My “Back in the Saddle” Moment

Has anybody here ever seen Sleepless in Seattle? I know, total chick-flick, but it’s definitely one of my favorite movies-not only because it was written by Nora Ephron, to be clear, but because it takes a completely unrealistic plot line-two people living vastly different lives in different states fall in love without ever meeting each other face to face-and peppers it with hyper-realistic moments. The reason you root so hard for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to finally meet on top of the Empire State Building is so that you can see something you may not believe is real-love at first sight-happen right before your very eyes. You ardently believe that they WILL meet and that they WILL fall in love, partly because it’s a movie, and anything can happen, but also because a part of you TOTALLY sympathizes with the characters. When Tom Hanks is constantly caught between wanting to find love again and absolute grief over the death of his wife, you cry WITH him because, God, it’s such a terrible situation. When Meg Ryan questions her sanity when she starts to “stalk” Tom Hanks and his son, you think, “NO MEG, YOU’RE IN LOVE, DON’T STOP STALKING HIM!!!!” even though you would most likely never EVER say that in real life. I mean, c’mon. Creepy.

What I’m getting at with this long-ass metaphor is how we can understand the motives of some of the characters, and even their own feelings about things, because sometimes, we’ve been there ourselves. The part in the movie I can sympathize with the most is when Tom Hanks finally decides he wants to start dating again. Even though he’s not asking out Meg Ryan, you still totally get where he’s coming from when he nervously plucks up the courage to call the woman he wants to ask out. Let’s analyze the scene, shall we?

It’s nighttime, which highlights how murky and unclear Tom Hanks is about what he’s planning on doing. The song “Back in the Saddle” plays in the background. He walks towards the phone as if he’s approaching a Geometry test he forgot to study for. He turns on every light in the room as a way of putting off said forgotten test he doesn’t know anything about. When he takes out his Rolodex-it was the 90s, guys-he fusses with it and looks pointedly around the room, like he’s afraid of getting caught. He pauses, flexes his upper body as if preparing for battle, then quickly picks up the phone and dials before he loses his nerve. He plays nervously with the phone cord (it was still the 90s). He paces around the room, shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot.When the woman answers the phone, his voice cracks when he says her name. In typical Tom Hanks fashion, he stutters over all his words and struggles with the right thing to say. He says “uh” about fifty times. When the woman ends up taking control of planning the date, he seems to be surprised but on board with how the dating game has changed. He takes on the stereotypical role of the woman in the situation. Every word he says is an internal struggle to stay on the phone. When the date is finally set, the background song ends, and he hangs up and collapses into a nearby chair, visibly exhausted and dumbstruck by the new task that awaits him-dating again. In this scene, we understand Tom Hanks and his nervousness. We’ve all been in situations where we have to do something we haven’t done in a while, and we have to somehow do it right. It seems like an impossible challenge.

For me, the next week or so is my “Back in the Saddle” moment. I’m finally back at school, but it feels like years, not one month, has gone by since I’ve been here. I’m struggling more this time, believe or not, than when my parents first dropped me off in August. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because I know, this time, what I’m in for? The thing is, though, I really like it here, and I’m studying something I’ve always loved and wanted to improve upon. So why am I so nervous? Why am I so down in the dumps?

I’m a very positive person, so I know that things will get easier in the coming weeks. Whether I’m struggling with an anxiety flare-up (even though it’s always pretty much under the surface) or I’m just nervous to confront another tough semester, I know that I just need to relax and remember how being here felt: liberating. I was shocked to realize last semester that instead of feeling lost or incompetent-a little how I’m feeling now-that I had more confidence than ever, even though I was hours away from my hometown and everything that’s familiar. Maybe I just have to become reacquainted with my life here. Maybe I should take my own advice (from a previous post, check it out!) and say “hello” to the challenges ahead of me instead of dwelling on the goodbyes I had to say. Instead of merely examining the saddle, I have to actually get “back in the saddle again”. If you couldn’t already tell, I live my life through metaphors.

I start classes tomorrow, so hopefully things will feel more normal after I get back into a routine. For all of those who stuck it out through this post, thanks for reading, and I hope everyone starting school this week starts with confidence. In fact, I hope that everyone getting “back in the saddle” this week-whether for school, a job, a hobby, whatever-has a smooth, pleasant ride. Just look at Tom Hanks for reference.


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