What I learned from “Girls”

HBO’s “Girls” finally wrapped up their raunchy, real and boundary-pushing series Apr. 17, bringing the work of Lena Dunham and partners Jenni Konner and Judd Apatow to its six-season close.

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@lenadunham’s farewell letter on Instagram

The show follows the lives of four women living in New York City as they stumble through relationships, adulthood and self-awareness. “Girls” ended with the show’s main character Hannah (Lena Dunham) struggling with new motherhood and settling into a mature adult life in upstate New York.

And, yeah, the finale made me sad, because things ending makes anyone sad. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the “end.” Hannah, having trouble with getting her new baby (conceived from a surf instructor that knocks Hannah up while she’s on assignment at a surf camp) to breastfeed, finally gets him to latch. This happens amidst other problems with her best friend, Marnie (Allison Williams), turned part-time nanny and tough-loving mother. But, like the rest of the show, it left me believing that even though I couldn’t predict what bizarre or unlikely situation Hannah or the other girls would get themselves into next, they were going to be okay.

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@aw (Allison Williams)’s Instagram post on the night the finale aired

I became a fan of Girls for a few reasons. The first being that I am biased towards anything the show’s producer, Judd Apatow, is involved with. If you didn’t love what he did with the show Freaks and Geeks then I’m honestly confused, but maybe you at least liked the Anchorman films, because he produced those too.

I saw him in a theatre in LA once and I think that’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me?

The second and most life changing reason I fell in love with Girls is that the show taught me I can be super okay with my boobs being out; out in plain view for other people to see.

I didn’t suddenly start walking around my apartment topless like Hannah or Jessa did, but after seeing Lena Dunham exist as a naked human on television and be like, “Yeah, this is my body, and?” I began to understand more the idea that not only is it okay to show your body consistent love, but to flaunt the heck out of it. Whether it be taking a bath, having sex or freely walking around the apartment, “Girls” depicted the lives of these women in a realistic way, and often that involved boobs.

However, it is important to remember that while some people feel empowerment from showing off their body, others feel the most confident when they are being more modest. Both are perfectly okay, normal and admirable.

Either way, boobs are great. And the free the nipple movement is valid.

I loved Girls because it was a place where I could go to feel like other people have stupid problems just like, if not worse than my own. I loved being able to loose myself in their absurd world. When I felt overwhelmed by school and extracurriculars and work, I could watch the show and be like, “Phew, at least my life isn’t as messy and ridiculous as theirs. Like, at least I have some of my shit together because I went to class today… right?” But then again, my life is kind of as ridiculous and messy as theirs, just in a different way.

Girls captures the extreme unpredictability of life. Nothing happens all at once. Not every action we take brings us instant gratification. And this is so frustrating because we can get that instant gratification on social media, and we can see it in film and television, but it doesn’t happen for us that often in real life.

It’s overwhelming to think, as a college student, “Am I doing enough? Should I try to get an internship now or enjoy one last summer of freedom? Is my GPA high enough? Shouldn’t I be working more because I am so, so poor? And, okay but actually what happens after I graduate?”

But as Lena Dunham explains in her commentary on the last episode,

“Everyone is trying to figure it out… It doesn’t matter where you are, there’s like this lack of resolution, but you can always make the decision to do better.”

She’s right. This show followed it’s characters as they were just trying to figure it out. Hannah, Jessa, Marnie and Shoshanna were always just trying to figure out where they were most valued and what would make them happiest.

Like many shows whose premise revolves around a group of friends “just trying to figure it out,” they fought with each other, fell in and out of love a couple of times, did some drugs, had horrible jobs and great jobs, and yet somehow managed to stay in each others lives throughout it all.

As much as Shoshanna began to feel that the rest of the girls were holding her back, or Marnie realized that she couldn’t control her friends no matter how many “emergency meetings” she called, as much as these characters began to become frustrated with each other, they all knew that they would never stop loving each other.

Which is awesome to think about, that no matter how hard or how weird life gets, as long as you have those people that will hold you when you’re sad and laugh at your jokes, you’ll be okay.

In the second to last episode, Hannah and and Jessa have this moment where they both apologize for what they put each other through and recognize the pain they’ve both put up with. A little context— Jessa began a serious relationship with Hannah’s longtime boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) which virtually ended their friendship. In Season Six, Episode Six, Jessa comes to Hannah’s apartment, telling her that she can’t lose Hannah as a friend, to which Hannah responds “I don’t care about you anymore.”

However, in the finale, the pair have a tearful reconciliation.

“We were just doing our best,” Hannah says, to which Jessa responds, “Our best was awful.”

And as Hannah agrees that their best was indeed awful, they both laugh because sometimes life feels like a joke. (Not necessarily in a sad way, but more of a “I don’t even know what’s going anymore but I’ll roll with it” way.)

Their best may have been awful because it wasn’t perfect and it sometimes hurt themselves and others. But their best couldn’t have been awful because it was what felt right in the moment, and like always, it turned out pretty okay in the end.

“Their best” was all this show was about. And I think it was great, in all of its messiness and absurdity.

Their best made their lives crazy, but it also made their lives genuine and good.

And I think that’s all we’re really hoping for.

 

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How to: Self care for activists

On January 21st, an estimated 4.8 million people participated in the worldwide Women’s March to come together in support of human rights, including immigration and healthcare reform, women’s rights, support for the LGBTQIA community, environmental issues, freedom of religion and racial equality.

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My roomies and I marched! I basically cried all day because it was so amazing.

On February 16th, immigrants nationwide stayed home from school and work as part of the protest “A Day Without Immigrants.”

And coming up on International Women’s Day, March 8th, will be a Women’s Strike, called “A Day Without A Woman,” which according to their organizers;

“…Will be a day of action organized by and for women who have been marginalized and silenced by decades of neoliberalism directed towards working women, women of color, Native women, disabled women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer and trans women.”

President Trump’s inauguration sparked many groups of people into action, uniting them to take 10 actions within the first 100 days of his presidency. People that may have once felt as though they were alone are now being provided a platform and opportunity to come together to voice a common perspective. But as fulfilling as it is to take action when you feel strongly about a cause, it can be difficult not to get caught up in emotions, or feel as though you are even making a difference at all.

Activists ignite change, but in order to set a positive example, we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves while we fight for everyone else.

I talked to the Associate Chair of the Psychology and Child Development department and Women’s and Gender Studies Professor at California Polytechnic University, Julie Garcia, who gave me some tips on how to practice self care while still being active in the causes you believe in.

LOOK TO WHERE YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

One of the most frustrating feelings as an activist, or anyone who is trying to enact change, is feeling as though you aren’t making a difference. Garcia encourages focusing your attention on the things you can do, rather than those you can’t. Send a letter to a congressman, attend meetings, make some pins and pass them out. Identify where it is that you can be of most assistance and focus your energy there.

FIND YOUR COMMUNITY

Social medias makes it so easy for you to be flooded with opinions that oppose yours, and while it is important to know what’s going on, it’s just as important to, “create a community of people with a similar mindset to yours,” says Garcia. It won’t do you any good to let your emotions run high or waste your time trying to argue with people who will not change their mind. Surround yourself with people who support the same causes you do, who bring you up and make you feel as though you aren’t fighting for your cause alone.

DOUBLE CHECK YOUR SOURCES

Social media, “creates an us-them,” mentality, says Garcia. There are many social media networks and algorithms that, based on the sources of information you’ve already viewed, feed you more information to confirm your bias. Garcia stresses the importance of double checking your sources and questioning what you read. “It feels good to feel like we’re right, feels good to find sources that say what we already think,” Garcia said. In order to know you’re getting a full understanding of what is going on, you have to remember to go outside your box and not just look at what confirms your bias.

TAKE A STEP BACK

“It’s important to take a step back and immerse yourself in things that make you feel whole,” says Garcia. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the policies, tweets or protests, but taking a moment for yourself can make all the difference. Whether it be exercising, spending time with family or friends, painting or cozying up in your bed with some good Netflix, spending some time away from the issues and back in your own, comfortable bubble can ground you again.

So, don’t forget to find support and give yourself some love while you’re out there CHANGING THE WORLD.