Over the past two weeks I’ve been watching every episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” my first ever CBS sitcom, and a show that I don’t love, hate how closely it seems to a bad version of Scrubs and Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but have tolerated.
By tolerated, I mean delusion-ally drew contrasts and similarities to my own situation in life for the past few years. There’s the connections, the things that, in the moment, seem emotionally hard to even think about because I’ve been there. There’s the differences, which are quickly forgotten because of some douchey line that you’ve said to a girl that the main character just said himself!
There’s the storyline, late 20’s / early 30’s group of friends hanging out, getting into hijinks and pushing through life, with the main character, Ted, showing the horrible, random, and ultimately depressing push through dating the wrong people on the way to his soul mate which makes it all worth it.
The problem is these things aren’t real. They’re characters, and stories, and while they are based on real life, and the ideas of real people, television shows romanticize things, and can tell a sad story in 22 minutes, next week being able to turn the page and make things funny, or happy, or touching with ease.
Life doesn’t do that. You may have 3-4 moments in life when you can take the bull by the horns and tell someone what you really know. What you really want, and what is the scariest thing to ever say out loud, knowing that the other person may not react how you hope. Those things happen in TV shows, and sometimes it’s love. Sometimes, it’s a mutual understanding that helps the character move on, and realize that this isn’t the right time and place for this to happen in the plot.
In real life, sometimes, you hear what you always wanted to hear, realizing a few hours, days, weeks, or god forbid, years later that you weren’t right. You didn’t love this person, you didn’t want to say that one thing to a parent or friend. Sometimes, they say exactly what you knew they would say, and you realize you said it too late, or too early. That you knew what was coming and maybe you just wanted to be able to say it so that you said it out loud, when you’re looking back depressed weeks later.
In real life, people move in, and out, of your life constantly, some through the finality of death that you, maybe, never get fully over. Some are in out over a period of time, and then in firmly for a longer one. Others, are in and out and then never seen again. In real life, you may never get that chance with the girl, and you may fuck it up brutally without learning any lesson whatsoever.
In real life some bad decisions aren’t lessons, they are just horrible decisions that will affect you at another point in your life, or that you may never deal with the consequences for. In real life sadness sucks, and you tell yourself and your friends that you like that, because it makes the happy times so much better. In real life you only mean that some times. There are others where it is the worst, and you aren’t OK, but have to put on the strong face for yourself and those that actually care about you.
In real life seeing the crazy girl you dated break down isn’t remotely funny. While looking back, there are some stories that make you laugh, but most of them are about how stupid you are, not how horrible it was to see someone you cared about “hate you.” In real life, you either write that person off forever, because you tell yourself that they were nuts, and were horrible for you, but also realize that they changed your life immensely, and brought value in as much as they tore you down.
In real life, you don’t sit around like Ross having a good time while Rachael is one of the friends, you are tormented by it, and just wish that things could be different, until they are.
In real life, disease sucks, and the current events of the people you care about gets dark at times. Yes, there’s light, and a lot of good, but TV rarely nails how bad the bad is, when it’s someone you would do anything for, but can’t, including yourself, going through these bad things.
In real life no one cares when you are faltering, and honestly, they shouldn’t because it won’t matter until you do yourself. In real life, you watch TV to get as close to reality as possible, while wanting a glazed over version that provides a lesson, or heart-warm, or hilarity.
In real life, the TV seasons end, and it’s on to another show, which can be as different as Game of Thrones is to Downton Abby. In real life, you have to confront the issues that are coming at you, even if some of them are unfixable, unchangeable.
In real life, the guy getting the girl turns into horrific divorce, or even complacency over decades that drags at your soul when you look back with regrets in the future.
But, in real life you do have control over some of your own actions. You don’t call that ex up because you realize that the times you’ve done it it has been unfair to you and to her. You don’t keep wallowing because you just tire of it, and move on to something new. You fixate on your job, on fitness, on a sports team, or on some new person you date. You ruin some if, you fix some other things. You realize that a quote you picked in the high school yearbook, with about 30 seconds of thought, is more meaningful to you now than ever. “Success is not forever, and failure is not fatal.”
In real life the stories that are already written, are viewed differently when you look back, dependent on where you are that moment in time. There is no chance to change what is written, or put out a directors cut so to speak, but you view events of the past through a different lens.
If real life, when the show is over you have to move on. You have to start to write your next episode, even if you’re not ready. Or sometimes you can stop, and pause to watch 9 seasons of an above average CBS sitcom for a week, but where does that get you?