Monday, April 7, 2014

What I learned from How I Met Your Mother

  • You can have multiple best friends. Despite the struggles between Marshall, Ted, and Barney to claim sole bestfriendship with one another, they were all best friends. Also, as with Lily and Robin/Jillian (the teacher from her kindergarten), sometimes you just have different best friends for different reasons. But honestly, it's like picking a favorite child (I'm assuming): you can't do it. You love em for different reasons, but the same great amount. 
  • Before settling down, people should be able to pursue their individuality. If they can't do this together, then it may just be necessary that they do have to be apart. Lily couldn't have married Marshall without having moved to San Francisco first to try and pursue her art dreams. Robin couldn't have ended up with Ted without having traveled the world first. Ted couldn't have ended up with his heart yearning for someone else to love (that is, Robin) upon losing Tracy if he hadn't lived out his dream of being a father and a husband. The title of this show was, after all, "How I Met Your Mother." It wasn't "How Your Mother and I Fell In Love" or "How Your Mother and I Spent Our Time Together." It was about the process of learning and growing and running away and confronting and making mistakes that ended up leading to that moment under the yellow umbrella. And, of course, it was a sly dig towards his kids about whether or not they would be okay with him being with Aunt Robin.
  • Life is for the living. When someone you love dies, you feel aghast that the rest of the world doesn't stop and mourn with you. I'm sure Marshall felt the same way when his father passed away in the series, and Ted, too, must have felt stricken by Tracy's death. You end up tying your own fate to the deceased. We can't put our own lives on indefinite pause, though. Our loved ones who have had their lives stopped short would surely want for us to move on and do great things with ours.
  • We don't always get answers to the things we ask. This will always bother me as a philosophy student, despite the whole Socratic method of admitting to ignorance and lack of knowledge. Where did the pineapple come from? When did Robin become a bullfighter? (Ted's older self mentioned that in the Christmas episode where he put up lights in the living room for Robin: "Your Aunt Robin was many things . . . she was even a bullfighter at one point, I'll get to that . . . but there was one thing your Aunt Robin never was. She was never alone.") How do you play Marshgammon? What is that game Barney always played with the Asians in AC?? Did Ted ever win that tricycle belt? Who was Barney's baby mama?
  • The cheerleader effect is real. True for both girls and guys, as noted in the show itself, the cheerleader effect deludes onlookers into thinking that some group of people consists of attractive people when, observed individually, they are actually unsightly and awkward.

  • If you've got chemistry (i.e. compatibility, attraction, passion, intimacy, what have you) with someone, it's still not enough, because you need one other thing: timing. And this isn't something you can help. Whether it's because one or both of the parties are in a relationship, are not emotionally available, have starkly different priorities, are living somewhere completely different, are focused on work/career, are not mature enough, or simply are not into the other person, timing is something that has to solve itself. And, as the show has taught us, if something is worth being called 'legendary,' then we must wait for it.
  • Everything happens for a reason, but that reason is either subjective or not meant to be discovered until later on down the road. When adversity happens to you, you can either interpret it to be a sign that you're doing something wrong or a test to prove yourself and demonstrate how much you want whatever it is you're pursuing. Or when you simply don't know why something is happening to you, just put faith in the future. You will know the answer when you need to, and until then, you are still growing. If Stella never left Ted at the altar, if Ted never got the butterfly tattoo, if Barney hadn't proposed to the (then) love of Ted's life, he never would have met the mother.
  • Not everything has a clean closure of catharsis. As with the ending of the series itself, I was left wanting a little more, feeling unsettled and even indignant and cheated. But as with falling-outs and break-ups, there can't always be a clean break-up. There will be sunken costs that can never be recovered, innumerable unanswered questions, unresolved conflicts, and other loose ends... but you have to come to terms with the idea that you are big enough to deal with it--you are bigger than the lack of answers and confrontations, and your life is more than your problems. And sometimes, you may just have to compose the closure yourself.
  • You shouldn't have to wait for "signs" from the universe. The universe, I would hope, has better things to do than to hand you some stop/go signal for that job or that girl or that move. Just do it because you want to do it, not because of some foresight granted to you by "signs." If you're waiting on a sign from the universe, then maybe you are not ready to do it...
  • Making every night legendary means that, paradoxically, no night is legendary. I took a very brief but very necessary social break earlier this year, and in that time, I was at my apartment alone (apart from my room mate), watching TV and smoking hookah and reading by myself. It was calming and helped me recalibrate myself. I don't want to become desensitized to the awesomeness that is my friends' company and the adventures we go on together.
  • Making an ass of yourself for love is highly underrated. One of my best friends makes an absolute ass out of himself sometimes (though he doesn't show it to his friends) for the girls he falls for. He is just as much of a facebook/instagram stalker and text re-reader and conversation overanalyzing rehash-er as I'm sure Ted is. I know some other people who are like that, but they get called "thirsty" or "desperate" or "obsessed" or downright "creepy." Objectively speaking, I think it's pretty sweet and thoughtful, and I'm sad for them that they end up choosing the wrong people. Ted consistently made an ass of himself for Robin, and ultimately, that planted the idea of associating dependability and trustworthiness with Ted in Robin's mind.
  • Things almost never go as planned. Marshall planned on being an environmental lawyer, Ted planned on meeting the one by the time he was 23, Lily wanted to be an artist... But in pursuit of our elusive goals, we end up sometimes finding something even better. We can't rush to where we want to be and skip the journey. With that said...
  • Things have to fall apart to make way for better things. Can't build that skyscraper if the outdated hotel is still in its space. Can't meet the love of your life if you're with the wrong person. Can't get your dream job if you're working for a promotion at a job you hate.
  • There will be moments when you will lose faith. It's your determination and strong will (and probably some stubbornness) that will end up pushing you through, though.
  • People will find a way back into your life if they really want to. That is, they can recognize that having you in their life is more important than their pride. They can apologize to you for wrongdoings and own up to their debts. They can reconnect with you if they miss your company.
  • You will get too old for some shit (see: Murtaugh list), but not for others (see: Barney's playbook being resurrected upon his divorce). You decide.
  • Consolation prizes might actually be destroying the integrity of people's will and motivation. Yes, it's good to have fun, but participation trophies and the like go against the very purpose of trophies and prizes. To be honest, I myself find them insulting. I don't need your charity. I lost, don't rub salt in the wounds by giving me something you and I both know I don't deserve.
  • More than anything, this show has taught me how to move on. When I was going through my own break-ups, I heavily relied on this show to distract me and provide me with some sense. I ended up being able to apply so much of what Ted learned to my own heartbreaks.
  • In relationships, there has to be both conflict and support. While Ted and Zoe fought over almost every issue that divided them as a couple, Marshall and Lily constantly supported each other despite individual misgivings. Both parties went mad at some point. Bottom line is, stay honest with each other, but know to pick your battles; it's better to lose the argument than to lose the person.

  • "The One" is more of a subjective concept than it is an actual objective, indefinite/discrete entity of a person that transcends your notion of love. There may be the "one" for your specific timing/situation. Robin was the one when Ted had first met her. Stella was the one after that. Tracy was the one after eight or so years of going through other trials that helped shape who he was (including thinking that Stella was the one). Robin was the one six years after Tracy had passed away and Ted was ready to love again.
  • Tight-knit groups drift apart. It's happened already for me with my high school group. One of my best friends from high school went to Duke and then moved out to San Francisco. Another went to Berklee College of Music and is now living in Boston. Another stayed in-state for college, but then moved to Los Angeles and is planning on staying there for at least another year. Thankfully, I still have a lot of my best friends within driving distance of this area... but I bet that within 5-10 years, some (or even all) of us will move and go our separate ways. Some of us will get married and start raising kids and only be able to hang out with other parents. Some of us will end up traveling the world. But as we move on with our lives, we will end up developing different social circles. I do plan on ending up in the same nursing home as one or two of my best friends, though. We've talked about this. It's happening.
  • People do get divorced. Being a millenial in my 20's, I see a lot of people on Facebook posting up engagement/wedding announcements, and I feel very happy for them. So many of them (if not all of them) seem perfect for each other, and I envy them for their happiness. But as one of my more cynical friends put it, "Who cares if they're already getting married? It just means they'll get divorced sooner than I do." Yes, divorce happens. I don't know if I'm just cynical because my own parents got divorced, but I think divorce will happen in my future too, only because I'm not a very static person in terms of priorities and preferences and even personality; I change every couple of years, and that's bound to create conflict with my significant other... I would hope it doesn't, but I need to be realistic and prepared.
  • People do get terminally ill. Poor Ted and Tracy. I would be so fortunate as to simply die of old age, perhaps even peacefully in my sleep or in my deathbed after I say goodbye to my loved ones. But illnesses don't care how old/young you are or how much you're loved or how good of a person you are or how many people you have to stay alive for and care for. My cousin has been battling pancreatic cancer since April 2012, when he was only 39. My aunt on the same side of the family died of brain cancer in 2005 in her late 60's. My uncle (the aforementioned cousin's dad) had esophageal cancer and now has lung cancer going into his mid- to late-70's. My own dad has been having health issues for the past couple of months. I'm grateful that no other people in my life are sick. Illness can happen to absolutely anyone.
  • What you want changes over time, mostly because your expectations change over time. This is perfectly epitomized in everyone's reaction to the finale: so many of us were outraged over Ted and Robin getting back together. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't all of us actually want Ted and Robin to be together at some point? And we agonized over the fact that future Ted would always refer to her as "Aunt Robin" because it meant that they really didn't end up together, no matter how much we wanted them to. I got painfully sympathetic for Ted every time Robin rejected him, and I was furious with Robin when she would realize what a great guy Ted was only when it was too late. Eventually, I accepted that they wouldn't be together, and I eventually wanted Ted to go ahead and meet the mother and fall obliteratingly in love with her. Funny thing is, after I accepted they wouldn't be together, they end up being together vis-a-vis the finale. Also note, in the Pilot episode, Ted is talking abstractly about his future wedding with the Lebanese girl that turned out to be dating Carl, and he said he wants a "band, no DJ." He was so anti-band for Robin & Barney's wedding! Although, of course, that might also have been more about a band being a metaphor for Barney in general.
  • It's more about the investment itself than the return and outcome. Economically speaking, a sunken cost results from an investment from which you don't get sufficient return, and you cannot recover the losses. The biggest sunken cost for us, of course, is time. The time we put into relationships and pursuing dreams can never be recovered. We should spend our time wisely doing the things we love with the people we love.
  • Every ending is a new beginning.

Farewell to a show that I bonded with people over, a show I learned a lot of lessons from, and a show that got me through some tough times.

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