I Don’t Know, Ryan Gosling

Oh, The Notebook. A movie that made scores of women (and men) weep with abandon in 2004. Remember this bit, when Rachel McAdams comes running back to Ryan Gosling and then gets all conflicted about leaving him again? And he just asks her, over and over again:


Well, that’s a fair question. And frankly, it’s one that we should probably be asking ourselves everyday.

What do you want? 

I’m sorry, Ryan, I just don’t know.

When I watched this part of the movie as a teenager, it always seemed kind of ridiculous to me. Like, obviously this woman should know that the man she’s been madly in love with for 7 years and just spent 3 days rolling around in the sheets with and painting with is the clear choice. And in my teenage self’s defense, it’s not like James Marsden’s character was given any kind of proper development that would lead us to root for him. But as an adult, looking at this situation – and just life’s situations in general – you realize that nothing is that easy. Just like Rachel McAdams says.

Girl knows what’s up.

I could launch into an entire deconstruction of this film and why I think she did or didn’t make the right choice, but that probably isn’t immediately relevant to anyone’s lives (if it is, and you can actually relate to this situation, then your life is way more exciting than mine and I’d love to hear about it). But this isn’t really about the movie (or the book) anyway. It’s about what we do when we’re confronted with that big, pink-elephant-in-the-room question. What do you want? 

Because if there isn’t someone right in your face begging you for an answer, it’s all too easy to avoid this question. Or to answer it just enough to get by, but not enough to give yourself any real direction. Or, like me, maybe you just don’t know. You want about a thousand different things, none of which seem to be able to coincide with one another, which means that you just end up feeling sort of stuck. Because any step in one direction means a step away from another.

The thing is, it’s okay to not know what you want – a fact of which I have to remind myself daily. And it’s okay if you were 100% sure you wanted one thing, only to change your mind. But don’t be afraid to make your wants big. Think back to what you wanted when you were younger, before anyone told you things weren’t possible or you had to be realistic. Because I think that’s often where we lose ourselves. In between what we wanted to do before someone told us no, and the more “realistic” dreams we had after that.

The answer to Ryan Gosling’s question can change countless times over the course of your life. But whatever the answer may be, just make sure it doesn’t get buried under the weight of what you think you should want.





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