I’ve been thinking about how my sense of what constitutes intimacy have changed over the past couple of years and how this has fundamentally changed the way I interact with others.
I used to want to be surrounded by sad people. It made a lot of sense; I was sad, misery loves company, so I naturally gravitated towards other people who were sad.
My friend reminded me today of the central conflict between Bojack and Diane in Bojack Horseman. I’m not sure which character I identified more with — Bojack or Diane. Bojack was constantly causing problems in his life and refused to take responsibility for his own mistakes. Diane was unable to establish reasonable friendship boundaries and continued to help Bojack despite understanding its mental toll. Realistically, I had traits of both of these characters. I blamed others for my shortcomings, and I found it difficult to identify toxic friendships. But by the end of the show, Diane was able to realize that Bojack was not good for her and that she shouldn’t spend any more time with him. She did not regret befriending Bojack, but she understood that different people belong in different points in life. By the end of the show, she was able to have a healthy relationship. It was through her friendship with Bojack that she understood the limitations of what she was willing to put up with, and she was not willing to put up with Bojack’s shit any more.
I watched the entirety of the show some time in the fall, and I think the last season came out sometime in the spring. In many ways, I think this was quite an appropriate message to end my time in college. When I first came to college, I wanted to be as close as possible to as many people as possible. I mistakenly thought back then that sharing vulnerability was the equivalent of being closer to people. The logic goes: the more vulnerabilities you were willing to share between each other, the closer you were. I had my fair share of emotional baggage, and I wanted to hear all about other people’s emotional baggage as well. I thought that the more baggage you shared meant the more close you were, and I wanted to accumulate as much of other people’s baggage as possible.
It was an interesting time. I used to put a lot of emotional labor in ensuring that people felt less sad. I have a friend who says that she enjoys “fixing people,” but it really wasn’t about “fixing people.” I thought that listening to people would allow people to be less sad, and I wanted people to be less sad. This, as you can imagine, resulted in me being friends with a lot of sad people who wanted to talk about their sadness. I would listen because that’s what I thought intimacy looked like. I thought that intimacy was just being sad together. I thought that being sad together meant that we could both be less sad. I thought that sadness could cancel out each other like two negatives forming a positive.
I think I’m quite different now. I don’t really enjoy hearing about other people’s baggage anymore, especially when it is unsolicited. I tend to avoid sad people now instead of seeking them out. I understand why I sought out sad people in the past, but I am no longer that person who does. I am content with my life right now, and I’m not particularly interested in introducing any turbulence to it. I realized that sadness is one of those things that cannot be solved through solidarity or company, so why is there a point in sharing baggage when it does nothing but make the world slightly messier than before?
I think my life, in many ways, reflects the ending of Bojack Horseman. I am Bojack, who has become slightly better through living through the consequences of his actions. I am also Diane, who has lead a good life and wants to distance herself from relics of her past. I think back to all of those friendships I have made in the name of sadness, and I realized that it deserves to stay in the past. Being in those friendships were a necessary part of my development, but staying in those friendships would just be another couple seasons of Bojack Horseman with the same conflict that pervaded the six seasons of Bojack Horseman. There is a reason that the show ended after season six. It is because the story between Bojack and Diane ended there. The show captured just one chapter in their life. It was a sad chapter, but one that they shared. Now, it’s over, and their life goes on.