Monday, September 19, 2016

5 things I learned from watching (and re-watching) Gilmore Girls.

We're two months away from Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and I've been binge-watching all seven seasons to prepare. (OK, let's be honest: I'd be binge-watching whether Netflix was doing a revival or not!)



Gilmore Girls has always been my "comfort show," the show I've turned to when I'm feeling sad or overwhelmed. It's also been a show I've watched with family and with friends, and laughed over and repeated the lines and shared inside jokes for years and years and years.

It's also a show that's given me a lot of life lessons, and on every re-watch of a season, I feel like I'm learning something new depending on where I am in life and what character I'm identifying with. Here are a couple of those lessons (just five for now, because if I don't limit it, I'll go on for paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs...) – mainly seen through the eyes of Rory, who I always identified with because we were closer in age while I was growing up and watching in real time (I also may or may not have majored in journalism because of the character...*cough*...):

1. Don't let relationships consume you. In Season 1, Episode 8 ("Love and War and Snow"), a newly coupled Rory and Dean are so focused on each other, that Rory doesn't realize she's been blowing Lane off. And if you've ever felt like a third wheel (I think we all have), you'll know it pretty much sucks. Later in the episode, Lane awkwardly runs her fingers through her high school crush's hair and when she tries to talk to Rory about it, they end up fighting. "I don't need you to be sorry," Lane says to her at one point. "I just need you to be there."

I've been the person before who's been ditched when her friend starts dating someone new, and I've also been the person who's done the ditching because of a new relationship. Both positions are crappy ones to be in. It's all just a matter of balance, right? Be happy and in love! But don't forget about your friends – especially when they need you the most.

2. Sometimes, you need to wallow. Whether you're going through heartbreak or just having a rough day, it's OK to be a hermit, binge-watch some TV, and have a good cry. Trying to go about as if everything is fine and you're not feeling hurt or upset only makes it worse. Case in point: Season 1, Episode 17 ("The Breakup, Part 2") when Rory and Dean break up. Rory refuses to wallow and tries to distract herself with to-do lists and activities, but suppressing those feelings only makes them hit twice as strong later.

Also, after the Lorelai and Luke breakup in Season 5, and she spends the day in bed in Episode 14 ("Say Something") while Rory takes care of her – I kind of loved that, because even if you're wallowing, it's always good to have another person there to remind you that it's OK. When friends try to talk you out of feeling sad, that sometimes just makes it worse.



3. Failure is a part of life and does not define you. It might seem like a not-so-obvious lesson considering our girl Rory is super smart, hits the jackpot in college admissions, is beloved by the whole town... but remember Season 4, Episode 14 ("The Incredible Sinking Lorelais") when Rory is told by a professor she should drop a class? At the same time, Lorelai was also dealing with feeling like a failure because plans with the inn are hitting all these financial snags. To top it off, mother and daughter keep playing phone tag, and by the end of the episode, they're both in tears and feeling hopeless.

Whenever I encounter failure or something doesn't go the way I had wanted or hoped or planned, it's tempting to want to cry and fall apart and give up. But just because that happens, it doesn't mean you can't keep moving forward. It doesn't mean you can't find another way to go about your path. Rory continues to be academically successful and graduate (er, even after that yacht-stealing incident...) and Lorelai opens that dream inn with her best friend. Things will always work out. It may not be the plan you originally laid out, but you'll get there eventually.

4. There's no shame in not enjoying what other people say you should enjoy. Both Lorelai and Rory have never been ones to follow popular trends, but they aren't snobby about it either. At least...not usually... (There's that Rory-Lindsay conversation in Season 3, Episode 19 ("Keg! Max!") where Lindsay talks about liking pop music like Michelle Branch, and Rory is still nice about it even though you can probably bet Rory is not rocking out to "Everywhere.")

But the episode I'm thinking about specifically is Season 4, Episode 17 ("Girls In Bikinis, Boys Doin' The Twist") when Rory and Paris go to Florida for spring break. It's 100% not their scene, but they try really hard to do what everyone else is doing and enjoy it...but they end up miserable.

It's important to remember that what other people enjoy is not exactly going to be what you enjoy. I used to be the kind of person who was nervous about experiencing FOMO if I didn't stay at that party until the very end or if I didn't head to that club at midnight (especially since I'm not a club kind of person!)...but then I realized: I don't have to do those things. And that might bring down my "cool factor" to some people, but I'm also pretty darn lucky to have some friends who respect when their introverted friends like to call it an early night, and other friends who share my interests in ice cream over Vegas nightclubs.


5. "Be in the moment." Let's face it: we all struggle from time to time with living in the present moment. There's a lot to be anxious about in the future and things to worry about from our past. In Season 4, Episode 2 ("The Lorelais' First Day at Yale"), when Rory walks into her dorm suite for the first time, she's so busy looking at her agenda and worrying about her torn campus map that she doesn't take the opportunity to really take in her surroundings. Lorelai makes her go back outside and walk in again so she doesn't miss that feeling of taking the next big step in life and being overwhelmed and proud of the possibilities to come.

That's a reminder I think we all need sometimes.

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