Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Illusion of Adulthood

After having both read and watched Eat, Pray, Love, I can easily say what struck me the most about the story was its ‘heroine.’  In all honesty, I started reading in the (admittedly bitter) mindset of what can be roughly summed up as: ‘here is this newly-thirty, wildly successful, accomplished, and fortunate woman blathering (for lack of a better/more sensitive word) on about her boy-troubles ad nauseam.’  I agreed with Depression and Loneliness wholeheartedly when they accused Liz of being selfish and immature.  But, I soon reevaluated my rash and generally unfair judgment of the candid Liz Gilbert when I reluctantly began to see something of myself in her character.
            I’d like to think that my (just short of crippling) feelings of uncertainty about my future post-graduation are not individual.  As college seniors, my peers and I are at a stage in our lives when we must define the trajectory of our careers and future relationships, and that is a very scary, almost unfathomable thought to me.  There is no option except to be proactive, as even the lack of choice in these matters could set your path in stone—or so it so often seems.  We are dangerously close to the age at which our society expects us to “have it all figured out,” or, in other words, be a self-sustaining adult. 
But what is this great “it” that we are expected to have had a sudden and fundamental epiphany about?  Should we really be held accountable to know our identity for the rest of our lives at the age of 21 or 22?  What does it even truly mean to be an adult?  I think, as Liz Gilbert does in an exceptionally catastrophic and elaborate way, most individuals reach a point (or points) in their life when they must examine who they are, decide if that’s who they really want to be, and act accordingly depending on their decision. 
Liz’s story is an overwhelmingly hopeful one in this regard.  One thing that can definitively be said of Liz is that she never loses her quirky and refreshing take on life.  Even as she describes the vicious cycle of her extreme neediness and the resulting debilitating ostracism from her boyfriend David which causes what may be her most extreme bout of depression, she manages to slip in the aside, “(Dating tip: Men LOVE this)” [Gilbert, 20].  I remember I actually scoffed aloud reading this line; it was so completely unexpected and surprisingly hilarious given the almost inappropriate context.  This was a moment when I started to gain a little more respect for Gilbert and began to see the tenacity that lay beneath the surface that I had previously dismissed as nothing more than complaints from an entitled and unaware individual.

We’ve talked in class about how humor can be used as a buffer to bring certain subjects to the table that may otherwise be taboo.  Eat, Pray, Love is a perfect example of this kind of power at work.  Gilbert doesn’t make a joke of or make light of her struggles with identity and depression, but instead makes humorous and witty observations that make the subject matter more palatable and less intimidating and devastating than it can be for readers.  This is an approach that establishes an acceptance of this issues, but also determination to move past them to self-actualization.

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