The Mystery of Me (As Explained by Daria Morgendorffer)

On more than one occasion, people have expressed interest in knowing what goes on in my mind, seeing as I am so stubbornly silent and difficult to crack. The next time somebody expresses such an interest, I will just tell them to watch all five seasons of Daria (available for instant streaming on Amazon Prime!). Therein lies the answer to the mystery that is Matthew Gilliland.

Is there a character on television more real than Daria Morgendorffer?

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Full of sass but not lacking in class, Daria has a sharp tongue that cuts more effectively than any knife.

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But she never forgets what’s really important in life.

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Her snarky remarks and cynical attitude get her through the day, even though deep down she really does care what people think.

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So she covers her emotions with her exaggerated monotone voice and relentless pessimism.

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Even though her best friend, Jane, claims that Daria is not depressed but instead “just realistic,” it is clear that Daria’s outlook on life is anything but happy-go-lucky.

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In fact, our dear Daria seems to believe that life is inherently bad, without any hope of getting better.

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And she relentlessly claims that everybody else is to blame.

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Because she feels that other people are just inherently unreliable.

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But in one episode, Daria admits that her nonchalant attitude is just a mask for her sensitivity. She is just scared of getting hurt, so she pretends that nothing matters to her.

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Though I have explored fictional alter egos in the past, what does it say about me when the character I relate to most of all is a high school girl with thick glasses and an ill-repressed inferiority complex?

Because no matter how I look at it, there’s no escaping the truth: I am Daria Morgendorffer.

If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of me from when I was in sixth grade, alongside a picture of Miss Morgendorffer.

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Isn’t the resemblance uncanny?

Look, I know what you’re thinking. There is no way that I’m actually Daria because the glasses I’m wearing in the picture are actually made of pipe cleaners!

But it’s not just about the looks; the true resemblance lies in our attitudes. I, like Daria, react to the world with bitterness and cynicism. This strategy allows me to pretend that I hate other people, even though the problem really is that I care too much. Unfortunately, my mind likes to convince me that everybody hates me–or, at best, that everybody is indifferent to my existence. And no matter what people say or do to prove otherwise, it is never enough.

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My mind instead shines the spotlight on the tiniest, most insignificant bit of evidence that somebody doesn’t care about me. As I focus on this evidence, I am overcome with a dark, impenetrable sadness. I’m sad that a person doesn’t love me as much as I love them. And even worse is the idea that someone once had a great deal of love for me, but that love has since faded into apathy. They say it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. That may be true. But in my experience, I would rather never be loved than have to deal with the pain that comes when a person stops caring about you.

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These thoughts evolve into a crippling anxiety–which may work for Daria, but it most certainly has not worked for me.

Because as much as I say I just don’t need other people…

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The truth is that I just fear how much they can hurt me.

I don’t know what you would call these thoughts and feelings–anxiety? Depression? Just my own specialized way of dealing with the pains of this world? Whatever it is, it has made me into a person I don’t recognize, a person I don’t want to be: possessive, needy, paranoid, destructive to myself and destructive to others.

It has made me feel isolated from everyone else.

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This isolation spreads to all aspects of my life. It feels like everybody else is so much more successful in life than I am. It feels like everybody else is in fast-forward while I remain in slow motion.

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Honestly, it sometimes makes it difficult for me to get up in the morning. Because life is just so much less complicated when I stay in bed.

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I hope these feelings are not permanent. I hope these feelings are just a product of the stress and instability of college life. I hope that, if these feelings continue, I will find a way to manage them more effectively. I want to be happy, despite my brain’s constant attempts to keep me from happiness.

It’s not that I’m miserable all the time. Quite the contrary, I can find happiness every day if I just look for it. But EXCUSE ME if I’m not just bustling with energy every time you see me. And SORRY if I often come off as a bit aloof. Maybe at some point I can change that about myself, but for now, that is how I deal with life. And it is probably how I will continue to deal with life until people prove to me again that they are worth trusting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Great Perhaps

The French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais spoke these famous last words: I go to seek a great perhaps.

What is the Great Perhaps? In my opinion, it refers to the endless opportunities the future brings–the mystery that is tomorrow. The Great Perhaps is something that we all seek, whether we know it or not.

Most people spend a significant amount of time thinking about the future. We all want something great to come out of life. Often the present does not meet our expectations, so we work endlessly to improve our situation, only to realize we have spent so much time looking forward to the future that we forgot to enjoy the present–which, incidentally, has now become the past.

The present only lasts for a brief moment, and by the time we appreciate it for what it is, it usually has already gone, becoming yet another thing of the past. I personally am someone who tends to look forward to (and at the same time fear) the future, complain about the present, and live in the past.

Past events have either been so traumatic or so wonderful that I can’t help but let the past drive my present perspective. I want things to be the same as they were a year ago. I can’t possibly allow myself to become close to anybody because of how much people have hurt me in the past.

As for the present and future, I often find myself thinking, “Everything will get better once I reach a certain point in my life.” I manage to tolerate the present, but I don’t enjoy it until I realize I’m about to lose it. I look forward to change, but when it comes time for the change to come, I find myself having this reaction:

Why do we constantly complain about the present? Why don’t we appreciate anything we have until it’s gone?

This past year has been a bit rough on me. I don’t need to get into any nitty-gritty details, but if I were to rank all the years of my life based on roughness, this past year would definitely be in my top five (luckily, I don’t do anything like that, though if I’m ever in a really negative mood that might be a good idea for a future blog post).

Eventually it reached the point where I just didn’t care anymore. I registered for my study abroad trip and made living arrangements for my final year of college. I felt like if I could just survive winter semester, everything would be just fine. Then when winter semester ended, I found myself thinking that if I could just survive until my study abroad, all my problems would be resolved.

Will all my problems be resolved once I leave the country? Most likely not. In fact, with my trip to the United Kingdom being less than two days away, I find myself facing a whole new list of fears.

If I have learned anything throughout the course of my life, it is that change is not the answer to all of life’s problems. We can’t go through life with the notion that any problem can be fixed if we just change our lives around a little bit. However, change is as necessary as food, water, and shelter–because without change we can never see what else is out there in the world. Without change we can’t really learn and grow.

So I am making big changes in my life–not as a way to escape the present, but because I have to see what else is out there. I have to see where life can take me and which path I need to take. I have to take further steps to solve the great mystery that is my future. In other words, I go to seek the great perhaps.

Plus, whenever I see a picture like this–

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–My immediate reaction is this:

United Kingdom, here I come!

(P.S.–Since I’m all about enjoying the present now, I want to actually enjoy the United Kingdom while I’m there. So don’t expect any more blog updates until after August 5th, which is when I’m coming back to the States. But don’t worry–when I get back, I plan to write about all my European adventures. Stay tuned!)

The World We Live In

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In light of the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon, I can’t help but take some time to reflect on the state of our world.

One of my major goals in blogging is to uplift (hence the blog’s theme of turning life’s lemons into delicious, thirst-quenching lemonade), but while I come off as generally optimistic in most of my posts, there is something I must admit: I am a closet pessimist.

used to be optimistic… when I was little. But then I was introduced to something called the world. Unfortunately, it was as soon as I went out and saw the world that I started losing faith in it. The church mission I served in the Philippines was a great learning experience, not to mention a character-builder, but unfortunately it opened my eyes to the frightening state of this world we call home.

While looking through some of the emails I sent home while on my mission, I came across a letter I had sent during what was undoubtedly the most difficult time of my mission. Something I wrote stuck out to me:

“Working in this area has really opened my eyes to the state of the world right now, which in some ways is hard to accept. Even in the lives of [those I love], I’m seeing this harsh reality. A woman… showed up to church late yesterday saying that she was late because her husband had attacked her…. But the harshest reality hits us when we’re out and about trying to [help people]. The other day, we [met] a… family whose father was stoned to death two years ago by twelve men who were drunk…”

And therein lies the answer to my pessimism.

Later on in my mission, I remember getting wind one night of a man who had held several tourists hostage on a bus. The man ended up killing many of the tourists before the police were able to stop him and rescue the survivors. As I walked home with my mission companion (side note: a mission companion is comparable to a business partner, though neither of us got paid), he was uncharacteristically quiet. Eventually he said to me, “Nakakatakot ang Pilipinas, ano?” Which is to say, “The Philippines is a scary place, isn’t it?” My response to him was this: “Nakakatakot ang mundo“–meaning, simply, “The world is a scary place.”

Who can forget September 11th? I was only 11 at the time, but I will never forget. It seems like the world has taken a drastic downturn since then, and in light of the Boston Marathon, the shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, and other terrible events, it doesn’t seem like the world is looking to improve anytime soon.

It seems that I am not the only one who realizes the tragic state of things. The entertainment industry–which admittedly can be the cause of the world’s problems at times–also seems to be calling for a solution. Here are a few quotes (some more inspirational than others) that have come to my mind over these past few days:

“Sometimes everything is just the worst.”–Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

I decided to start with the least inspirational quote of all. This quote is not exactly what you’d call uplifting, but it certainly is true at times. Luckily, the key word in this quote is sometimes. Not always. So that’s definitely something.

“How we deal with tragedy defines who we are.”–Chris Traeger, Parks and Recreation

Though the world as a whole may be taking a turn for the worst, we as individuals are not defined by the world we live in. We can rise above all the negativity that surrounds us… Admittedly, I’m still working on that myself. Any advice on how to go about doing that?

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”–Buffy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This post would not have been complete without a few words from our favorite vampire slayer. The girl died twice, for crying out loud! If anyone knows how to overcome the odds, she does. Granted, she’s a fictitious character (but is she, really? There’s a little bit of Buffy in all of us), but the lesson remains the same: it might not be easy to live in this world, but it’s definitely possible.

So how do we stay sane in a crazy world? There’s no sure-fire answer, unfortunately, but peace can be found amidst all the chaos. I personally find peace through writing, listening to music, communicating with God, and being with those I love. Other people may have different ways of coping, and that’s completely fine–the important thing is that we cope somehow.

While the world falls apart around us, we have to ask ourselves: Are we simply surviving in this harsh world, or are we actually living? It’s all terribly cliche, yes, but it’s true. And while I may have lost my faith in mankind as a whole, I still have just a smidgen of faith in the individual.

I’m sorry, did you want some macaroni with all that cheese? Sorry if this post was too cheesy. It’s just something that came to my mind when I was about to go to sleep, and I knew I had to write about it right away. I probably should have slept instead, seeing as I’m starting to work full-time tomorrow and have a number of finals coming up, but I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead. And on that depressing note, I’ll end this depressing post.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

In the past, my unspoken philosophy on entertainment has been pretty simple: keep it light, keep it clean, and stay away from anything depressing.  Recently I discovered a piece of literature that breaks all those rules.

And I love it.

perks of being a wallflower movieFor some reason, in the past few weeks I have found myself wanting to read The Perks of Being a Wildflower.  I honestly can’t explain why.  It is a book I have definitely known about for a while, yet for some reason it was only recently that I felt any desire to read it.  And I don’t think I could have read it at a better time.  Seriously, it was almost like I needed to read this book at this specific point in my life.  That might sound cheesy and clichéd, but oh well.

At a slick 213 pages, Perks held my interest from start to finish.  The book is written as a series of letters from the perspective of the main character Charlie.  From the first page, I found myself connecting to this fictitious character as if he were an actual person.

Early in his first letter, Charlie writes:

“So, this is my life.  And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

What follows these poignant words is an emotional roller coaster that has completely changed my perspective on literature, life, and myself.

I can’t say I relate to Charlie’s specific experiences.  I have never (to my knowledge) eaten a “special” brownie, nor have I had a close friend commit suicide.  But his way of dealing with life and the people around him, his capacity to love despite all the hurt he has experienced, as well as his feeling that there’s “something wrong with him”–that’s something I can relate to.  Maybe all of us can, to a certain extent.

And it’s not just Charlie who makes this book so easy to relate to.  All of these characters are vividly, painfully real.  High school is a time of self-discovery, and these kids are struggling to find their way in a difficult world.  And isn’t that what all of us are doing?  I think that’s probably why so many people can relate to this book.

So the first few days of this week involved me reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower whenever I could find time in my hectic schedule.  Then the day after I finished reading, I went to Red Box and rented the movie.  And the movie was one of the best book-to-film adaptations I have ever seen, which I guess isn’t all too surprising since the author of the book (Stephen Chbosky) wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

The movie did a perfect job capturing the emotions of the book.  If you never get around to reading the book, I would definitely recommend watching the movie–if only for the opportunity to see Hermione Granger speaking with an American accent (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  But if you can, read the book too.  There are some explicit passages and foul language that I could have done without, but the underlying message of the novel is a message of hope, as stated in the final pages:

“We are who we are for a lot of reasons.  And maybe we’ll never know most of them.  But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.”

Some of us have come from troubled families; others have come from troubled circumstances.  Everyone has made mistakes.  We can’t go back and change the past, and we can’t always control everything that will happen in the future.  But no matter what, we never have to let our past determine our future.  It is up to us to choose what path we take in life.  Nobody can ever take that away from us, no matter what happens.  And in the darkest of times, we can still find ways to be happy and “feel infinite,” just like the characters in this story.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not meet my usual requirements of keeping it light and staying away from anything depressing.  But it gave me the chance to sympathize with the characters, to feel their pain, and to (almost) cry with them.  In doing this, the book brought me a sense of comfort.  It was like therapy.  Sometimes it’s good to face reality, even in fiction.  Reading (or watching) a story that deals with real-life problems can add a sense of normality to the difficulties we face, which can help us feel not so… alone.