There’s a scene in the critically acclaimed masterpiece Ratatouille when the antagonist, Ego, asks a waiter for “perspective.” I’ll come back to that in a bit.
For people who know what they want out of life, we’re told initially that we can accomplish all of it with the right amount of nerve. We’re told that “Anyone can cook,” that the Rockys of the world can win, and more recently, we can get our own jazz clubs and become the actors we know we were born to be, as seen in La La Land.
When I watched La La Land, it struck me that the only reason I was applying to grad school was simply to avoid the shamed label of “unemployed with a degree.” Although I do love academia, as it has been one of the few places that I truly feel welcomed in, I don’t want to compromise my dreams for the comforts of practicality. I have known that I wanted to be a writer since I was about four but officially, I decided to pursue it in 2010. I had a professor tell me that when she was my age, she would “sit and burn away at the typewriter,” and that “You’ve got to write about things that make your bones ache.”
I have a lot of things that make my bones ache.
Yet, I was willing to put it on hold so that I wouldn’t have to worry about things like, social stigma or whatever. Literally, who cares? I need to trust in my abilities to figure things out, because so far, I’ve done okay. I have no reason to believe I’ll fail otherwise.
Here’s the thing about Paterson: (Spoilers are ahead, I suppose.)
The film is about a bus driver who writes poetry during his lunch breaks in a little notebook. He’s married to his eccentric and beautiful wife Laura, and they live in Paterson, New Jersey. His name is also Paterson.
Paterson, the man, writes his poems, and drives and listens to the gentle buzz of his city. Laura is worried that his writing will be lost because he doesn’t make copies of his poems. Spoiler: the little book is actually destroyed, but there are no outbreaks, no tears, no punching of walls. Paterson sulks instead, goes for a walk and simply begins a new book.
The film takes us over the city, and runs like a poem, each day of the week a new stanza. There is repetition, imagery, and a sleepy tone. But that’s it. That’s the film. Nothing happens, and I can see why some would call the film boring. However, poetry is like that too. But we can learn to read, and there we make meaning, whatever that may be.
Paterson gave me that perspective that Ego talked about. It made me question exactly why I was so worried about life after graduation. My apprehensions are rooted in my insecurities – that I’ll never write anything good and I’ll be chained to a 9-5, married to someone I don’t love but trapped because I have 3 kids to think about. And I never realized my full potential which is the most heartbreaking aspect of it all.
Gotta love that slippery slope fallacy.
My New Year’s Resolution every year is to write more and after watching the film, I was even more inspired and ready to go to the bookstore to buy a new notebook and William Carlos Williams’ epic poem, Paterson for fuel.
I went to the bookstore and didn’t find either. I did find though, a book with a bright cover called Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa. And I guess maybe, I shouldn’t be so ready to dismiss that (despite the obvious capitalist agenda entrenched in that title).
Here’s a segment NPR did about the film. Listen, then go watch it.