When I was 13 I found the show Gilmore Girls. I think we live in the age now where it’s a little harder to “find” shows. Stranger Things is all over twitter, that random guy who you met once at a conference is talking about How to Get Away with Murder, or your mom can’t stop posting about Downton Abbey. But when I was 13 we lived in a time where on a Saturday afternoon shows were free-for-all and turning on the tv at a random time might mean finding a gem within a sea of re-runs and commercials. The day I “found” Gilmore Girls I remember that I was vacuuming the basement, one of the few chores I volunteered to do because it meant that I got to do all of my cleaning around the main tv in the house. I remember that it was an episode from the first season, maybe the one where they go see The Bangles, or where Rory and Dean break up? Regardless, I loved it and I was hooked.
Television was also a lot harder to get hooked on back in the day. I had already missed the first few seasons of the show and we didn’t have any channels running consistent re-runs (according to the tv guide section of our paper – seriously it was the dark ages). So I slowly started watching the third and fourth seasons, getting the first two seasons on DVD to finally get the back-story. I made sure to tape any episode I was going to miss, but then this turned into taping every episode, even the ones I watched live so I could re-watch the episodes while waiting for the DVDs to come out.
I loved it. It helped that I was only 4 years younger than Rory while it was airing. I wanted to be her and I think it helped that I was already well on my way to being her when I found the show. An avid reader, shy, a few great friends, but not the most popular by any means, a good relationship with my family, and the biggest most important connection – a love of pop culture. While Rory picked books and movies to read based on who she loved, I picked things to read, watch, and listen to based on Rory. I had a list made up of books referenced on the show, getting The Portable Dorothy Parker out from the library, grabbing The Picture of Dorian Grey from a book sale, and buying countless CDs from artists mentioned on the show (The Bangles, The New Pornographers, Tom Waits). I fell into an 80s music spiral, bought more and more old books from book sales, and (when I could) watched any old movie referenced in the show.
Although I went to high school in the aughts I think now looking back that most of the book and music references people would now make go over my head because I was so obsessed with Gilmore Culture. I have a great fondness for movies and tv in the aughts since it was basically impossible to watch anything that wasn’t current without the internet being what it is today (hello streaming!), but if I could have I’m sure that I would have fallen into the rabbit hole there too.
So what’s the problem, I loved this show that gave me not only an obsession with it, but an obsession with great pop culture that I may have otherwise missed. I was exposed to books and music that no one else in my classes was consuming and it gave me a better appreciation for the world. But I think it also may have strongly contributed to my increasing anxieties and self-doubt about my abilities and place in this world. I, like Rory, wanted to excel. There was no Harvard (or Yale) on my radar, but getting the top grades in the top classes was always essential. I took advanced courses, I wanted to do great. I did… fine. I wasn’t the best. I’m a little better at accepting it now but I wasn’t the best, and honestly I didn’t want to be. While some people talk about how “unrealistic” Gilmore Girls is because of the terrible food they eat, while staying unbelievable skinny, or how fast they talk, or how many references and quips they make, really I think the most unrealistic part is how well Rory did in school when so much of her free time was spent consuming media outside of her education. I slowly realized that to be the best I would have to give up all of this reading for pleasure, watching shows and movies, bathing in the Gilmore Culture. And I didn’t want to. I think I couldn’t to be honest. I tried, but honestly I didn’t want to be obsessed with school to that extent. That’s something that has followed me over the last 15 years. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t cried when I did poorly on a test, or melted down when I just couldn’t get through physics and had to drop down to an easier course. Some of these things happen to Rory, they show her fail, but it’s different. I really had to accept that I was smart, sure, but within the smartest people, I was average at best.
That is something that has become increasingly clear going from high school to undergrad to grad school. As you specialize further and further all the people around you get smarter and smarter. Sure you were all the best and the brightest in elementary school but what does that mean in a Master’s or PhD program. In a way Gilmore Girls built me up and allowed me to be knocked down even harder. I wasn’t the best and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t be. I wasn’t going to get the top grades and have the best research papers and get the good scholarships. I think over time I’ve accepted that, and I’ve tried to stop comparing myself to a fictional character who has a better (fictional) brain and a more diverse (fictional) book shelf than I could ever get in real life.
But, I’m still happy that Gilmore Girls found me when it did. It set my life off in a different path, one that I think made me a happier person. While it may have made falling and failing harder, I also think it’s been a path worthwhile. And for someone who stumbled into the science route, it has still helped me to stay passionate about writing and reading. So all in all I think I can thank Gilmore Girls for not only the job i’m in now, but for starting this blog and having the strength to help me get back up, even if might have been the reason I fell harder.
My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be. She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to Eudora Welty to Patti Smith.
-Rory Gilmore (Season 3, Episode 22, Gilmore Girls)
So if I change this quote, removing “mother” and instead replacing it with “Gilmore Girls” I think it accurately describes my life post-Gilmore Girls. So thank you fictional show for introducing me to another world, and ultimately making me a stronger, more resilient person.