The year was 2009, and I sat in a movie theatre unaware of what was to come. The lights dimmed, and the movie began. Little did I know that for the next 95 minutes, I would embark on on a cinematic adventure that would define my early to mid-20s, to a tee.
If you haven’t seen the film, (500) Days of Summer takes us through the relationship of Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), as Tom recounts the 500 days (in random order) that Summer has been a part of his life.
The film has become a favorite of mine to watch when sad about a girl because I relate to it perfectly. Sometimes when you’re sad, all you want is to know you aren’t alone.
I’ve learned many life/relationship lessons from this film and I’m going to give you 5 of them…
1: Common interests mean NOTHING.
I’m a huge fan of music. I write lyrics and listen to music every chance I can. I’m a big fan of The Shins, The Smiths, etc. Lots of indie rock and pop-punk take over my life.
Upon meeting anyone who has the same taste, naturally our attraction skyrockets.
Chloe Grace-Moretz plays “Rachel”, Tom’s wise younger sister. As Tom explains how compatible he and Summer are, over a game of Wii, she delivers one of the best lines of the entire film.
“Just because some cute girl likes the same bizzaro crap you do, doesn’t make her your soulmate, Tom.”
Truth! And it’s a harsh reality I struggle with to this day.
Sure, she thinks Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing’s Shocking” record is one of the greatest albums of all time…it doesn’t mean your personalities or goals in life are going to ride parallel tracks. It’s nice to have a lot in common, especially on the things that get you through the day, but it won’t be the driving force that keeps you together.
2. DO. NOT. HOLD. HANDS. IN. IKEA.
As a matter of fact, don’t GO to IKEA, together. IKEA is a maze that will make or break a relationship. If you do it at the wrong time, you’re screwed. Such long lines, lots of waiting in silent frustration, heavy lifting, and then arguing why none of you thought to bring a truck or SUV. Putting it together is an argument waiting to happen.
Was your cheap dresser and nightstand worth the end of your relationship?
3. Make your intentions known, immediately.
The one thing people seem to have a problem with, is being honest with each other. Men cannot tell a woman how they feel. Tom could have saved himself a lot of misery (and Twinkies) if he had just told her what he wanted from the very start.
“Summer, I’m attracted to you. I want to try and make this something.”
If she didn’t want that, he could sever ties before he began falling for her. It’s so much easier to walk away from attraction, and still retain some sort of friendship, rather than be forced to walk away from love and resent the person for months, or even years. The latter wouldn’t even guarantee that you become friends again.
Always tell people how you feel, as soon as you feel them.
4. Expectations very rarely line up with reality
In an iconic scene (at least in my own mind), Tom goes to a rooftop party hosted by Summer after not seeing each other for quite some time. The narrator explains that Tom is hoping for his “expectations” to line up with “reality.”
The following sequence is a split screen of what Tom was hoping would happen, versus what is actually happening.
So for instance:
In his head, Tom gives her a book she acknowledged earlier, and she gave him a kiss as a thank you.
In reality, she laughed it off and gave him a thank you hug.
In his head, she is his only focus and they gaze into each other’s eyes all night, lovingly.
But in reality, he’s mostly alone as she meanders amongst her own friends.
From this, I learned to stop thinking things are going to go as planned. Nothing goes the way you plan it to, especially when trying to re-enter a person’s life. I’ve lived it more times than you can count.
Don’t build up your expectations because it’s a long fall from the top when you realize it’s not what you thought it was, I promise you that.
5. Your friends are the best compass you can have.
Tom Hansen has 3 people in his life that are always there:
His sister, Rachel and his two best friends, McKenzie & Paul (played by Geoffrey Arend & Matthew Gray Gubler, respectively). These are 3 people that know Tom almost better than Tom knows himself and they try very hard to keep his head on straight while Summer turns it.
While I don’t have a wise sister, I DO have a best friend who is always there to tell me when I’m over-analyzing or reading too much into something. He keeps me from heartbreak and complete and utter misery (when I listen to him).
He knows how I am, and the kind of person I am, just like Paul & McKenzie know Tom. This gives him enough freedom to be able to tell me if what I’m feeling is real or a sham. He’s the clear head when I can’t think straight. We all need friends like that.
In closing, (500) Days of Summer is packed to the rafters, with things we could all learn, when being in a relationship you aren’t so sure is a “relationship”.
Talk over your “expectations” with your friends so they can tell you they aren’t realistic. Be honest, tell him/her how you feel and don’t let common interest be the thing that keeps the attraction flame flickering.
And for the love of God…don’t go to IKEA until you’re 100% sure you’re ready. I’m serious.