It’s been a long while since I’ve written something on this blog. That hasn’t been by design. Life has just had a funky way to get in and short circuit writing chances and desires. Long work hours. Brain cells eliminated. Desire obliterated.
But given today is my birthday, I am going to use it as a gentle push to get my writing back on track. Death or glory! OK, maybe more headache or glory.
Given it is my birthday, it allows me a chance to reflect. Things I’ve done and not done. Ideas that have gone somewhere. Those that have gone nowhere. Plans, machinations and schemes. Hopes that came through and those that died along the way. And, obviously, a refocusing on goals for the future.
Which brings me to the header above.
If you’ve seen Crazy, Stupid Love, you know that’s the frequently quoted advice Ryan Gosling’s character gives Steve Carrell’s. The Gosling is playing a Lothario-like character, smooth and certain in the ways of love, who takes Carrell’s recently-separated, middle-aged father under his wing for a course in modern-day seduction. Step one is to rebuild your exterior image. So out go the New Balance sneakers and in come dress shoes. Out go the short-sleeve t-shirts and in come designer collared, dress shirts with dress jackets. During this day of remake, Carrell remarks about slacks that there might be a sale over at the Gap. This causes Gosling to walk away from the store and Carrell is forced to give chase.
Then Gosling turns to him and tells him, “Be better than the Gap. Be. Better. Than. The. Gap.”
By which he means that he shouldn’t just go buy clothing from the Gap because it’s cheap and convenient. Instead, he should put some effort into how he looks and demand more out of himself. Carrell has been settling for too long and taken the easy way out. The Gap, in a sense, represents all the ways he has stopped caring about his own self; taking the convenient and easy path in his life. A path which has resulted in his wife cheating on him and leaving him and forcing him into a funk of doubt and confusion.
Not surprisingly, it is one of the things that have most resonated with people from what is otherwise a pretty straight and saccharine movie. (The other thing is Emma Stone going “Fuck! It’s like you’re Photoshopped!” to Gosling. But that’s because Emma Stone is cute and her cussing is adorable) It’s not a bad movie, but the thought does stick in the mind.
I think it’s because we all settle, at one point or another, for the Gap. And it doesn’t just mean the Gap (not to pick on them). We eat fast food cause it’s there and it’s cheap and cooking a healthy meal when we’re tired is too much. We opt to go the gym only when everything else falls away — as if our health won’t deteriorate. We go to the same crummy job for 15 years because it’s easier than to go back to school or strike out for something new. We refuse to recognize our feelings in a worn relationship because to break it off is more difficult and we’re comfortable. We do the same thing over and over again and end up in a disappointed and rote cycle that we bemoan and cringe at, but can never seem to break.
And I’m as guilty as anyone of doing this.
It’s easy to settle. It’s easy to make excuses and give reasons why we couldn’t do the things that pushed us further. Fact is I, like many others, have been either lazy or eager to avoid the potential failure. Why apply for that job when I’m not likely to get it? Why ask that girl out if she’ll just shoot me down? So I stayed on my side of the road, on my part of town, in my own little shell.
I settled for the Gap.
But if there’s one thing that’s dawned on me today, it’s that this is the long march to death. It’s death by a thousand pinpricks. So if I’m going to make any one change for this year, it’s to be better than the Gap. To be better than what I have allowed myself to accept — of myself and of others. To be willing to dare new things, try new things and force myself out of the same old rot that has occasionally run roughshod over my life.
I’ll end with another quote from a different movie. This one from David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune. Take it away, Duke Leto Atreides:
“A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”