Over the holiday break, I decided to do a little cleaning and went through a box of momentos from the end of high school. I found some things that had me going, “why?” “What was I thinking?”
Then about a week ago, when I was listening to “The Searchers” episode of the Unspooled podcast, something clicked for me about how people’s connections to certain items and other people come about and how life can lead you to a drastic change in viewpoint about those same things.
The podcast is about the most recent AFI list of the top 100 films of all time. The hosts watch one of these films each week and discuss various aspects of the film, including should that film remain on the list the next time it’s done. They also bring on guests who have a connection to the film being discussed that week, or have an area of expertise related to the film.
For “The Searchers,” a John Wayne-led western from the 1950s, they interviewed Joely Proudfit, the chair and professor of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos. She is also the director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center.
When the discussion turned to cinematic portrayals of Native Americans and her present-day impression of her favorite movie characters growing up, she said the following of the character Billy Jack from the film of the same name:
I cannot believed I idolized this character, but [I came to realize] I idolized what he represented [to me]…Sometimes what we see on the screen is not necessarily what we see on the screen.
When I heard that part it immediately reminded me of going through my stuff. Sometimes we look back and we’re uncomfortable about a thing or two that we once had a huge amount of passion or enjoyment for.
But where is the discomfort coming from? Why are we embarrassed or, in extreme cases, ashamed of the some of the entertainers we liked or some of the things we once enjoyed in retrospect?
I don’t think it’s because we’re sad about the past passion we had for something, but rather we cringe at how we misplaced our energy. With the benefit of time, we realize we weren’t rooting for the surface person/thing. We were rooting for the ideal it represented to us—even in instances where that person/thing didn’t actually represent that ideal at all in reality. They/it did to us at the time in our minds, so it was real. The attachment of that ideal, whatever it was, to that person/thing helped us navigate a process or time in life when we needed it.
So even if it puzzles us down the road, those decisions all were an important piece in making us who we are. Even if it’s cringeworthy to look back at.