Rory Gilmore Syndrome
Believe it or not, I have other obsessions in life aside from Taylor Swift. I may know all her albums by heart, but I can also recognise any given line from Gilmore Girls. “Oy with the poodles already.”
I grew up with the DVDs of this 7-season show, and still watch it from start to finish once a year, thanks to Netflix. It particularly shaped the way I envisioned my life as a teenager and then young adult: I wanted to be Rory Gilmore. Beyond my addiction to coffee (that I drink from a “Luke’s Diner” mug every morning by the way), there were many ways I related to Rory’s character growing up: I loved books, I loved making lists, and above all, I loved school.
I loved school, because like Rory, I was good at it: running the school paper, being class representative, getting good grades, having teachers like me, (sucking at sports)… School was my purpose in life, and as I stepped into adulthood, I’ve realised how my approach to school has heavily influenced my approach to life in general.
Like Rory, my teenage years were defined by one goal: getting in my dream school.
It wasn’t because I wanted to wear a hoodie with a renowned school name on it, but because I loved school itself. The idea of spending entire days in libraries with my nose stuck in old books to then write about them was all I ever wanted; and I was fortunate to live out that dream and experience the perfect Rory Gilmore movie, from the moment I got my acceptance letter to the day I graduated. “The End”. Not.
Unlike the narrative of the show, life has not stopped after graduating from college (and for those who might ask, I’ve chosen to erase Netflix’s 2016 revival of Gilmore Girls from my memory, so it’s like it never existed). And as it’s turned out, viewing the world only through the perspective of school can be quite unhelpful.
Indeed, having built so much of my identity around school has led me to expect and need teacher figures in my life.
I’ve always liked learning from people with more knowledge and experience than I, so naturally teachers were my kind of people growing up. Especially the ones who were inspiring yet tough enough that they would challenge me and build me up: these teachers would become the mentors whose approval I sought and needed. Since leaving school, I have transposed this role onto other people in my life and to this day, there’s rarely anything as rewarding as getting the approval of someone I look up to and want to learn from. These kinds of interactions are what fuels the Rory in me and make me feel valued and worthy.
The other aspect of school that’s been crucial in defining my worth are grades.
I love exams. This sometimes surprises my peers, but university finals were my favourite time in college. I loved the build up to them, the adrenaline of flipping the page to discover the exam questions, and I loved the confidence that months of revision bestowed upon me. To the point it got me worried once I was done with exams that I’d peaked at university.
Although I have been able to thrive off of this dependance on grades, it has been, like for Rory, a double-edged sword that has caused some serious anxiety issues. I still let myself be crushed by the mere idea of failure, or disappointing results, and allow it to take up all my mental space, despite the overall, more often than not, positive big picture.
Fortunately that’s never pushed me to steal a yacht and get arrested… so far. But precisely that moment at the end of season 5 (spoiler alert) is in my view the biggest turning point in Rory’s character arc (yes, bigger than when she has the affair with Dean…) because that’s when you realise that her obsession over results and teachers’ approval is no longer a driving force but actually a real weakness stopping her from seeing her own value.
Rewatching Gilmore Girls over the years has helped me realise how my own school mentality has limited me too. I’ve come to learn that not everyone in life should fill the “teacher” shoes. Although you might be lucky to find good mentors, constantly relying on someone else’s approval is not healthy as it can actually prevent you from self-assessing and making your own decisions. And in the real world, as it turns out, you must be able to review your own worth and the value you bring to the table.
So I’m learning to let go of school, teachers, grades, and my Rory Gilmore syndrome.
(I’ll keep the coffee addiction and bad food habits)
School’s out! If any of this felt remotely relatable, you’ll find a lot of enjoyment out of Olivia Wilde’s fun and spicy film Booksmart (on Netflix).
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