So last, last, last Friday, I sat down with my BFF Pau (one of the greatest human otters in all existence) for our customary movie night extravaganza. Because nothing says weekend like comfy sweaters, popcorn in smiley face bowls, Netflix (of course!) and a glass of white wine. By a glass of wine I mean ONE SINGLE glass because we are actually 85 and more than one leaves us snoring mid movie, especially Pau (she’s a total narcoleptic sloth in the best of ways).
As you can see we are definitely exciting AF people.
In any case, we sat down to watch Dirty 30 and, let me tell you, it hit us right in the existential feels.
The movie centers around an orthodontist’s assistant (shout out to assistants errywhere) about to turn 30 who realizes her life is nothing like she pictured it would be at 16. She has a mild existential crisis (#storyofmylife) prompting her two best buds to throw her a blowout birthday bash rager filled with keg stands, jello shots, TP-ing, emergency tooth extractions, surprising blasts from the past, matching T-shirts (the best kind), flannel and lots and lots of wacky BFF shenanigans.
Now, the movie is great. It’s funny, charming and ridiculous enough for Friday night bonding friendship time, but it also made me think about the crazy, nagging monster called EXPECTATIONS.
Expectations of careers, lifestyle choices, friendships, romance, family, beliefs, or even suitable gym routines and proper footwear.
Expectations of who we should be and how successful we will be or deserve to be.
But where do these even come from?
They are dictated to us, forced down our throats, by culture, parents, strangers on the subway, and, most unfortunately, by our own selves. We create these unreal expectations for ourselves all the time and then feel constantly let down by reality when it doesn’t look as rosy, as brilliant and as flashy as we imagined in our personal dreamscapes.
We are all scrambling to be “fulfilled” in life, at work and in love. But what is it to be fulfilled anyway? How do you even know if you are? Is there a checklist? Where can I get it?
It’s almost as if we are under this insane internal pressure to excel above all else and be unique and inspiring, forcing ourselves to question our own happiness on the reg as we eternally reach for loud and grandiose future selves.
This anxiety is at the core of the movie: how expectations frame our views, or rather, how our happiness is conditioned by expectations.
At the end of the movie, Kate, our newly 30-year-old protagonist, realizes she doesn’t want to go to grad school and become an orthodontist, but is actually happy where she is, doing what she is doing, feeling how she is feeling.
It’s a refreshing outlook, especially nowadays when most optimist movies focus more on reinvention and success. A protagonist who feels stuck in her life/job/relationship one day decides to take a leap of faith, turn her life around and FINALLY follow her dream of becoming a boxer/ballerina/french pastry chef/stand-up comedian/mystery novelist/environmental lawyer and live in a vineyard with her adopted dogs or whatever.
And while I am not condemning these narratives – I’m a sucker for a good “follow your dreams” story and I’ve kareoke’d hardcore to “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” more than I should – I think there is something enriching in accepting your own happiness and not letting others/your own expectations drag you down.
Just because you had dreams as a child doesn’t mean those dreams don’t change over time. It doesn’t mean that you can’t find happiness and fulfillment from doing what you are doing regardless of how simple and real it may look to your 16 year old self.