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The things that don’t spark joy

We’ve all seen Marie Kondo and her organization wizardry on Netflix, preaching her secret key to not being a hot mess: if the object doesn’t “spark joy,” throw it away. I am a hot (arguable) mess, and I hold onto things that spark sadness, frustration, nostalgia and humiliation. 

For years, I’ve obsessively preserved souvenirs from defining moments and memories, not in the form of postcards and magnets but random trinkets that I would declare as “sentimental” according to my arbitrary, melodramatic discretion. 

Up to this point, I view my decisively uneventful timeline in a series of peaks and valleys, and the valleys somehow seem so much more monumental than the peaks — and so, sorry, Marie, but I’ll be holding on to the things that remind me of all my existential crises and crying sessions to Frank Ocean. 

If, hypothetically, all of my possessions were to be in one place, and that one place was to catch on fire, I would want all of the below objects to be salvaged. Not just the things that spark joy. 

The orange dreamcatcher my middle school friend made for me when I was moving away. We haven’t been in touch for years, and I’m sure she has no idea that it’s dangled from the window in every single bedroom I’ve slept in since. 

The one pair of wired headphones I keep in my backpack even when I have fully charged AirPods. The same headphones that drowned out Seoul subway announcements and New York City traffic.

My diary from my junior year of high school, pages filled with what in retrospect read like an extensive nervous breakdown. This was my most unapologetic, uninhibited version and she was someone I would love to find again.  

The battered, pink golf glove I still have in my stand bag from when I took lessons with matching pink kiddie clubs. 

The copy of “The Sun Also Rises” that I like to bring on flights, recommended to me years ago by a boy who I no longer speak to. The underlines and folded page corners still remain from when I first read it, scouring for insightful comments I could make to impress him. 

My grandmother’s gold ring that I haven’t taken off my right ring finger in years, somehow enwrapping my skin perfectly like lock and key. 

The hotel keycards from my favorite high school trips: Paris, The Hague, Singapore. Remembering the stifled laughter behind those doors and how we snuck out the fire escape and had to prop up a water bottle to keep it open for when we’d return at dawn. 

The recording microphone I have from the one week I was convinced that I was meant to be a songwriter. Quick abandonment came after realizing that my limited vocal range and knowledge of five guitar chords equated to a blatant lack of talent. 

The empty Kodak film canister that I turned into a keychain, dangling from my car keys, now a hollowed shell that reminds me of the best summer I ever had and the photos that were developed to tell the tale.

All my nametags and placards from past Model UN conferences, back when my favorite hobby was dressing up in heels and debating world issues with little to no idea what I was really talking about. 

The sweatshirt from my dream university that I kept even after the pure devastation of that rejection email because it is as much a token of my teenage ambitions and efforts as it is of my redirection.

The classic, comfort teddy bear that I’ve had since I was five, with its green Harrods ribbon still miraculously intact.

The plane ticket from Frankfurt to Seoul the morning after I graduated. I sat in my window seat and watched as my city turned into a tiny speck, distorted by the clouds, and I waited until the cabin crew was gone to let myself sob. 

In her consulting program, Marie shares that “to put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.” I choose to keep my past a part of my present, in convoluted disarray of the objects I arguably have no use for anymore. These are the tactile reminders of my past twenty years, and I love nothing more than shuffling through them whenever I’m home on break. My cabinets may be overflowing, but there is plenty of room for decades more of clutter to come. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying finance with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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For the plot

Not too long ago, I came across an online video about “doing it for the plot.” It was a casual, 15-second clip about how the irrational decisions and impulsive choices we make, despite how bad the short-term consequences may seem, should be seen as contributions to the “plot” of our lives, as opportunities for adaptation and growth. The idea is that we’re in the director’s seat, writing out our own script at all times.

This perspective resonated with me, as it gave me refreshing solace for all the questionable judgments that have constructed my own plotline. I feel that I’m at a crossroads in my life where I often find myself questioning whether I’m too old to get caught up in juvenile melodrama, all the while feeling terrifyingly unprepared for adult responsibilities. It’s comforting to think that if there ever was a time for me to commit to the plot, it would be now. 

In consistency with this analogy, we see the beauty of flawed judgment calls in some of TV’s most beloved protagonists and how their respective plots unfold. As a young woman encountering her early 20’s, I turn to categorically “chick-flick” characters for guidance and affirmation. From Rory Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls” to Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City” or Jessica Day in “New Girl”, there have been countless occasions on which I would roll my eyes at the women on screen and their recklessness, their insecurities or their theatrics. But these traits are exactly what keeps me coming back to these comfort shows. 

It’s the fact that while we are quick to label these realistically flawed characters as “annoying” or “overdramatic” for their decisions or reactions, protagonists are meant to blunder and mess up. I doubt I would have the same devotion to Rory if I didn’t relate to her career crises or her fixation on academic achievement, or to Carrie if I didn’t see a bit of myself in the impracticality of her financial or romantic priorities. How dull and unrealistic would these shows be if all these girls did was read self-help books and immediately find productive purpose in their lives? 

It may seem frivolous to take this perspective to validate every misguided turn we take. An impulsive haircut or an overly emotional text message could fill us with regret or even embarrassment that surely could have been prevented by a second of further thought. But as of right now, these “wrong” decisions seem to be some of the most significant factors that help me figure out what would have been the “right” thing to do, and what it is that I really need at this point in my plot. It’s an over-simplistic, perhaps even imprudent mindset to treat our day to day lives as a growing plotline, but there’s a liberating sense in the idea that when every episode in each season comes to a conclusion, we are left with a new beginning and a series of lessons behind us. 

Doing it for the plot doesn’t have to mean blind commitment to irrational decisions. Often it is just as simple as splurging on online shopping and having to work an extra shift the next week, going on a bad date and getting to recap it with your girlfriends or underperforming on an exam and realizing that you might have chosen the wrong major. 

Call it youthful indiscretion, call it material for the memoir I’ll be writing once I gain world fame, call it Gen-Z’s response to the millennials’ overworn “YOLO” trademark. Call it what you want, but we’re doing it all for the plot. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying Finance with a minor in Journalism. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos, and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80’s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author, not necessarily those of The Observer.

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A gap in time

My parents are sitting in the living room with the 9 p.m. news on, my mom sipping on a cup of tea. College move-in is only a week away and my bags are all over the house, haphazardly overflowing with clothes, bedsheets and books. “I think I want to take a year off,” I tell them. The glow of the TV reflects off the glass coffee table and the reporter rambles on about the economy, the weather, maybe a corrupt politician. Alright, they tell me, okay. 

Coping with the outbreak of COVID-19 was turbulent for the whole world. It accentuated the sobering acknowledgement of how fortunate some of us were to have access to the resources and communities to keep us in health and safety. At the brunt of things, it was still impossible not to hyper-fixate on its personal, objectively smaller inconveniences. But my peers and I had never dealt with a global crisis with such permeating immediacy, and I think it is worth noting the validity of the adversities we experienced, the frustration and discomposure that came with our measurably changed lives. 

I was a senior in the class of 2020, completing my fourth year living in Germany. The ending to that chapter was meant to be poetic memories of a senior trip to Greece, a prom with an open bar, a ceremonial post-exam disposal of IB textbooks. All the emblematic rewards we had been promised for years were canceled and replaced with masks and online classes.

After a socially-distanced graduation ceremony, my family moved to Seoul. And I was experiencing an ugly burnout. I was burnt out from the last years of schooling across three continents, five cities and eight schools. I was burnt out from COVID-19 diminishing my goodbyes and clouding the next year with uncertainties. 

I spent the summer completing forms,  joining group chats and getting to know other incoming Notre Dame first years. I watched YouTube videos of game days, packed my winter clothes and planned which clubs I wanted to join. I was pushing through my subconscious fatigue and trying to ignore how unprepared I was for this transition. 

My whole childhood and adolescence consisted of being the new girl every two to four years, in a new city that spoke a new language each time. In retrospect, I’m beyond grateful for my experiences and background, but I also wish I could go back and tell myself at high school graduation that it was okay to feel overwhelmed. I’d been in a never ending process of constant adjustment and adaptation, and the idea of packing up yet again for an international move on my own, amidst a global pandemic, slowly began to suffocate me. 

It took the entire summer for me to email my advisor, only days before move-in, that I would defer my enrollment by a year. The University was understanding and supportive of my decision to take a breather amidst the unknowns. Today, I have full confidence that taking my gap year was the best decision I’ve ever made. 

My year in Seoul was the first time I was able to spend months exploring the city and Korea, connecting with my family’s background and history. I frequented art and history museums and fell in love with my culture and discovered corners of Seoul to escape the craze of pandemic restrictions. I took coding classes and learned basic Python programming. I picked up tutoring and saved up by helping students prep for their SATs and IB exams. I got a trainer and learned how to actually use the big, intimidating gym equipment. I got my driver’s license. Then I drove myself to the beach and learned how to surf. I read books, in English and Korean, fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry. I got really into film photography and began a modest vintage camera collection. 

Four seasons came and went and the leaders of the world figured out how to get the pandemic just a little bit under control. August came back around again, and I was ready to head off to college. I think that I wrapped up my gap year as a completely different person than when I was at high school graduation. If the pandemic had never happened, I wonder if I ever would have considered taking this break. But I’m glad I did. A full year to detach myself from identifying with any one school or institution pushed me to consider myself just as I was. Not a student at some school or a part of a larger community. I found myself, a nineteen year old in her parents’ home city, feeling more grounded than ever. 

Three continents, five cities and eight schools later, I know I have roots in every place I’ve been. And now, in Notre Dame. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore studying Finance with a minor in Journalism. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and 80’s playlists at slim6@nd.edu