On the Outside Looking In
I hold the paint brush in my hand and with a flick of my wrist fling the paint on to whatever type of canvas each student in my class was given. I dip my brush in the cup of water beside me, ridding the brush of the previous color as best I can, carefully select another color, and repeat the process, trying my best to imitate the works of one of the most revered and hated painters of the 20th century, Jackson Pollock.
It is in this moment that I understand just how much art means to me. I am not gifted with a brain that can easily understand and compute mathematical equations or completely grasp the complexities of any hard sciences. So, to finally love something and not care if I am any good at it is a revelation. I am simply having fun.
As I got older, I always gravitated toward any form of artistic expression, whether that be music, video games, etc. Of course, this is not unique. Who doesn’t like music? And you’d be hard pressed to find someone my age (I was born in 1991) who, growing up, didn’t enjoy some form of video gaming. But, even with these similar interests, I still often felt that I was on the outside looking in. Art, then, provided a much needed outlet for escape, as it was through its many forms that I learned that I was not alone.
In high school, I fell in love with the band Jefferson Airplane, primarily because I loved Grace Slick’s pure and effortless voice. Needless to say, no one my age cared about this old and outdated hippie band from the 60s, or female artists for that matter, either. And when it came to video games, I was more intrigued by the female characters, rather than the male protagonists that one controls, such as Princess Zelda and Princess Peach, which, again, was not something I openly pronounced.
Even with all my means of escape, however, I still often felt alone. The high school I attended was at least a 30 minute drive from house, and that was if I was lucky enough not to encounter any traffic, which is nearly impossible no matter what time of day it is in Los Angeles. So it was difficult to have friends over, and the friends I did have from junior high slowly faded away, too, save for a few neighbors. As my high school career was approaching its end, though, I finally did discover where I belong.
This discovery came in the form of film. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy films up to this point in my life, but I had no real knowledge on the subject, and at the time I probably would have said something like The Dark Knight was the best film ever (I still think it’s a great film, however). Even more embarrassing, when Spider-Man 3 was released in 2007, I legitimately thought it was a great film, though I suppose it’s managed to have some staying power because of the unintentional hilarity of several scenes.
Film became important to me because it was the first medium of art that truly and authentically depicted the perspectives of people who were outsiders as I saw it. No film spoke to me more than Ghost World, and to this day it still holds the title of my favorite film of all-time.
Ghost World follows Enid the summer after she graduates high school. During this time, she has no concrete plans, though she is supposed to move in to an apartment with her best friend Rebecca, and she must retake an art class that she failed to officially graduate from high school as well. At the time, Enid was the most relatable character in film that I had ever encountered.
Like myself, she had no idea what to do with herself post-high school. Though I ended up moving away and attending school at a community college, whereas Enid stayed and lived with her father, I felt that we were one and the same. Beneath her cynical and sarcastic exterior was a lost soul who was scared and vulnerable because she was smart enough to know that society could not care less about her, and as an outsider she had no place to go.
Though Enid has a best friend in Rebecca, it’s obvious that the two aren’t really compatible in the long run and their friendship slowly deteriorates. After meeting a man named Seymour, Rebecca makes it clear that she doesn’t really like Enid’s friendship with him and states that he is a loser. Enid shoots back, “But those are our people.” It is lines like that that really hit close to home because it explicitly stated what I often felt. I always knew and understood that I belonged with the outsiders, but society often crushes us and pressures us to conform.
Even before watching Enid’s immediate post-high life school, I knew that I didn’t want to conform. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t make compromises, but I never wanted to be someone who changed what I believed in to my core for friendships, relationships, or money. And, most of all, I envied Enid’s escape at film’s conclusion, and too often dreamed of leaving everything behind and simply moving where no one knew who I was.
Film, more than any other artistic medium, still means the most to me, though there are times when I may spend more time reading, playing video games, or listening to music, as it is an artistic form of expression most capable of highlighting other styles of life, which is essential for building empathy and understanding others, something our current society sorely lacks.
Film opened up a new world for me, as cliché as that sounds. It showed me that I was not alone, however much I wanted to believe that that was true. Yes, I still often spend a lot of my own time by myself, and I do not have the most colorful or eventful social life. What I do possess, though, is the attitude that no matter where I am headed, I can do my best to connect with others, to see them as actual human beings, and understand that we’re all stuck on this planet together, so we should do the most to value one another and do are best to make each other feel not so alone.