As we move through Capricorn Season and into 2016, I am reminded of a phrase I came across (on tumblr, where else) two New Year's Eves ago: "the lust of recognition." I copied it down into my journal, allowing it plenty of white space—enough breathing room to remind Future Me of its significance to New Year's Eve 2013 Me. Farther down the page, I transcribed a couple lines from Sierra DeMulder's Unrequited Love Poem:
"imagine telling him / unimaginable things like you are always / ticking inside of me and I dream of you / more often than I don't. / My body is a dead language / and you pronounce / each word perfectly."
What is it about romance (or, more specifically, breakups) and moving from innocence to experience and shedding old selves that make us crave familiarity? It’s that feeling you get when an ex’s name pops up on your screen for the first time in a while and just for a moment, you forget about all the growing and all the learning and all the ways you have not yet died in the time since you’ve last spoken to them. You get that rush of remembering and it feels right; strangely, violently. It’s that feeling when you begin a new task, a new relationship or a new job, and your hands reject the newness because the oldness is muscle memory. They shake.
So much of this lust of/for recognition is fear. That seems a clear enough explanation. Starting All Over is really. Fucking. Hard. And thanks to the ashes of past failures, it is a very human habit to recoil from potential ones. But it also seems to me that a large part of this lust is selectivity—often a dangerous, misguided way of deciding what will stick and what will be forgotten. It's putting a soundtrack to certain memories; "Fever Dream" by Iron & Wine: that night we ate homemade mac & cheese and drank red wine and folded into each other on your dad’s sofa; "Flowers in Your Hair" by The Lumineers: New Year’s Day 2013, driving to a frozen lake and walking around in the snow, still wearing last night’s pajamas and slippers and party hats; "Dear Prudence" by The Beatles: sitting on a wooden bench in the summertime and listening to a new friend sing, looking up at the night sky and thinking about this weird organic principle of Self Generated Openness.
These types of scrapbook snapshot memories often have very specific emotions/vibes/lyrics attached to them. But the problem with this Instagram Filter Effect is when it extends beyond days and nights into whole eras: years, seasons, versions of selfhood, and—worst of all—relationships. Romanticizing a person and your relationship to them does both of you a great disservice. People are complicated, life is complicated. If we choose to forget the bad parts and only remember a difficult/transformative/Emotional Roller Coaster relationship through a rose-colored lens, we find ourselves pining after what has passed rather than what is possibly ahead. The human experience is not so easily simplified.
2016 holds so much promise (seven days in and it’s looking pretty good to me, folks. Refer to Gabby Noone’s genius tweet about eyeing the upcoming 358 days like a Kardashian judging another Kardashian’s outfit). On the 13th of January, I’m heading to Madrid for a semester abroad. I’m going to study Spanish literature and culture and intern at a travel magazine and hopefully take myself on weekend dates to Paris, Barcelona, and London. I might spend this summer in New York City, if I have anything to say about it. And then, out of nowhere, I’m a senior in college. 2016 is BIG.
And yet, I’m scared. There is so much uncertainty in all of these enticing and exciting opportunities, and I am someone who likes to be in control. I like to be in a situation and have it all figured out. I always want to be the person who knows what’s up. My lust of/for recognition tends to be strong, and hinders me from forward motion and change.
As I try to work through this intense vulnerability on this very public forum, here’s a list of inspirations/thought provokers to guide/expand upon this theme until Aquarius Season sneaks up on us (I’m a lister. Another very Capricorn-esque quality about me):
- Jay Gatsby's destructive quest to win back Daisy Buchanan and his famously deluded line: "'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!'"
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: forgetting means we don't learn but remembering is painful. To what extent are we driven by our desires for comfort and familiarity? i.e. gravitating, repeating, staying, getting back together. Hair dye masquerading as change/progress/newness, but the same person remains underneath.
- This quote by Chuck Klosterman from Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story. The idea that there is always one person "who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people."
- The habit of association/constant reminders of painful recognition
- Louise Bourgeois’ Ode Â L’oubli: “I had a flashback of something that never existed.” Mistaking creation and imagination for memory, intentionally or otherwise. Crafting our own narratives. Repurposing memory and experience for our own benefit, in order to grow in a different direction.
- This piece of advice I once got, about how to get over somebody: “change what they mean to you.”
- This entry in my journal from January 13, 2014: “I don’t want to just be strangers with some shared memories.”