How To Recover from A “Holly Golightly Complex”

Original painting circa 2010.

Original painting, “Holly Golightly B&W,” circa 2010.

This is your first September as a non-student. It’s as weird as Harry Potter not returning to Hogwarts in The Deathly Hallows. The circumstances are different, but the reality is that you are now facing “the real world”. You have been guided through the necessary steps to be admitted into a higher institution and plan a course for your future. But you were not prepared for the emotions that come with these changes or how to deal with them.

You applied to several schools in Manhattan because you felt that it was your destiny to return to your place of birth. Throughout your life, you watched films set in New York City; read poetry by Frank O’Hara; idolized Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly more than her other roles; and dreamed of that apartment somewhere in Astoria (because Queens) or Harlem (because the Harlem Renaissance). You got accepted into four colleges in Manhattan, and all you had to do was choose one.

The Repercussions of a Holly Golightly Complex

It was a sham. Or at least, you thought it was, because you thought that by the time you were twenty-years-old, you would have your own scrapbook of fun experiences. What went wrong?

You did not party or drink or bodied people; those are typical of the college experience. But none of these things interested you. You dreamt of sitting in a cafe with a hot beverage and a book or notebook, gazing out the window and contemplating life. That actually happened, a few times, but it was not the same as the romanticized image you had in mind. It felt more like a chore than a luxury because, as you began to realize, you needed a place for quiet. The city was too noisy and fast-paced for your comfort. And as much as you tried to adjust and adapt to the culture of urban life, it made you anxious, on edge, and inadequate.

You enjoyed being fashionable in the beginning–studying the way other women dressed and presented themselves. You wanted to blend in, and eventually you did. But soon you grew tired and frustrated of keeping up with appearances. The compulsion to buy more and newer bags, stylish shoes that were on sale but still trendy, clothes that had flare but also comfort. But more importantly, you needed to style your hair often in order to continue the facade of “perfect Asian hair”: the silky, straight, long wave of naturally black hair that looks chocolate brown in direct sunlight.

There was no Paul Varjak. There was no guy who was willing to discuss life and all its beauty with you. No one to feel hesitant to hold your hand or tell you that you are beautiful. Later on, you found out that you did not actually want to be with anyone; you just wanted to be admired.

Sometimes you walked past buildings in Manhattan: beautiful exteriors, but what is inside? You were never sure, and even if you tried to enter those buildings, you were not allowed past the turnstiles or security posts. You did not belong unless you willingly submitted yourself into their club and fulfilled certain duties. And you began to romanticize the idea that, like those buildings, you were a facade with questionable substance.

Even while living the fantasy of the Manhattan Socialite, you were nothing more than a college student. You had an ID card with a photo of you old self: dark, shoulder-length wavy hair, a rose pink top highlighting your pale skin, and a face full of blemishes. You were unrecognizable in that photo because you submitted to Glam For Study look as you tapped the ID card on the turnstile scanner. You entered the classroom with your expensive-looking bag, your books, your coffee. You were ready for your performance as Student Ready To Learn And Participate. Your other roles, outside of class, were Club President, Associate Editor, The Money Honey, and Prospective Member.

The Effects of Recovering From a Holly Golightly Complex

You return home to your house in the suburbs. For those four years, you felt like you were in purgatory because you commuted between your hometown and the city. But now that you have endured that experience, you’re officially back home and trying to convince yourself that this is now a safe haven. You’re away from the people and the places of that underground above ground. But what of the others who also returned?

You convince yourself that you need to meet people again. You try to participate in social groups, reminisce about high school and the bubble you all lived in. You try to look and sound interested in hearing people talk about their collegiate experiences, most of which seemed more fulfilling than yours. You try to be polite and say that you would love to stay in touch, but passively through checking social media. You do all this because you want to feel connected, normal, happy for others.

You remember that one person you left behind. You know where they are now and what they are up to. Deep down, you want to spend time with them, to patch things up, to show that you have been enlightened. You are ready to see them. You are ready to be honest. But you never make the move.

You delete your account. You are embarrassed by things you posted online because of the childish and naive mentality you had back then. You also feel envious of other people who seem to have more fulfilling post-collegiate lives: volunteer work, fresh employment, social hangouts, cocktail hours, lavish invitations, faraway vacations, and the like. You convince yourself that not of it fazes you.

You uncover artifacts of your past in dusty corners of your room. (Literally dusty, to the point where you cover your nose and mouth with your shirt to avoid inhaling the dust and being sick for a week.) You find evidence of pre-Internet communications: little notes from elementary school, a diary with a lock, and photos that were developed from a roll of negatives at a photo center. You even find an old floppy disk and wonder how you will check what’s on it. (Probably word documents from your computer lessons, with bad grammar and ClipArt images.)

In between the discoveries and social engagements, you relapse into anxiety and apathy. What do you do now? What is your next move? Do you need money, or does it require lots of money? You feel lonely sometimes because you never found the sweetheart in college. You feel inadequate because there isn’t much to add to your resume, after four years of…what? You feel slow because of people you know who are already living on their own or traveling to different countries or networking to enter into the game.

What do you want?

You’ll think about it later, after sinking yourself into fictional worlds and wishing you could create your own–if only you could bring yourself to return to those works you abandoned because you convinced yourself that you are actually not an artist. You were never the poet people said you were. You cannot grip your audience with exposition of your characters’ thoughts, even though that is how you wish people could connect with others–to talk about things that cannot be said aloud. You did not read books while growing up; you only watched TV and movies–only because that was what your parents could afford to keep you entertained for a few hours. You did not have role models that were accomplished in the literary world. Who do you think you are?

And that is why you have a blog. You have something to say–actually, many things to say–and you are just trying to hash out those thoughts and ideas, here.

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