In which I go totally nuts, Joseph Gordon-Levitt style.

A few months ago, I read a book that changed my life.

Since finishing this book, it has dominated my thoughts in a way that only truly great books can. I have reread it several times since, as well as shoved it upon everyone I meet. If I could, I would stand on street corners and hand out this book to strangers.

Within its pages, there are innumerable pockets of wisdom, and since I read it, I have been filling my journals with nothing but quotations from its chapters. However, there is one mantra throughout the book that I became particularly attached to.

I am not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasures of existence.

I read this. Then reread it. Then reread it again. I thought about it in the frame of the narrative, and then I thought about it within the context of my own little life. I thought of all the time I had wasted apologizing for things that made happy. Apologizing for being myself. All the times I had denied myself happiness because of my own doubts and obsession with self-image.

I remember a very specific moment in late April, when I went to a swing dance performance that my best friend since middle school and once roommate was in1. The show was held at a disused roller rink, with neon lighting and lots of people in cowboy hats and very loud country music. In totality, it was about as far out of my element as I get. So there I was, standing on the sidelines waiting for 14’s dance group to perform, watching the room having fun around me while I stood with my shoulders hunched in clear indication that I was not comfortable here.

Then, out of nowhere, Augusts Water’s advice rose, unbidden, to the forefront of my mind.

I am not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasures of existence.

Simple pleasures like dancing like a maniac in a room full of strangers. Like singing to country music, and boot-scootin’ boogie-ing, and permitting yourself to look like an idiot because you were happy.

So I stopped apologizing through my posture, and I danced2.

If you know anything about me, you know that I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with the film “(500) Days of Summer.” In my opinion, it is one of the greatest cinematic triumphs of the last decade. It is one of the simple pleasures I do not ever deny myself.

There are many things I love about this film3, but one of the biggest things is that the main character Tom has a chalkboard wall. Since the first time I saw the film, I have perpetually lusted for a chalkboard wall of my own. How absolutely divine that would be, I thought, to make your home into a canvas where you could daily fling the contents of your mind.

So when I moved into Iowa’s apartment and found her closet was made of chalkboard, I had a silent internal nerd girl freak out. I could not wait to go nuts all over it, JGL style. Give me chalk and give it to me now, I wanted to shout, because surely this will be the greatest piece of home décor I have ever known.

….and then I proceeded not to touch it for three weeks.

Because I was nervous4. I was nervous to make any mark upon the wall because I knew that whatever I drew would be like putting myself up for judgment by anyone who walked by the wall and saw it. I would have to own up to anything I wrote or drew, claim it as a piece of me, and allow others to think what they would about me based upon it.

That was mostly the reason. But I told myself it was also because I didn’t want to inflict anymore of myself than necessary on Iowa and Nevada5.

And then, last night, with no one at home but me and Cat, I found myself again scanning the pages of the book that changed my life, and I once again was pierced by the mantra of a dying boy:

I am not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasures of existence.

Writing on chalkboard walls made me happy. It was a simple pleasure of my existence.

So why not stop apologizing, and go wild all over that bad boy?

And so I did. In a staccato burst of artistic fury that struck at one am6, I attacked the wall, while Cat watched with her usual wry amusement.

And in the end, our barren chalkboard closet doors, which once held only a single inspirational gospel quote, a drawing of a rocket ship, and a few notes from couch surfers, looked like this:

Gah the picture is borderline out of focus. Out of focus photos are the bane of my existence. Perhaps some close ups then, for emphasis. Also I want to show this off because you have no idea how insanely proud I am of this wall.

I don’t fancy myself as much of an artist, and I’ve always been of the mindset that pictures may be worth a thousand words, but I’d rather have a thousand words. So mostly I wrote things.

Things like my all-time favorite Andrea Gibson quote;


And some Zelda Fitzgreald awesomeness;


And then there was a message to fellow Nerdfighters7


Some Sherlock-related graffiti8;


Some Star Wars love, complete with a Chewbacca, because he is the only Star Wars character I feel capable of drawing, though as I look at it now, I realize that really don’t look as much like Chewbacca as I previously thought;


Assorted randomicity, including a Buy More man that in no way compares to the one 14 once henna tattooed on my arm;


And, of course, the quote that inspired it all9;


And so, in summary;

Moral of the story: do things that make you happy.

Also, points if you can guess all the references on the wall! Leave them in comments!

  1. Oh I forgot, she really wanted an alias….let’s call her 14. But not because that’s her age. That would be creepy.
  2. But only one dance. Let’s not get out of control here.
  3. Zooey Deschanel, Zooey Deschanel’s hair, Zooey Deschanel’s clothes…
  4. Which really is a neutral state of being for me.
  5. The new roommate! Welcome, Nevada!
  6. As most bouts of artistic inspiration do.
  7. Anyone? Nerdfighters out there besides the MT?
  8. So many Sherlock quotes I wanted to write, but they were too weird out of context.
  9. Please pardon the fact that this looks like it was written by an eight year old. It was, fittingly, the first thing I wrote on the wall, and I was still getting reacquainted with the delicate art that is writing on a chalkboard. It’s a skill I have not had to use since primary.
Tagged , , ,

4 thoughts on “In which I go totally nuts, Joseph Gordon-Levitt style.

  1. 14 says:

    Alias approved. Is the quote from the book you forced me to buy while in MT then proceeded to steal from me at the end of last year? Also: 1 or 11? Your BuyMore man looks good!

    • 14 says:

      Also, I’d like to formally protest my title as “former roommate”. Really?? You couldn’t think of something better?? Rude.

      • MackenziLee says:

        Hey! you got an awesome alias! what more do you want from me!? …that being said, I’ll alter it if it makes you happy.
        And no, this is not that book. This is the one I read in Hastings and ended up ugly crying over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: