In preparation for “A Year In the Life,” I’ve been re-watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in strict chronological order, from the pilot to the finale.
Well, I was.
Until the episode in Season 4 when Lorelei and Rory are so busy that they don’t end up talking for a whole episode and eventually break down crying about how overwhelmed they are. Too much.
And then I skipped episodes four through seven in Season 5 because I hated the choices that Rory was making in her love life. Too frustrating.
And for obvious reasons, the end of Season 5 and the first ten or so episodes of Season 6 are too heartbreaking. As is the end of Season 6. (My true Stars Hollow locals will understand these references—for the rest of you, get a cup of coffee—or five—and get watching already!!) I’m doing well with Season 7 so far, but we’re about to get to the messy part, and I know I’ll be tempted to skip ahead once again.
The messy part.
I’ve been skipping the messy parts.
I’ve re-watched this series hundreds of times. My dad knows practically all of the plots, even though he’s yet to sit down and watch an episode in its entirety. I can slip in and out of Stars Hollow, easily, like it’s my own neighborhood.
But this round of reruns has just been inexplicably hard. I can’t just sit down and watch any old episode to destress while eating dinner. I can’t brush it off when I’m irritated about the way my favorite fictional characters lives are playing out. (Irritated, outraged, perturbed….I’m being completely serious—and kind of dramatic, but mostly just serious.) When Rory does something that I think is totally unlike her (Season 6 finale) or when a character gets far less than I think they deserve in their storyline (Lane), I am genuinely upset. Way more than usual. And so I choose not to deal with these weird feelings, and just skip ahead to the episodes without messy parts.
Why didn’t these messy parts bother me before? Why don’t Seasons 1-3 bother me at all? (To be fair, they really never did, except for that time Rory got into Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Because that happens.)
I can’t get through these particular messy parts, because I’m in the same stage of life that Rory was when they happened. The equivalent of Season 7 is happening for me right now (senior year), so I find myself reflecting on my 4th, 5th and 6th seasons (freshman—junior year) a lot more now. I didn’t steal a yacht or anything, and I definitely didn’t date my married ex-boyfriend (just to clarify, I don’t have one). But I did spend some time away from Vassar during junior year (the whole year). I’ve also done some really out-of-character type things, and made some weird, unintentional mistakes.
Things got messy.
Some aspects of my life are still messy.
Why watch the messy parts of my favorite TV show when I can just wait and see what drama ensues in my own life from week to week? Sometimes I wish there was a “skip” button for those too.
Yet as tempting as that sounds, it would also be incredibly disorienting to skip entire phases of my life. I can do that with Gilmore Girls, because I’ve already watched it a million times. I can’t quite do that with my own life, as I’d be skipping over scenes that haven’t even happened yet. A recap wouldn’t quite suffice.
So maybe I can’t skip over the messy parts—but I can choose not to go back and relive them. Maybe once you’ve made it through the gray area, there’s no need to back. Maybe I don’t have to watch the Gilmore Girls episodes that kill me.
There’s no way to erase the messy memories—they’ll always take up a little space in the back of your head—but there’s no law that says you have to make daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly visits to them, unless you want to. (Does anyone really want to?) Easier said than done—but it is possible to let them go.
Why do we even feel the need to ruminate over the past at all? For the same reason that I thought I needed to re-watch all of Gilmore Girls before the new episodes come out: we buy into the belief that we have to revisit our past before moving forward.
There’s a difference between reliving and accepting. I don’t deny that I was a really awkward, incredibly shy, freshman in high school and college. I don’t deny that sophomore year was extremely difficult for a lot of personal reasons. I don’t deny that one of the things I love most about Vassar is that they let me take a much needed time away to learn the things I needed to learn, in the places I needed to learn them.
(To clarify, I didn’t take a year off from college (although I definitely considered it.) I spent a year away from Vassar taking classes at UCLA in the summer and London in the spring. So I essentially turned the fall into my summer.)
If I had a chance to rewrite the messy parts, I wouldn’t. They led me to some of the greatest parts of my life, and I truly wouldn’t want to walk down any other road but mine. But I also don’t feel like looking down that road every time I want to move forward. I accept them, I think about them every now and then, but there’s no need for forced reflection.
So maybe I’ll just stop trying to make this intense re-run marathon happen, and just revisit my favorite parts instead. There’s enough messiness in my real life to deal with, and accept, and move on from. No need to go back and relive fictional drama that makes me think about my own past plot lines.
My favorite TV show doesn’t need to stress me out this much.
And maybe my real life doesn’t have to either—at least not all the time.