals and free laundry), graduating from a bad relationship (he only cheated on me twice) or graduating from fair-weather friends (we were super close in fifth grade)—we create reasons to continue the charade instead of hopping off the train once and for all. Kind of Exactly like what happened when I graduated from my first job and landed a new position in the media world. Immediately, I was thrilled. This kind of an opportunity doesn’t knock on your door every day; so when faced with the decision to stay at my current job (fully loaded with a high salary and awesome co-workers) or start over in my field of interest and work my way up from the bottom rung, I jumped at the chance. I handed in my two weeks notice, wrapped up my final projects, and was down to one day. One measly day left, and my graduation goggles turned up out of nowhere. Doesn’t it always happen like that?
All of a sudden, with impressively persuasive force, the pleasant memories of working there were all I could think about. The catered lunches, the easy walk to Grand Central, a Starbucks located in the same building, and of course, an amazing band of co-workers. It wasn’t until I handed out my hugs and goodbyes and left the office that I realized how manipulative those damn graduation goggles were. It was official: they suckered me into an unchartered fantasy world where everything I hated about my job mysteriously vanished into thin air and was replaced by the limited advantages that it offered.
In retrospect, I can’t blame myself for falling prey to the goggle monster. It wasn’t like it was the first time this happened to me. All of those examples I mentioned before? Good guess, they were my old goggles. I cried like a sleep-deprived infant when it came time for me to move out of my parents’ house and into my new apartment. I kept running back to the same old flames because of my absurd emotional connection to all but five good memories. I gave chance after chance to lifetime friends because I was too wrapped up in the old friendships to realize the unbalanced see-saw act that it had turned into. It was my decision to hold onto those empty parts of my life, and it was my decision to finally let them go.
The next time you find yourself scouring your dusty shelves for on an old pair of graduation goggles, think before you act. Think about your initial reasoning for wanting to move on in the first place. Think of “graduating” as cutting the loose ends from your life. Hell yes, it’s scary—but it’s OK to be scared. Point me to a person who has succeeded without ever having to stare fear in the face. When it comes to growing up and reaching your goals, fear is always a factor. It’s whether or not you can rise to the occasion and train your confidence to outweigh those fears that is the determinant.
As for me, I’m officially retiring my graduation goggles. All they ever lead to is temporary second-guessing and alligator tears. Where was I exactly one month ago? Stuck in a job that I was passionless about. Where was I two weeks ago? In an emotional rut because I didn’t know whether or not I was making the right decision. Where am I now? In the beginning stages of a project I’ve dubbed “Dream Job.”
If Marshall can ditch the suit, tie, and high paying salary for environmental law, I can walk an extra block to Starbucks and get my foot in the media door. You know what this means, right? It means that I just pulled a Marshall. Sorry in advance if you aren’t privy to the HIMYM references, but it’s your own fault for sleeping on one of the best shows on television.