Breaking up with Barack: A choice

This is the hardest breakup I have ever gone through.

Apart from my incessant ability to procrastinate, I did just that when Obama gave his farewell speech earlier this week. I felt guilty for not watching sooner. But grief is a hard master. So tonight, I sat down and braced myself for the waterworks and ugly crying that I did. And you bet your ass I drank some Gloria Ferrer. If this is to end, I’m doing this with fucking class.

Let me lay this down for you. I’m not happy about this shit — and as much as I wish this weren’t true, it is (it’s not over until I say it’s over, you know?). And there’s (almost) nothing I can do about it.

For the last eight years, Barack Obama has perhaps given me the most stable, reliable source of trust and confidence I’ve ever had (an exception to my romance with beer and grilled cheese). No one’s perfect, but that’s what makes them perfect. And when you love someone, you don’t suddenly stop loving them because they walk away from the relationship. It hurts. And it hurts because deep down, you know it was for the best. You know this needed to happen.

So when I sat down and finally watched his speech, I was filled with an array of emotions that may be the weirdest cluster-fuck of feelings I’ve ever had: Pride, anger, fear, and love. There I was, watching the man I love continue to be the honest, inspirational, and provocative man I fell in love with eight years ago. I was so proud of him, even though with every word he said, my heart shattered into a thousand pieces, again and again. Just because he’s leaving my life does not mean he stops being any of those things — and that is why this hurts. He will continue to exist, without me as his (somewhat) law-abiding citizen and number one fan (challenge me, bitches, I dare you). Because life, as it does, will go on, and I will enter the next chapter of my life. Without him. It’s selfish and self-centered and possessive, but those are my feelings.

The hardest part of watching Obama leave the White House may not be the fact that he’s going to be replaced by a cheeto-dusted moron (a close fucking second, though). It’s because I know this is the right call. There is no other way. This is the way of our democracy, and I have to come to terms with it. The passionate, unrealistic soul in me was hoping Obama would come out and say, “Nah, fuck that,” and allow himself to be re-elected. Or write some sort of deus ex machina that would save me and the American people from World War III and being forced to let anyone grab my pussy. This must be some sort of sick joke. It can’t be real. It can’t really be over. He’ll change his mind tomorrow. This can’t be the end. He’ll change his mind tomorrow. It’s when you start thinking of all the grandiose, unrealistic options, that it’s really over. There’s nothing you can do.

I can’t blame him. I can’t say he cheated on me, or lied to me, or chose being an ethically moral human being over protecting me from a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist piece of fake burnt crisp. I have no ammunition. It is so easy to replace love with hate — but I can’t bring myself to do that. I’d be a total phony if I did. There’s nothing I can say that will change this decision. Nothing I can do to reverse what time and the Constitution has inflicted upon me. I feel so helpless. I feel so lost.

I avoided watching his speech, because I knew it would hurt. I knew it would leave me reeling. There’s nothing worse than listening to the last time the person you love tell you goodbye, because at the end of the conversation, that’s it. They walk away. And there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing Obama can do about it — he has no other choice, either. And this whole time, while you’re trying to hold it together and respect their voice, you can’t help but dread the minute they stop speaking to you. The second he thanked Michelle for her devotion and unconditional love, I lost it. When he made his final, final comments, the tears and hyperventilating came. Because then, it’s really over.


I can sit here and tell you I finished that bottle of champagne to myself, or spent $70 on underwear because I’m dramatic and emotionally unhinged, I could. And for the record, I did both of these things. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my relationship with Obama, it’s, well, love. I love that man. I always will. Him walking away from the Oval Office won’t end me. It does not break me. I am so proud of him. In the face of adversity, he did. I’m not bitter or resentful toward him — he has given me so much, in such a selfless manner, that I am struck with a flood of emotional gratitude. And I could never, ever resent him for that. His presidency — my president — has left me with an inspirational, uplifting sort of love. The kind that makes you want to be a better person. The kind that challenges you to wake up in the morning and dish out kindness and patience toward people you don’t know. The kind of love that challenges you to love yourself (what an idea!). The kind of love that makes you want to be a better person. In fact, you ARE a better person because of them. And, I think, that is the greatest gift that anyone can give you.

So, as much as it breaks me, as much as it hurts me, I have nothing but love for this man. Thank you, Obama. Thank you for all that you have given me. You can bet I’ll raise hell these next four years. I dare you, watch me.


West World Chronicles: 1.10

Season finale. Everything comes full circle. I thought about breaking this up into two separate posts, but fuck it. I figure if you want to read it, you will. There’s a path for everyone.

“The Bicameral Mind” is the final episode of West World’s first season. With the way things end — I can say I’m more hooked than I was on Game of Thrones. Call it my addictive personality or obsession with a great story, but it’s true nevertheless.

Once again, the title talks to us. The now outdated theory of our mind separated by two halves — one that talks, and the other that listens and does — makes itself present in this episode. It manifests itself in none other than Dolores — who, throughout the season, has shown that she is guided by an inner monologue. Her intuition, her bicameral mind. More on sweet D in a sec.

In this final episode, we begin with Dolores’ very first memory. How fitting the end is the beginning. Dolores is now the narrator, telling Arnold of her first memory — a memory she’s had all the time, but was unable to access it. She is enchanted by Arnold and her epiphany. Their relationship is that of a parent and child. However, the Man in Black snaps her back to reality, and she is back in Escalante shaving his neck with his knife (how ironic). The Man in Black begins to lose his patience with Dolores, but humors her as she falls back into another memory, which leads her to her own grave. She digs up a toy maze; she holds the game — literally — in her hands. Contrary to what the Man in Black may believe, there are no coincidences in West World, no chance encounters. And as Dolores says, “There’s a path for everyone.”

She realizes Arnold made the maze for her. Dolores, who has been at her grave before, is explained (by Arnold) that the journey to consciousness is not a path upward, but inward. (lightbulb moment.) Arnold tells her that he wanted her to listen to her own voice, and reach her own consciousness, but that she has yet to reach the third level. This is when Arnold explains to her (and us) that once he realized what Dolores was capable of, there was no way he could go through with opening the park — a decision Ford was not onboard with. Arnold tells Dolores, “Once you found it, you will find your way back.” Arnold wants Dolores to break the loop and help him destroy the park — and the only way to do that, is to kill the other hosts. Dolores panics — she’s too gentle and naive to be holding a gun — or so it seems. So, Arnold messes with her personality, and adds in what I’m assuming is a lot of aggression and very little empathy. I found this scene to be particularly puzzling. I’m all for Dolores being a bad ass and smashing the park — but it’s almost like she’s a pawn of Arnold’s. I suppose Arnold is acting selflessly because he wants to free the hosts, but he’s still controlling her. How much free will does Dolores actually have?

We quickly flip to William, who is consumed by his obsession to find Dolores. I don’t think anyone really gives a shit about him at this point, and if you do, I ain’t sorry. We’re trimming the fat here.

Teddy awakes on the train (again). But this time, something is different when he steps into Sweet Water. His mind begins to flip back to another life long ago, and sees the entire town massacred. The only other being he sees is Dolores, who flashes him an all-knowing smile.

Back to the graveyard (which is an interesting setting, given all of Dolores’ realizations that make her alive). For Dolores, the past and the present meet in the graveyard in Escalante — including her relationship with the Man in Black. He is frustrated with Dolores, and after 30 years of playing the game, he wants answers. Frightened, Dolores tells him that she has someone — someone true — who is coming for her. MIB chuckles and in a long-winded narration, he tells Dolores the story of William. He reveals that while searching for Dolores for all those years, William found his true self along the way. And, surprise, MIB is William. Not a huge fan of this twist, but whatever. This truth then reveals that during this entire season, we’ve been watching Dolores from the past. Sure, there are subtle hints here and there that point to this, but I really was hoping for something more… clever. Having this thrown in my face sort of disappointed me — made me feel slightly cheated. Whatever.

A key part of this scene is a notable switch in Dolores’ demeanor after William pushes her.  Dolores is devastated that she was the one who committed the massacre in Escalante all those years ago — but don’t forget, she did it under Arnold’s orders. Her disposition quickly shifts from being a damsel, scared, and vulnerable, to an ominous, dangerous, and indestructible being. The juxtaposition of Dolores, injured and on the ground by her grave, and William standing over her should not go unnoticed. William tells her he wants to get to the center of the maze, and he’s sick of her stupidity. This triggers Dolores to make a very, very foreboding statement: “Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures … One day you will perish … and your bones will turn to sand, and upon that sand, a new god will walk … the world belongs to someone who has yet to come.” This is not the first time Dolores has predicted this apocalypse of sorts — she says something very similar before slashing Logan and escaping the Union camp. It is not gibberish, or improvisation; it’s a premonition of the future. In a nearly possessed manner, Dolores attacks William and deals him several blows (that actually hurt him and he totally deserves it because he’s an asshole murderer) before he is the one who finds himself at her mercy, laying on a grave. Dolores holds a gun to William’s head — but she can’t pull the trigger, and disappointedly, William stabs her. Circling (ha) back to Arnold’s theory of consciousness, is the final step to consciousness free will? Why does Dolores hesitate? She, like Teddy, can’t bring themselves to murder, and I’m dying to know what that final step is.

In an epic Maeve fashion, she, Hector, and Armistice begin taking down the gods and escaping. This comes just after William encounters Ford at the graveyard, and tells him he wants the hosts to fight back. Ford also tells William the maze isn’t meant for him, but he will at least like the new narrative. Be careful what you wish for.  The trio head down to where Clem and “dead” Bernard are. They bring Bernard back online, who is still shocked by his memory. While it may seem Maeve has no empathy for Bernard, she has chosen to let go of the past on focus on her plan of escape. For a hot minute, she asks Bernard to delete her memories of her daughter — making it obvious she still may be grieving. But Bernard tells her it’s not possible, and that it is engrained in her core code. This is Maeve’s cornerstone — her identity as a mother and losing a child. Like Bernard. Maeve is rattled, though, when Bernard tells her that she’s been programmed to escape this entire time (orchestrated by Arnold). She vehemently denies, and says, “I’m in control.” Maeve is strong, but her notion of free-will is threatened; which, in turn, causes her to question the nature of her reality all over again.

Teddy finally takes Dolores to where the mountains meet the sea (WW is on an island, in case you didn’t know). In a theatrical, dramatic performance, Dolores’ final words to Teddy are what we have always heard Dolores say — but with more. She begins by stating, “Some people choose to see the ugliness in the world, I choose to see the beauty.” A given. However, she follows by saying, “But beauty is a lure. We’re trapped, Teddy. Lived our whole lives inside this garden, marveling at it’s beauty, not realizing there’s an order to it, a purpose. And the purpose is to keep us in. The beautiful trap is inside of us, because it is us.”

A lot to break down. This soliloquy reminds us that throughout the entire season, we are only seeing a part of the picture, but not the whole picture. That there is much more at play than we can see. Dolores’ final words aren’t threatening or dangerous — they are sad. We pity her. We feel for her. You can get real introspective on this shit, but all I’ll say on this is that it calls on the audience to consider their own entrapment. How happy are you, living in your own garden, in your own world? Is there more out there? Maybe, we should constantly search for more, rather than live contently, exactly where we are. And maybe, ignorance isn’t bliss.

Maeve and her followers make their way through West World’s facilities, shooting and killing anyone who comes in their path. Bang bang. Felix is clearly disturbed, and Maeve urges him on and provides him with tacit emotional support. An interesting role reversal. Armistice’s arm is trapped in a door — there’s no other way it can end for her (love that her name is Armistice, when she is literally the antithesis of that, almost like Ares). Her cornerstone is fighting to the death, and sticking it to the man. Hector tells her to “die well.” (But if you caught the scene after the final credits, you know damn well she’ll be back for season two) Maeve bids farewell to Hector, her star-crossed lover, in the elevator. He understands, and tells her, “See you in the next life.” (Foreshadowing, much??) She does not want anyone by her side in her endeavor. Not even Felix, who hands her a piece of paper with her daughter’s location inside the park. For half a second, she hesitates. But then she says,”She was never my daughter, any more than I was … whoever they made me.” And with that, Maeve leaves Felix and plops herself down onto the train.

Following her death, Dolores is brought back online by Ford in the old field lab. She and Ford muse Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” Ford uses the painting to explain Arnold’s thought process behind building and creating Dolores. He tells us that through Arnold’s own personal tragedy, he created a test of empathy and re-imagination; an idea he had gotten from one of his son’s toys. The maze, then, was created for Arnold’s child, Dolores, to play. She solved the mystery of the maze — and the key, Ford tells us, was the simple update of the reveries. We learn that in an attempt to stop Ford from opening the park, Arnold merged Wyatt’s narrative with Dolores, enabling her to take down other hosts. We watch Dolores kill Arnold during the massacre, who tells her, “I hope there’s some solace that I left you no choice.” Although Dolores physically shoots Arnold, he programmed her to do it re: “These violent delights have violent ends.”

Ford goes on to explain Dolores was not truly conscious, and Arnold pulled the trigger through her. He defends his stance on opening the park and choosing to trap the hosts in his dreams, but he also admits he’s changed. Upon quoting J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ford is admitting he may have made a mistake, one that took him 35 years to correct. In his own way, Ford is apologizing to Dolores. He levels with her, and while referencing the painting, tells her that the divine gift of consciousness does not come for another power, but from our own minds. In a paternal manner, he asks her: “Did you find what you were looking for, and do you understand who you will need to become if you ever want to leave this place?” He then leaves her, but not before saying, “Forgive me.” Dolores is left in tears, but her eyes are fixated on the painting — she knows what she needs to do.

Bernard, still pissed at Ford, confronts him in the church on his way out. He calls him out and tells him that one day, he will loses control of the park and the hosts. Ford (who is really just Anthony Hopkins playing Anthony Hopkins) counters with a confession of sorts. Ford explains while Arnold tried to save the hosts, Ford knew how: time. The hosts needed time to understand their enemy (humans), so they could have a fair shot at their own freedom. He admits that Arnold’s key insight, which led to the hosts’ awakening, was his own suffering. Through suffering, the hosts could reach their own consciousness. It was only after Arnold’s death, and through his own suffering, that Ford realized he was perhaps wrong. Ford, the master, the creator, the god, repents for his sins and confesses to his creation. Before leaving the church, he, in a way, passes Bernard the baton, and tells him: “In order to escape this place, you will need to suffer more.”

Wrapping this up because I am now over two thousand words and I’m not sorry at all so here’s the last bit.

Dolores, alone in the old field lab room, comes face to face with herself. She finally reaches the third level. She realizes this entire time, she’s been listening to her own self, her own voice. Her realization of self prompts her to make her own choice — completely unprogrammed (I’m making a jump here, humor me). She grabs the gun and makes her way to the gala, where Ford makes his final speech — his final performance, if you will. Unlike her last go-around with Arnold, Dolores will kill Ford on her own free will — and Ford knows this. There’s no doubt in my mind Ford is aware of the events that will transpire, even if they are unplanned and improvised. He explains to the shitty Delos board people that this next narrative will begin in a time of war and a villain named Wyatt, and a killing will occur –“this time, by choice.” Little do they all know they are part of the narrative — the story of the hosts and humans finally collides in an explosion of gunfire and violence. Dolores’ past and present finally merge. In a predictable final blow (sorry not sorry), Dolores assassinates Ford, and proceeds to shoot guests. But not before Ford heeds a final warning, one we’ve heard throughout the entire season: “These violent delights have violent ends.” Ford’s final narrative finally begins, as his own ends. And if we’re being totally honest, it’s not his narrative anymore — it’s belongs to the hosts.

Shit really does hit the fan, but it would be naive to say we didn’t see this coming. Dolores has reached her full potential and steps into her own self — one that was there all along. She breaks the loop with her own free will, and she does that on her own. We finally see Ford’s full plan — and until this episode, I don’t think anyone was expecting him to help the hosts. Like Arnold, West World became Ford’s reality — and I don’t think he could live without being in it. Which I think plays a factor in his choice to help Dolores, and end his life. His own suffering, I think, drove him to compassion for the hosts. Maeve also arguably makes her own decision in getting off the train — I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next season, she sets off on a quest to find her daughter. Maybe, just maybe, Arnold programmed her only to leave the park and get on the train — maybe he was gambling and hoping Maeve would decide to stay.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for next season’s West World Chronicles.

Freeze all motor functions.

P.S. I sat down the other day and watched the  1973 film “Westworld” out of principle and sheer curiosity. Well, mainly because a very clever human called me out for blogging about this show and having never seen the OG. Needless to say, the concept behind the film was developed, but I think the tech/special effects couldn’t do it justice. Besides, who wants to watch some robot take down a human who can barely put up a fight? We all like watching people squirm, robot or human-alike.


West World Chronicles: 1.9

“The Well-Tempered Clavier” is the second to last episode of the first season of West World, and it brings us nearly full circle.

As mentioned before, the titles of each episode offer insight, foreshadowing, or some sort of tribute to the events that transpire. “The Well-Tempered Clavier” is a reference to composer Bach’s collection of Preludes and Fugues in all 24 major and minor keys. Like Bach, Ford is the creator and master of West World, and this title implies we’ll bear witness to all of Ford’s plan. West World is Ford’s masterpiece, but it will come to an end, no less.

If you haven’t watched the series, you should probably stop reading this now, or prepare yourself for a serious mind fuck. Your “choice.”

The episode begins with Bernard analyzing Maeve’s latest outburst, in which she slashed Clementine’s throat in a triggered response to her memory of the Man in Black murdering her daughter. Maeve pretends to follow Bernard’s orders, but quickly breaks the fourth barrier (so to speak) and bestows upon him the truth. Bernard’s mind is thrown into disarray (once again) after realizing he is a host, and he questions the nature of his reality. Maeve warns him, “It’s a difficult thing, realizing your entire life is some hideous fiction.” She leaves, moving forward with gathering her army, and leaving Bernard in the room with his identity shattered on the floor.

We jump to William and Dolores, who are being held captive under Logan’s wrath. The two men argue over how real Dolores is, and William pleads for Logan to help her leave the park. They bicker between deciding her fate — as if it is in their hands. However, Dolores refutes both of them, in both stating they are assuming she wants to leave and know what she wants. Dolores has her own path, one that cannot be changed by either of them.

Bernard breaks into Ford’s office in search of answers, and in an old forgotten room, holds Ford at gunpoint (by the lovely, Clem, of course) until he allows him access to his memories. Bernard is seeking answers; he wants to remember. Ford obliges him, but warns that he may not like what he finds. And so we watch Bernard become conscious of his memories with his son, Teresa and Maeve. It is through these forgotten and almost erased version of realities, that he begins to piece together the bigger picture. He fills the vacancies of his mind by memories he had lost, but has had all this time. Upon realizing he murdered both Teresa and Elsie, he panics, and is brought back to the present. A calm Ford counters Bernard’s frustration and anger with, “A little trauma can be illuminating.”

Later in the evening at the Union army camp, the tension between Logan and William breaks. Logan, who initially encouraged William to immerse himself into West World, is now struggling to pull him out of it. He is pushed to violence, and rips open Dolores to prove to William she is not real. Logan tells William, “You have to look.” While it may be obvious he wants William to see Dolores for what she truly is, it is also acts as a rhetorical question for the audience. We have to pay attention. We have to look. But at what? It is a stark reminder of the truth for William, who is visibly pained by Dolores’ suffering. Is he distraught for her, or for himself? Logan tells a doubled-over Dolores her world was built for humans — but she warns him, that if that is true, someone should burn it clean. She then attacks him and escapes. Dolores’ wound is gone, and she is told to “remember.” This is also a reminder for the audience that Dolores is walking between memory and reality. After Dolores escapes, Logan and William seemingly reconnect and make amends. I think we all know that’s not true, especially when Logan tells William, “You will never be the hero.”

Maeve finds Hector Escaton to recruit him in her fight against the gods. Instead of ordering him to follow her, she allows him the opportunity to join her out of his own free will. She uses her knowledge of the future to prove to Hector that their reality is a farce, one of emptiness. Hector is sold once Maeve opens the safe, and reveals it is filled with nothing. Hector’s purpose, his search of the Holy Grail — his cornerstone — relied on stealing and opening the safe. Now that he is aware of the facade that is his world, he willingly joins Maeve to take down the gods. If we want to get biblical and shit, you could say Maeve becomes a messiah of sorts — a savior who lifts the veil. Maeve the messiah. How poetic.

We’re brought back to Teddy and the Man in Black, who are both tied up by Angela, a pawn of Wyatt’s. Angela forces Teddy to remember his role in helping Wyatt, a memory that is fragmented and shatters Teddy’s understanding of himself. Teddy, the knight in shining armor, is devastated when he realizes he committed mass murder. Initially, his memory shows him in an army outfit, shooting other soldiers. But when pushed by Angela, he remembers a different version of that memory. One in which he is a civilian, killing other civilians, including Angela. Chivalrous Teddy is obviously shocked, but becomes even more confused when Angela says that next time, she and others will be with him at the “city swallowed by sand.” This implies Teddy will help Wyatt, or whoever, commit the same massacre. It’s also important to note that in his military version, Wyatt executes the general of the army — the leader. Perhaps this foreshadowing asks us to question who is the master, and who is the student — and who will kill who? Angela also tells the Man in Black that the maze is not meant for him, something he has heard before. The maze, then, is not for humans, but for the hosts. More specifically, Dolores.

Bernard continues to relive his memories. He is brought back to the day Maeve killed herself following the loss of her daughter. When Bernard questions her actions, Ford (in an omniscient manner) explains that creatures often go to extremes to protect themselves from pain. In this memory, we witness Bernard piecing together how the hosts operate, and makes the conclusion that Maeve’s behavior signals a change in her cognitive functions — but he only gets so far. As a host himself, his mental capacity is only so limited (or perhaps controlled by Ford).

The enigma of Arnold is brought to the forefront in this episode, and we finally learn who he is and what happened to him. As Dolores follows the maze and fights to remember by both retracing and discovering her steps to the city swallowed by sand, Ford narrates the story of Arnold. We watch Dolores enter the church and directly enter the confession booth. It is clear she has been there before and that some sort of intuition is guiding her. Ford tells us that Arnold built a version of the host’s cognition in which hosts were able to hear their programming as an inner monologue, as a way to bootstrap consciousness. Arnold wanted to create consciousness, hence why Dolores constantly hears him urging her to remember. The confession booth acts a a shaft, that leads her to West World’s old operation rooms. As she walks through the corridors, we watch her walk through the past and present, piecing together her memory. The duality of her memory and reality is blurred, but we are able to distinguish between the two by her alternating attire and the state of the facilities.

The story (or narrative) of Arnold is intertwined with Dolores’; their lives do not exist without the other. Ford tells Bernard that he was not built by Arnold, and was actually built by Ford as a model of Arnold. Ergo: Bernard is Arnold. Ford explains that Bernard’s cornerstone was an homage to Arnold’s own personal tragedies. Ford references Arnold’s obsession with creating consciousness, and that it was indeed his downfall and reason for his death. Ford explains to Bernard he needed his partner to continue building West World, which is why he built Bernard. So in Bernard’s first memory, he is meeting both himself and “Arnold.” As we watch Dolores enter the a room — the supposed room where “Bernard” would ask her if she ever questioned the nature of her reality — the story of Dolores, Bernard, and Arnold comes full circle. Dolores finally “meets” Arnold, and she begs for his help. However, he tells her he can’t, and that she know this. Again, he urges her to remember. And so, we, and Dolores, learn that he cannot help her because she killed Arnold. (He also cannot help her because she is in a memory, but that is of less importance than the fact that she is responsible for Arnold’s death). Dolores is stricken with grief and a sense of hopelessness as she leaves the church. In a way, she met her god (Arnold) and learned the truth — one that she knew all along. After maybe six episodes of separation, Dolores and the Man in Black finally encounter one another again inside the church. A twisted reunion of sorts.

Bernard is floored by the revelations of his origins and Arnold. He was warned. Ford is passively disappointed in Bernard, and to Bernard’s surprise, he reveals a back door in Clem’s (and all hosts’) codes. “The piano doesn’t murder the player, if it doesn’t like the music,” Ford tells Bernard. This statement is puzzling. Ford clearly does not share the same view as Arnold regarding the hosts’ consciousness, and he appears to have his doubts in their abilities. In Bernard’s final moments, Ford narrates that once he exits the room, Bernard will shoot himself. In a very ironic manner, Bernard commits his final act by killing himself, at the hand of Ford (pun intended). While this may seem like Ford’s final crescendo, we have yet to see what his final narrative entails.


West World Chronicles 1.8

Again, I did a little research on the title before watching the episode “Trace Decay.” Super reliable Wikipedia gave me the incredibly simplified — but also comprehensible — version of trace decay theory. Essentially, the theory implies that memory leaves some sort of trace, be it physical or chemical. What a clever way to incorporate a shit ton of foreshadowing in the title. As I mentioned, many things are hidden in plain sight.

The episode opens on Bernard, who is struck by grief — grief that he killed Theresa, grief that Ford told him to do it, and grief that he is a host. He is horrified by her murder, which was committed by him (but inflicted upon by Ford) no less. Ford is uncannily stoic during this entire ordeal, and it makes me question how much Ford has planned or knows. While Bernard suffers, Ford calls his range of emotions a beautiful thing, and that perhaps he and Bernard have indeed been able to capture one elusive thing: heart. He seems at peace with the way of things, which for me, means he is aware. But of what?

Ford explains his rationale behind Theresa’s murder, and drops Bernard a quote from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein:” “One man’s life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire.” I think the parallels are extremely obvious and I’m just going to leave it at that. Ford promises Bernard that once he commits to being his true self (which is??) and covers up Theresa’s murder, he will wipe his memory of her, allowing him to be at peace. Can we ever be at peace if we have memory, and if we have memory, will be always have grief?

The next scene cuts to Maeve in the saloon, who is clearly not at peace. Her self-awareness has alienated her from other hosts, including the new Clementine, whom Maeve sees as an impostor (oh, the irony). While plotting her next steps, she witnesses a child walking by, which triggers memories of her and her own daughter. Although that past life has been “wiped” from her memory, traces of it clearly exist within her. She almost asks Felix to find out where her daughter is, but she chooses not to know. Instead, she is ready to “write my own story.” Do we need to be ignorant to move forward?

We then are brought back (online) to Dolores and William, who are searching for the town in Dolores’ mind. They come across a beach massacre of Confederado soldiers,  who originally intended to ambush them. William treats a dying boy with hostility, whereas Dolores pities him and immediately fetches water for him. There is irony in a host showing more compassion that a human being, prompting us to reconsider how different are we, if at all, from the hosts. While by the river, Dolores’ memories momentarily pull her into another life, one in which she sees herself dead in the water. A voice — a blend of male and female — tells her to “come find me.” Although we know Arnold is in her head, what is the second voice she is hearing? Meanwhile, we can tell by the look on William’s face that he is contemplating killing the boy; his attitude begins to shift towards a darker narrative. He doesn’t have a white hat anymore.

Meanwhile, Hale plays chicken with Ford as Stubbs explains Theresa’s cause of death and her disloyalty to the company. It is evident Hale knows Ford played a hand in her death, but since she cannot prove it, she continues playing the chess-game of power with him. She recruits Sizemore to help her smuggle core codes out of the park, and the host she chooses is none other than Abernathy.

Maeve is yet again with Felix and Sylvester, and she demands they change her core code to allow her more power and control. Sylvester chastises her, telling her that the way she operates is so deeply burned into her core code, there is no changing it. This almost sounds like a negative statement, but in reality, it works in Maeve’s favor. It is no mistake Maeve remembers her past life, or that her memory is continually preserved. She is, like Dolores, one of the oldest hosts in the park, and was most likely built by Arnold. I think there is much more at play here than a host glitch. Maeve says so herself, when she remarks that there are “things in me, that I was designed to do, that are just out of my reach. They almost seem to be dormant.” She then asks who Arnold is, and if that doesn’t spell it out for you, you’re not playing enough attention. In order to make the modifications in her code, the shades agree to shut her down, but Felix deviates from their plan of wiping her memory clean — he preserves it. So when Maeve wakes up, Sylvester is nearly scared to death, but Maeve beats him to the punch by slicing his neck. She orders Felix to save him, and in a very ironic way, he does her bidding. Maeve exercises her new power in the park, which allows her to control other hosts. She has a bit of fun, and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” emulates Maeve’s true self.

However, things get out of hand when she is triggered and remembers how she and her daughter were killed — by the Man in Black. The Man in Black explains his murder of Maeve and her daughter while Teddy has him tied up somewhere near Wyatt’s camp. We learn that the Man in Black has been playing in the park for over 30 years, and in an attempt to feel something, he murders Maeve. He notes, though, that after he killed them both, Maeve was alive — even just for a second — as she carried her daughter outside and collapsed on the maze-engraved ground. The moment Maeve attacks the Man in Black is when she slices Clem’s neck in real-time, in front of everyone in Sweetwater. She, like Dolores, is struggling to separate her memories and reality.

West World Chronicles: 1.7

trompe l’oeil
ˌtrômp ˈloi/
  1. visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object.

After this week’s episode, I’m beginning to believe that HBO is trolling every person watching West World. I would consider this episode to be the turning point of the season, and it’s title serves as a spoiler hidden in plain sight. Unless you speak French — then perhaps you aren’t naive as I am. But I digress.

Bernard wakes up from a dream; a dream of a memory of him and his son, moments before his death. As he reads “Alice in Wonderland,” Bernard’s son questions the nature of his own reality. His last words are “listen to me,” but he does not complete his thought before losing consciousness. This leaves us wondering, why would he tell Bernard to listen? And to what? It is clear Bernard is living in the past, in his own memory (don’t we all?). Like the hosts, his reality is perhaps a sham — and it is in his dreams that he truly feels awake. However, he doesn’t give this a second thought, and he continues to carry on with his little loop.

We jump back to Dolores and William, who find themselves on a train with El Lazo, searching for the place Dolores is dreaming of. William and El Lazo are playing cards, a cheeky reminder that they are within a game themselves, and William is destined to lose. At one point, El Lazo tells William that maybe he has more of an appetite for killing than he thinks. The statement unsettles William, but he doesn’t refute it. He turns his gaze to Dolores, implying that she is his justification and reason for playing the game. Are we all searching for a reason to live, to work, to love? What is it that sparks the human drive? What are we willing to put our lives on the line for? William confesses to Dolores that in the outside world, he has a real life and a fiancee waiting for him. He is painfully honest with her, but makes a pivotal choice in also confessing that West World is “a life in which I can truly be alive.” William’s choice reflects his descent into his own personal maze, one which we have yet to see where it will lead him. Dolores warns him, that she is not a key. To what, we also have yet to find out.

In an attempted coup masked as a “blood sacrifice,” Teresa and Hale manipulate Clementine Pennyfeather’s code to create a connection between her past memory and violent behavior. They use Clem as a cautionary tale, a mistake that cannot ever be made — and one that someone must take the fall for. Watching Clem’s assault is an emotional peak of the episode. We bear witness to Clem’s helplessness, as well as Ford, Bernard, and Teresa watch her be brutally assaulted. It is both rattling and unsettling for us and the characters to watch her suffer. Clem is so human-like, that Teresa is visibly uncomfortable with the violence inflicted on her. It is an ugly reminder of what people –hosts or humans — are capable of.

Clem’s “grudge” is riddled with irony, largely because while her code is manipulated to remember, Maeve’s is not. Maeve continues to expand her mental understanding of her world, and she makes a decision to escape the park. After witnessing Clem’s lobotomy, Maeve realizes that her humanity (relatively speaking) can easily be taken away. Watching the “life” drilled out of Clem inflicts immense suffering on Maeve, and we connect with her, because suffering is a cornerstone of the human condition.

The episode’s final scene concludes in Ford’s underground lab inside the park after Bernard leads Teresa there. Although he’s lost his job, Bernard’s valiant nature implores him to show Teresa Ford’s undertaking of building secret hosts. The two quickly piece together that the hosts’ ability to have memories allow them to improvise and continually variate. This implies the hosts, unbeknownst to the board, are potentially capable of reaching consciousness and free will.  As she sifts through the items, Teresa comes across a number of diagrams. One of which is Dolores, who is noted as a prototype. This is another reminder that Dolores, in whatever shape or form, will play an integral role in Ford’s plans for the park. In an epic plot twist, Teresa also finds a diagram of Bernard, who, when shown the picture, says, “That doesn’t look like anything to me.” In that moment, Teresa realizes Bernard is a host, and Ford appears to tell her she’s been played the whole time.

Looking back, the subtle hints referring to Bernard not being a human do exist. Particularly when Ford tells him, “You should be getting back, Bernard,” or “That’s enough.” Bernard himself is shocked by this revelation, as is Teresa. Calmly, Ford speaks a trigger phrase that orders Bernard to kill Teresa. Bernard obliges, and Teresa dies where hosts are born. This final scene is particularly unnerving because this is the first instance in which we see a host kill a human, much less by the order of a human. This is why the episode’s title is perfect — Bernard’s inhuman existence was hidden in plain sight. It serves as a reminder that sometimes, reality and fantasy can be mistaken for one another; a mistake that could kill you.

West World Chronicles: 1.6

Episode six teeters on the edge of becoming almost so ridiculous that I was anxious the entire time.

Which I think was completely intentional by the folks at HBO. So, well done. Here’s my rendition on this week’s episode “The Adversary.”

The sixth episode of West World begins to fill in the blanks of the park’s management and the dangerous politics that are at play. We’re slowly getting the bigger picture, and this episode seemed quite focused on that. We see nothing of Dolores and William — instead of watching the same repeat day, we’re given a view of what goes on upstairs. We learn what goes into creating a host’s personality and what goes behind tweaking one.

This is all explored through Maeve. For reasons I have yet to understand, Maeve has managed to remember and wake up during her sessions with Felix. She breaks the barrier, something I don’t think she nor Felix were prepared for. In a genius conniving Maeve manner, she manages to get a tour of the upstairs. The holes in her understanding of her world become filled in — whether she likes it or not. She seems neither horrified or thrilled with this new knowledge. If anything, she seems extremely uncomfortable. This calls into question a couple of things. First, would we want to see the “truth” if we had the opportunity? Do we dare not ask, but answer the question of “why are we here?” Maeve does this, and the reality that she was built to serve others is one she won’t accept. Secondly, the question of fate resurfaces. When Felix shows Maeve the pad as she speaks, her sense of autonomy and free will are challenged. Is anything Maeve does by her own accord? Are any of her thoughts truly her own? These are unsettling, identity-crushing questions that we immediately commence pondering ourselves. We question how much of our own free will dictates our lives, and if we have any control over our own destinies. These are very big questions, with very few answers.


West World Chronicles: 1.5

This week’s episode of West World is almost what I wish every episode of Game of Thrones would be. The continuing plot begins to take shape in the form of Dolores’ and Williams’ personal journey in and out of Pariah. But more importantly, we begin to see the development of several key characters, who step into bigger roles, if you will.

Ford (whom we finally learn his first name, Robert) begins the episode with an anecdote, of an old grey hound who finally catches a cat, and kills it. The saddest thing, Ford says, is watching the canine have no clue what to do after killing the feline. Perhaps it’s painfully obvious, but Ford’s childhood story points to this episode’s over arching theme: purpose. What is one’s purpose? And how do we find it? More importantly, what do we do once we realize our purpose? As Dolores has repeatedly said, “There’s a path for everyone.”

Dolores’ path, and her purpose are entirely altered in this episode. Her journey to Pariah with William and Logan bring her closer to the voices in her head, who tell her she must follow the maze. She is pushed to desperation, to survival mode, when she and William become trapped by Confederados. However, in another unsurprising twist, Dolores kills their enemies, telling William she imagines a role where she is not the damsel. Dolores makes a clear deviation from her “little loop,” choosing to step into a bigger, perhaps more dangerous role. Her actions imply that we all are the makers of our own fate, and, if we so desire, can alter our own destiny.

Although we view Dolores as a protagonist in the game, her conversation with Ford suggests otherwise. Ford interrogates her regarding Arnold, and whether or not he has been speaking with her. She clearly denies, later speaking out loud — and presumably to Arnold — that she didn’t tell him anything. We do learn how long it’s been since Arnold’s death, and that Dolores was there when he died. That said, Ford does not consider Dolores a friend at all, and regards her with a subtle animosity. This distinction causes us to ponder what hand, if any, Dolores played in Arnold’s death. In fact, Ford states she is the only host still “alive” who was there when Arnold died — 34 years, 42 days, and 7 hours. The plot thickens when Ford asserts that Arnold told Dolores that she would help him destroy West World, begging the question of whether she is good or bad. Would be painfully obvious to note that once Dolores is given a new set of attire (hence, her transformation), she has a brown hat. Unlike William’s who is distinctively white. Or Logan’s black one.

Dolores’ connection with William is a connection to the real world, one her clouded subconscious knows exists, yet continues to lurk deep within her. It is through William that she is able to unravel that mystery, and as she steps into a new role, she is one step closer to the real world. Her dreams, which are really conversations with real people (Ford and Bernard) do mean everything — they are stories we tell ourselves of what we could be and what we could become. Dolores “dreams” of real people — implying that she, too, could be real. I think it’s a no-brainer that once Dolores realizes what she is, she will inevitably desire to become “real.”

William, whose reserved and hesitant demeanor seem to shed light on the horrifying reality of West World, slowly shifts into an active, aggressive role. He finally stands up to Logan, leaving him imprisoned in Pariah (anyone else see Logan’s slight smirk when William decides to abandon him?). He kills a man to save Dolores. And most importantly, he believes Dolores when she says she’s searching for something more. She ties herself to him, as her anchor of what is and isn’t real, when she confides in him of the voices she hears in her head, urging her to seek.

Like Dolores, Felix, one of Maeve’s shades, has aspirations to become something greater; a coder for Westworld. This prompts us to consider how, and to what extent, we may be similar to the hosts. Although he is belittled by his colleague, he perseveres to fix a dead bird. And he does. This small victory is beautiful, because we, too, are hoping he is able to resurrect a dead creature within such a cold, lifeless building. We are offered a rare, short-lived glimpse of purity, that exists both within and outside of the game. But it quickly comes to an end when Felix finds an awake Maeve perched on a stretcher.

William’s connection with Dolores strengthens, and he grapples with allowing himself to believe that Dolores is not just another host, and that there is more to her than meets the eye. This innate hope resides in all of us, and serves as a tribute to the human condition of always hoping, searching for a better, more real world. Or, for lack of a better word, truth. Which is the ultimate irony of West World. In the search for something real, players are looking for truth and purpose in a completely false and artificial world. West World may act as an escape from reality, but it is also a mirror reflection of it. We bear witness to the extremes of human behavior — violence and sex. The violence we see in this episode explores the human understanding of death in violence. While we see it on TV and read about it, the park allows humans to experience it first-hand. Something that, in the real world, we don’t ever get to take back. In order for us to understand and experience death, we are only able to do so in a synthetic, unreal environment. Perhaps this is what happened to Arnold, who became so enraptured with the park and it’s world, his understanding of what is and isn’t real could only be distinguished through one unchangeable, certain action: death.


West World Chronicles: 1.4

In this week’s episode of HBO’s “West World,” we witness the further unraveling of the mystery of the maze, and the growing dissonance hosts begin to experience. The events in the fourth episode leave us both unsettled and begging for more. Here’s why.

The opening scene depicts Dolores, in another session with Bernard. Her memory has yet to be erased, and she is in shock and distraught that her family is killed — and that she herself killed a man. It reminds us that sometimes, we are much more capable than we think we are.  So this is the first time we watch Dolores process her feelings before they are deleted from her memory. She bears witness to her own suffering — one that the employees of West World have already witnessed thousands of times. She, like Teddy, has died a thousand deaths, only to continue living.

Bernard’s side project of experimenting with Dolores’ conscience seems to get out of hand, but he continues it regardless. In fact, he mentions the maze, which is only spoken of by the Man in Black — a mysterious veteran player who sets out to find the maze from the get go. This tells us that Dolores will inevitably cross paths with this man in one form or another. A bit for foreshadowing, shall we say. But hey, it’s the Wild West, so anything could happen.

We are then pulled from Dolores’ narrative to Maeve’s. I will note, though, that so far, the only two consistent host narratives that we see this far are of women. Teddy’s beef with Wyatt is momentarily on hold, and only serves as a secondary narrative to that of Dolores’ and Maeve’s. Both of whom begin to recall memories from another life. Maeve’s interaction with West World technicians, or “shades,” as some of the host Native Americans call them, continues to haunt her conscience. She even tells us that she has something on the tip of her tongue, but cannot for the life of her (ha) recall what it is. This marks a moment where we can all relate to her — which also serves to unsettle us — begging the question of whether or not we have past lives, or lost mysteries our subconscious continues to hold on to. We watch her struggle to remember a former life that she doesn’t have, one that does not exist — or so she thinks. In the midst of her paranoia, she draws the shade, only to discover previous drawings she’s hidden in the same place. This is where dissonance theory comes into play, nagging at Maeve’s understanding of the world and her fight to make sense of it. What is more haunting, though, is that the answers to the nonsensical happenings in Maeve’s life are right in from of her, hiding in plain sight — which is why she seeks out Hector Escaton’s knowledge on shades. The sense of dejavu is not just a feeling, it is a reality. Maeve’s conviction to piece together her fragmented memories with her life’s inconsistencies push her to the brink of insanity, only to find that her hunch and gut feeling was completely true. The hidden bullet within her stomach is the personification of her past life, as well as the proof.

Even though her memory will be wiped clean (something we now know to be untrue) as soon as she dies, Maeve’s ability to remember fragments will remain. Her premonition of Hector Escaton’s attack allows her to alter the chain of events, and in turn, her own destiny. The ability to change one’s own fate strikes an emotional chord with the audience, because by chance, Maeve’s inkling allows her to dig deeper into her understanding of the world and her path in it. Like Maeve, any of us are the makers of our own destiny, should we seek to alter it. The only way to do that, though, is by awakening our conscience. For Maeve, it is literally opening herself, and searching inside to do so.

Although this episode was full of flying bullets and grotesque images of the human condition, it also demanded from the audience a sense of curiosity. It asks us to consider the fantasy worlds we each live in, be it living in denial of losing a loved one, or the struggle to hold onto our own morality. While we may not truly be content with our own versions of reality, West World challenges our acceptance of them. Is there a way out? Perhaps this is the question Ford wants us to answer; but Arnold’s death serves as a warning and cautionary tale of one thing: do not lose your perspective.


An open letter to anyone who needs it

A foreword: It has regrettably been over a month since I last published a post. Re: my last post, let me punish myself by eating over-steamed broccoli in my mother’s house.
My online absence has not been due to my inability to believe I am a capable writer who can offer you words that will hopefully strike an emotional chord or two in you. I don’t believe in excuses, but my reasoning here is actually something I’d like to share with you. I know — haven’t I shared enough with you already?

I’ve spent the last month delving into the chasm that is my mental health. My mind, like any other, is an enigmatic labyrinth that both illuminates and clouds every thought, feeling, and action I have. I will spare you (and myself) the specs, but also because unless you’re a masochistic lost soul, I highly doubt you actually give a shit. We’re all selfish. Essentially, I ghosted my own blog because I was occupied finding my way through that very labyrinth in the form of art, road trips, music, and a little bit (what I mean is a lot) of tequila and 805. I made a conscious effort not to write. It was challenging.

After being  deeply and half-seriously preoccupied with my own mental health, I feel compelled to write a letter to anyone who is in need of having a letter written to them. I will save us all the same god damn spiel of how depression and anxiety afflict an unsettling number of people, or how millennials are riddled with mental health problems. We know that. I know that. I do not want to read another article from a 40-year-old telling me it is going to be okay because they, too, have been sinking in the quick sand that I and so many of my peers are currently stuck in. I’m tired of hearing stories about individuals other than those struggling around me.

For any other 23-year-olds out there reading this, this is for you. I will concede that this is also for anyone and everyone this speaks to. I am no longer in the fashion of writing letters, but old habits die hard.

I am not here to heal you. I am not here to tell you there is a magical way out of your own personal maze, or that I possess the mental ability to show you how. I can’t even give that to myself.

But I am here to tell you that despite what your anxiety, paranoia, depression or whatever the fuck is making you struggle (let’s be real, Donald seriously needs to fuck right off), your struggle is shared. Yes, this is a rendition of the “you are not alone” bullshit. But this isn’t coming from your mother, your therapist or Siri. And if you want to stop reading now and go back to your Facebook feed and dismissively scroll through “7 real ways to boost your mood in 5 minutes,” then that’s your prerogative.

And yet, if you’re struggling, and hoping against hope this in’t another empty blog post that doesn’t tell you anything at all, then I know you’re going to read through this.

I promise I’ll make it short. (A total lie.)

This isn’t an advice column where I bestow you my sagest of wisdoms. You’d have to pay me for that (in grilled cheese and your best puns, of course). What I truly want to emphasize is that yes, you are alone. At the end of the day, when you’re laying in your unmade bed staring blankly at the ceiling fan, wondering where the fuck things went wrong, you are alone. We all are. We each have our own versions of quick sand, and as much as I want to pull you out of yours, I can’t. I’m in my own deep shit, and any attempt to save you may fuck me over and shatter your faith in others. Here’s the thing: our forms of suffering vary, and while my anxiety may not be anything like yours (trust me, you do not want to eat an entire bag of onion-flavored Sun Chips at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday), the mere fact that you and I are struggling at the same time is what ties you to me. While this may seem like a stupidly obvious statement, it isn’t. How many friends of yours are battling mental health problems? How many of them do you actually talk to about it? Sure, the people in my life who are seemingly “normal” are great outlets and support systems. I would never, ever discredit that. For the record, mom hugs are, and always will be, the best. But I would argue that there is a tacit understanding between two people who have shared their fears, doubts, and constant battles to get up in the morning. These people inadvertently and perhaps unintentionally are maybe the only ones able to hold that mirror into yourself. It is a feeling of relief, of being seen as you are, by another who is also in search of that gratification.

You can call me out for grossly overlooking whatever it is you think I’m ignoring. If I spark the least bit of rage in you, then I consider my job done. I want you to be enraged. I want you to be infuriated that you feel this way, yet are unable to find the will to change it. You do not need to be fixed (right now). If you are struggling, then struggle. If you are tired, be tired. You are allowed to feel like shit. You are allowed to want to quit. But you are not allowed to quit. 

Why? I can offer you a million reasons, but I know you really just need one. But I can’t give it to you. You have to give it to yourself. All I can do is stand in my own quicksand and believe the mirror of my eyes allow you what you need to see.

And if my letter didn’t spell it out for you, here it is:

“I’m with you. No matter what else you have in your head I’m with you and I love you.” — Ernest Hemingway


The getaway

Every morning I hate myself.

When I think about it, there are a number of reasons why I hate myself, but the one I find myself most hating is my inability to go to bed early. Every morning I wake up, lazily roll over, and internally moan at the fact that I must get up. That I have to accept getting up to get to work. And I find myself resenting work. This happens every morning. And each time I chastisize myself for not going to bed like an adult (what is an adult, anyway) and vow to go to bed early. It never happens.

I also hate myself for promising to the future me that I will get up at 5 a.m. and go for that run, or get to work an hour early so I can leave early. I hate myself for not being able to keep promises I make to myself. It is a weirdly masochistic ritual that has become instilled into my life since managing to get a full-time journalism job.

When I say I hate myself, most people assume I self-loathe all day and have poor self-esteem. That may be true, but I also am a completely functioning adult who pays for her own health insurance and credit card bills. I have strangely transformed into a grown up version of myself, someone I don’t always recognize when I look in the mirror of the bathroom at work, or when I catch my reflection walking past the piers down Embarcadero. I am slowly crawling towards self acceptance. That I am me, and all I have is me. So whether I like me or not, I need to accept me.

Work is great. I always would ask my friends who had full-time jobs before me what work is like, and they all never failed to give me the most ambiguous, vague description of what they do 40 hours a week. I wanted to know so badly so I could prepare myself for the world I now find myself in. And now when people ask me, I too, give them a shitty answer. I’m such a hypocrite. But that’s besides the point. Work really is good. In the last six months I have made exponential improvements in my writing, editing and time managing skills. Everyday there is news. News for me to discover and read about and write about. I get paid to do what I love. Sure, it may not be critical analysis of film or writing about first generation Argentine female identity, but it’s a start. And that’s all I needed. I returned from South America with a conviction to pursue writing, in whatever shape or form that took. And to this day, I am so thankful for not canceling my interview because I was hungover from getting wasted with a college friend on St. Patty’s day.

Apart from my friends who graduated before me, I think I’m the only one from my graduating class who has most of their shit together. And that’s saying a lot. Because I spent a year of living in self denial and self discovery in the midst of depression and anxiety. I graduated in three years, but hung around for an extra one because I wasn’t ready to leave the dark paradise of Isla Vista and my ex. I have come a long way in being able to say that. I didn’t want to leave IV because I knew things with my ex would end, and that I would really be alone. And that, despite all my efforts, this person was clearly not the right person for me. Looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t realize how perfectly wrong my ex was for me. I wish I could apologize to the me who suffered so greatly a year ago. I wish I could save 22-year-old me from all the pain, dishonesty, and heart break she went through. But I also know she needed to go through that, and come out stronger, bolder, and more dangerous than ever before. Like a phoenix, I rose from my own ashes.

I won’t say that my breakup with my college partner was all fine and dandy. It left me depressed and hollow. When I was told they wasn’t in love with me, and hadn’t been for months the night we slept on a pull out couch at our friend’s house, I was crushed. It was like a sucker punch to the chest, leaving my reeling for air, and while also not wanting to breathe in air to avoid any pain. But it was impossible. It came crashing down on me, and I was paralyzed. I was trapped in a bed with a person who didn’t love me, yet I desperately clung to them, my snot and tears matting my hair and staining their shirt. I could tell you that it was one of the worst nights of my life and that I’ll never be the same because of it. But that would be a lie.

I’m a resilient mother fucker. My skin thick, my stare unflinching, my hands steady. There isn’t much that actually gets to me. So when my ex so graciously confessed to me, my life didn’t fall apart. He does not get to claim ownership in ruining me. The truth is, I was already ruined, and the reason his confession hurt so much had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. The facade I had built for the last year and half came crumbling down, leaving me with the stark and brutal reality that I wasn’t really myself anymore. I lost who I was in the drunken summer nights and lazy beach days of Isla Vista. I had been living in denial, living to forget. Self-preservation will always be a human priority. And after my first two years at college, that’s what I tried to do. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you do it, just that you do. And I needed to survive, in any shape or form. And for me, that came with throwing myself into a relationship I knew was doomed from the start and getting into a drunken stupor every weekend. Because that’s what you do. You keep living.

Breaking up with the ex forced me to face my own demons, and my own truths that I had avoided for so long. I really did think I could be someone else other than myself. I thought I could bury the real me in layers of rugby, drugs, alcohol and an empty relationship. And facing yourself is harder than any breakup, messy or not. Standing in front of the mirror and looking at yourself is much scarier and painful than actually being alone in the world.

And that’s what I did. It’s hard to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. It’s hard to accept that you fucked up. It hurts to know you were kidding yourself this whole time. But it can’t be any other way. Because it isn’t until you’re crying in your car at 3 a.m. or hooking up with a person you don’t even like or blacking out just to get four hours of sleep, that you realize you have to change. That this isn’t the way you want to live your life or how you want to feel every morning you wake up. There is no short cut or clean way of realizing your own path to forgiveness, acceptance and self love. You can’t love yourself until you’ve hated yourself first. You can’t forgive yourself until you fuck yourself up first. And anyone who tried to convince me otherwise is clearly in denial and has yet to really see what I’m getting at. See, you can’t be the best version of yourself until you’ve been the worst version of yourself. It’s painful. It’s humiliating. It’s lonely. But there is no other way.