I was flipping channels the other day, which anymore seems like checking out the same edition of SportsCenter or avoiding The Jersey Shore or some reincarnation of the Kardashians, and actually came upon something about which I had nearly forgotten. Turner Classic Movies. I’m no expert on cinema, but over the years, TMC has reminded me of so many great old movies, especially musicals, and last Sunday, it taught me a bit about life.
There was a short feature, only 12 to 15 minutes, in which several well-known directors such as Curtis Hanson and Martin Scorsese discussed the film editing technique known as “pan and scan.” Since movies were always shot in the wide-screen format for play in the theater, directors made the cuts and edits in a way in which their stories unfolded across the width of the screen. Pan and scan came into play to make movies fit onto television screens. The issue directors had with it was that it altered the original composition of the film. The pan and scan editor could lose over 40% of the original image as he or she focused on his or her perceptions of the most important part of the image. It was really eye opening to see the wide-screen images of classic movies, like “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” with the pan and scan image highlighted over the original wide-screen image. So much of the choreography was lost, which had a definite impact on the story.
It dawned on me that a lot of us live our lives in a pan and scan format. We all have big stories about the places and people that move in and out of our lives. We really do. I don’t care if you’ve travelled the world or barely left the county in which you grew up. The stories are there. What is interesting is how we edit them. It’s how we perceive the truths around us. Living in pan and scan is probably the ultimate story of missing the forest for the trees. Maybe editing yourself to try and keep the focus on your best parts is a nice safety net. And of course there are some things you don’t need to share with the world. But for my money, the most interesting things are often tucked away in the corners, just waiting to be explored.
I recently read “What Made Maddy Run” by Kate Fagan, which is the story of Maddy Holleran, a young woman from New Jersey who most people would have described as the All-American girl. She was driven, a top athlete in both soccer and track, and had the grades to get into Penn.
The book tells the story of Maddy’s transition from high school to college and even though I attended college 20 years ago, I could relate to the struggle of that transition. That was my first taste of total freedom, which I loved, but it was also heavy laden with expectations. I remember thinking, just as Maddy did, that college was supposed to be an amazing four years which would set the tone for the rest of my life. I remember what it was like to go from classes in high school being fairly easy to having a heavier workload coupled with having to learn accountability. Things happened to me and it was a struggle, but I didn’t have the added stress and identity of being a student athlete that Maddy did.
If one followed Maddy on Instagram, one would have thought she was adjusting to college life, sharing pics of visiting her friends and family pics at her meets. Those who knew her best knew she was struggling, considering quitting track, and considering transferring.
I remember considering transferring, but in weighing my options, always felt like I would be viewed as some sort of failure for not sticking it out. I struggled with depression. I drank too much. I never quite felt like I fit and I was sick of feeling sad while I walked around with a smile on my face.
I understood Maddy on so many levels, I felt like I was reading my own story. Having read the synopsis, I knew we were going to have different endings, but Maddy’s death still hit me like a punch in the stomach.
Maddy completed suicide in 2014. She was 19 years old.
Sometimes, I still wonder why I made it. I’ve written about this before:
I planned my death many times in the late 90s and early 2000s. Death sounded like relief from the life in which I existed. I still struggle with depression at times and the world feels heavy often… Sometimes it feels like I am I recovery from myself.
Having buried many friends due to addiction and death by suicide, I used to wonder why I made it. Why didn’t I follow-through with the plans? Why didn’t I not wake up? There were so many points where I thought I wanted to die.
Some of it just has to be luck.
Some of it is a belief I was supposed to live with these Bitches and tell these stories. To run marathons and do yoga and lift weights. To curse and kick and cry and scream. To help others realize that it’s okay to not be okay all the time.
It’s okay to not be okay all the time. That’s what I want you to remember.
There is a whole generation of young adults who don’t know a world without total digital connectivity. Young adults not learning how to think critically or process their growth, but knowing how to edit their online lives to portray a completely different reality. They are masters at pan and scan editing.
What we see them posting, maybe we’re missing over 40% of the composition, like in the movies. Or maybe we’re missing a lot more, like Maddy. Emotional transparency is hard for many of us, let alone for young adults who are navigating the world on their own for the first time.
I just want you to remember, it’s okay to not be okay all the time.