Back when I was a kid trying to survive the horror of school hallways, it was easy to spot potential friends based on whatever movie or band they had plastered across their t-shirt. Failing that, a quick peek at someone's notebook or backpack offered hints of what they were into—drawing movie titles and band names all over my notebooks was a back to school ritual. When we were young and socially inept, advertising the things we loved acted as an invitation to others to approach us and start a conversation. Somehow it lessened the fear of rejection since it was obvious we'd have at least one thing in common. Many of my school friendships began this way, based on a mutual love of, what some may consider, trivial things.
If you were lucky, these friendships expanded beyond the thing that brought you together. Yet even if it didn't, at least you had that one friend you could be yourself around. And by be yourself I mean gush endlessly about your love of Nine Inch Nails, or launch into graphic detail about your fantasy of the perfect date with Lloyd Dobler. You could spout John Hughes quotes all day long and never receive a sideways glance, because the two of you could have entire conversations in movie quotes and it never got old.
They got it.
They understood how much these things meant to you. That these things helped you get through the day. Most importantly, they got it because they'd actually taken the time to listen to you. They knew the stories behind your love of every song and every movie. For some reason, speaking with passion about these things outside your inner circle didn't fly. For some reason, it still doesn't.
There have been many times in life when I've been embarrassed to talk passionately about my love of certain things, specifically movies. When I was younger I could chalk it up to shyness and difficulty articulating my thoughts. Now that I'm older I've learned that people generally aren't interested in listening to someone talk about movies for longer than a few seconds. I've become accustomed to holding back during those day-to-day conversations you have in passing.
"Hey, did you see that movie?"
"Oh yeah, it's great!"
"I know, right? So cool."
In these scenarios I can usually sense not to go into too much detail about my thoughts on the subject. Except, the thing is, I actually want to talk about movies. I want to talk about them like I did with that friend in school. I realize now how special those connections really were. These days the average person is happy to have their own opinion and go about their day. Finding someone who cares enough to dive a little deeper is pretty rare. That's fine, I don't want to bother you with the story of why I felt so connected to Lux in The Virgin Suicides when she reluctantly drags her records down the stairs. And I don't want to keep you with tales of why I wept during the famous scene of Singin' in the Rain—a moment I must have seen a thousand times in film retrospectives—when I first watched it in its entirety. Movies aren't trivial for me.
The reason why we connect with the things we do runs much deeper than merely being entertained. We experience all forms of art through the lens of our personal history, which gives them the power to create an emotional connection. What I love about movies is recognizing pieces of my own life within the stories they tell. There are times when it feels as if they're speaking directly to me in particular moments of sadness or hardship. Sometimes movies articulate the parts of life we have difficulty understanding. That's powerful. This is why I personally love hearing someone who is excited about a film speak passionately about their perspective. It gives me insight into their life. By speaking they're advertising what they love, while simultaneously revealing where they come from. When we use the opportunity to share these stories with others, with passion, we invite them into our world. Just like that kid with the NIN t-shirt in the hallway at school.
As an adult I've noticed that a lot more conversation is required to find members of your tribe amidst the crowd. Although, many of us are still rockin' the band tees so feel free to say hi! It can be discouraging when someone tunes you out or changes the subject when you're in the middle of a passionate speech about how you couldn't stop sobbing in a Taco Bell after seeing The Good Son. In the past this attitude has caused me to tone things down, to retreat inside myself, and to stop advertising my excitement about movies. Hard telling how many potential connections I missed out on in the process. Now, I've pledged to never dilute my passion again. If someone doesn't want to listen to what I have to say then I will gladly seek out the company of those who do.*
I know it can be embarrassing and your voice may shake with uncertainty, but you have to speak up to find your kind of people. The people who are willing to listen and share in a discussion about things they would never consider trivial. It's in the sharing that we discover something special. It's in the sharing that friendships form. Like when you're gushing about that movie you've watched twenty times that someone else might think is all right and never think of again, yet you'll never forget it. Tell them why. Whether it's spouting a quote from it in passing that grabs the attention of someone in the room, or maybe even sparks a heated debate over its artistic merit. Either way, the invitation is open and the conversation has begun. You can tell a lot about a person by the things that they're into. These things help us connect, with ourselves and with other people. So, speak up. Someone will listen and if you're lucky, they'll get it. And while it may all seem trivial to some, I'm telling you—with passion—these things matter.
*This piece is dedicated to my friends who get it. Thank you for always listening to me.