Thought Catalog

Life Is Not A Movie

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“…Hold on. Just, stop talking. Why is there a steak knife on your floor?”

My roommate is standing in my bedroom doorway, asking me or telling me about the night before when she sees it, the steak knife. It’s been sitting there for months now, I’m surprised it took her so long to notice.

“Oh. It fell off of the dresser. Here, I’ll get it.”

“I mean, why… why is it in your room?” she asks, looking down at it, up at me, then down at it again, as though the steak knife might be sooner inclined to spill our dirty little secret.

“So… well this is going to sound silly. It was a Saturday night in February, I guess. I came home and as I was unlocking the door… something felt off. I kind of felt like maybe someone had broken in? It was just one of those nights.”

She bends down and picks up the knife. “One of those nights when someone has broken into our home. Okay. Continue.”

I remembered the night in question and felt embarrassed – the walking up the stairs one step per minute, like I was holding an egg between my ass cheeks. The way my hands gingerly grazed the banister, fingertips sprawled out and tickling the wood. The ritualistic opening of every door and cabinet in my home; the inspecting what was inside. And finally, when the coast was clear, gripping a steak knife in my fist – in case someone was lurking upstairs, someone I had to stab.

Because what if someone had been there? What if they were waiting for the stupid girl with the stupid knife to come home? What if I had stabbed them, what then? It was self-defense, the police would come and take a statement, and then all would be set right? No. Because life is not a movie.

I forget sometimes. I forget that I’m not playing a role. I forget that, if I’d stabbed someone, I’d be in therapy right now trying to forget. I’d be afraid to come home alone. I’d hold a steak knife in my hand and feel different about it. You know what else? I forget that, once you reach a goal, you need a new one. Once you get what you want, you have to want something else. Your accomplishments don’t sustain you for long; they don’t sit in a glass cube in a museum to be admired. Once we get one thing, we need another.

Movies don’t show that though, do they? Take a movie about a man and woman falling in love. We don’t see what happens to the relationship after ~129 minutes of henpecking and grand gestures. We don’t see the fights, we don’t see the infidelity, we don’t see a miscarriage. At the end, all we see is a happy ending. But there are no happy endings – there is one ending, and that ending is death.

When we hope to fall in love the way a movie teaches us we should, even if the film we choose to model ourselves after is ‘realistic,’ even if it’s not dogmatically romantic, even if we think it’s as close to Real Love as we’re going to get, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. A movie does not consider the whole of a person – the days when you’d take out the garbage for .75 cents, your name scribbled on a chore wheel in black Sharpie. Movies don’t think about the time you choked in a moving vehicle when you were six. They don’t talk about how you went to your grandpa’s house afterward, and he’d known you choked before you arrived, said a little birdie told him. You thought your grandpa knew magic; thought a little birdie really had told him that information, and you wanted to find it and keep it as a pet, smart thing. You begged your grandpa to help you find the birdie, and could he not stop laughing? These moments, minute and seemingly insignificant, are the little stitches that make a human being. The big moments we define as life-changing are no more important than the routines we knew as kids, the conditioning we never noticed while it was happening, the big and small victories alike. A movie character doesn’t have those stitches. A movie doesn’t have that texture.

You know what a movie has? Directors. Producers. Actors. A script. Life would be easier if we had a script. Then you would’ve known what to say that time the doctor called you, told you you’re incurable. That he was sorry. It would’ve been nice to know what to say then. Or the time that you learned what the opposite of love was from the person who’d taught you the meaning of it in the first place. Someone else’s words may have been helpful there. What about when you discovered that the next time you’d see someone would also be the last? They’d be laying face-up in a box, painted and sculpted and on display like a horizontal mannequin and you’d lean over their slack visage and think, “So this is what it’s like.” But you can’t say that aloud, can’t someone else come up with what to say in these moments?

No. Life is not a movie. It’s not a drama, it’s not a Rom Com, it’s not a blockbuster. We don’t have the promise of perfection, of loose ends getting tied. And why would we expect it, anyway? Even a runway model, in her leggy precision, is prone to stumbles and falls when you ask her to walk down a waxy platform in eight inch heels. She looks stunning, aspirational – until the legs give out and the façade is revealed to be just that. A fake. An impossible standard. A movie.

Life isn’t a film, you know? It’s not a talkie. It’s not a still frame from Gone with the Wind. It’s not a movie – but maybe it’s a picture, a mosaic. Countless pieces of glass, each one meaningful and unique, intricately bonded by glue and sweat. Perhaps its beauty can only be fully realized when we look at it from far, far away, or maybe it can only be understood by the adhesive that holds together each colorful shard.

I look at the knife in my roommate’s hand and it looks alive, flickering as it reflects the blades of the circling ceiling fan.

“Actually, it was silly. Do you mind taking it downstairs?”

I don’t need it anymore. TC mark

image – Rhett Maxwell

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    • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.n.knutson Sarah N. Knutson

      This is incredible. Love it.

    • Susiederkins

      Universal and poignant. Thanks for this. 

    • Asdf

      Speak for yourself. I structure my romantic relationships in such a way that they only last for a 129 minute montage. Sure, we have to hurry from point A to point B; have brief 30 second interstitial conversations; and maybe, if we’re lucky, have a brief romp between the sheets. It makes us both *feel good*, man. And then I drop her like a ton of bricks. “Sorry, movie’s over.”

      • Guest

        PROVE It..YOU WON’T.

        • Asdf

          I do not typically record these relationships. I will look to see if I have any home movies for your lecherous eyes to devour. In the mean time, however, to prove that my life is a movie, I will share a video of one of my fondest childhood memories. 

          We were skating on the ice for the first time; I think I was 14, back when penis pumps were the pinnacle of hilarity. Anyroad, things took a shocking turn for the worse. But I was rescued by the comedic relief just in the nick of time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qu51vkm0SuQ

        • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

          LOLLLLLL

    • Asdf

      Speak for yourself. I structure my romantic relationships in such a way that they only last for a 129 minute montage. Sure, we have to hurry from point A to point B; have brief 30 second interstitial conversations; and maybe, if we’re lucky, have a brief romp between the sheets. It makes us both *feel good*, man. And then I drop her like a ton of bricks. “Sorry, movie’s over.”

    • http://maxwellchance.wordpress.com Duke Holland of Gishmale

      Death can be a happy ending. 

    • Gordi93

      Hit me like a fresh slop of reality and stuck onto me like a semtex. Thank you for this.

    • Katgeorge

      Love it Steph, and you xx

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      ugh, yes. please more. drink $2 beer and write on napkins if you have to

    • Daily TC Guest

      Movies also have editors. You forgot editors!

      Great post!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Lawrence/501546756 Nate Lawrence

      I think some movies can be that way, but  French New Wave and Italian Neorealism are the cinematic experiences closest to real life.  Start at A, and everything that happens to the character is shown, without a sense of purpose or plot drive.  It just happens, like it would in real life.  Watch The Bicycle Thief

      I like your point, but could you see each subsequent goal in your life as it’s own visual and audible story?  They could be small windows with a view into your life that let you and the people who know you understand your character and your life better with each goal you set out to accomplish and then (hopefully) achieve.

      • Guest

        you’re missing the point, which is that all plots are driven toward some goal, and that goal justifies all that occurs before it and excludes all that occurs after it.  the truth about life is that we are constantly assigning meaning to things that we have lived through based on our present circumstance.  life’s ‘meaning’ is something that we constantly create and alter, usually without even realizing it.  films, and everything else that includes a plot, make it seem as though there is an inherent meaning and direction in life.  which there isn’t.

      • guest

        this comment makes me want to barf

    • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

      very true. no one hears the narrator in your head

    • Nypd

      seemed kind of naive or like something from a community college creative writing class but i don’t care because i liked it and felt good reading it.

    • Guest

      this was entirely unnecessary

      • G.

        So was your comment.

    • A.

      I absolutely adored this. Please keep writing.

    • A.

      I absolutely adored this. Please keep writing.

    • Anonymous

      “And it’s no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer, this is my lifeAnd these times are so hard, and it’s getting even harder”
      Are we ready to accept that Steph might be the one and only Eminem?  It would explain a lot, but not my crush…

    • Anonymous

      So relatable. 

      Last weekend my sister said “Hey by the way, I put the scissors on the end table.” And I immediately imagined being attacked by a burglar later at night next to the dresser, coincidentally remembering my sister’s words, pulling out the knife, and stabbing the burglar. Obviously that did not happen. But it just seemed like a scene from a movie. 

    • Mikey

      that was one of the best things ive ever read. i absolutely loved it. please, please do write more. i dont even really like reading, but i loved that more than i can type here.

    • Thesparklingdiva

      Beautiful. Keep writing please.

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