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December 2, 2012

How Gatsby Scarred My Life Forever

I’m a very indecisive person. I can’t stand it when people ask me what my favorite movie or television show is because I have too many. I can’t pick just one, so I usually go with a top five that varies depending on my mood. However, when I am asked the same question about books, there’s nothing to think about. There is only one right choice --- THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I read THE GREAT GATSBY for the first time as a high school sophomore, then again as a junior, and yet again in college. It's that rare book that is always relevant no matter what stage you're at in your life. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is also a great book, but let’s face it, it was much better when I was an angst-ridden 17-year-old than when I was a quasi-post-college-grown-up. But Gatsby is like a fine wine, it just keeps getting better with age.

Each time I read it, I discover new things, or rediscover old things that somehow take on a different meaning with each consecutive reading. A book that stands the test of time is a pretty special thing, so when I decided to permanently scar my body, there was only one tattoo that I wanted. Words, of course, but not just any words, the final line from THE GREAT GATSBY on my arm:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

I know. It's one of the most depressing lines ever written. Why did I want to get inked up with something so utterly depressing? I promise, I have a reason --- but my mom still probably won't think it's a good one. 

So here's the deal. Even though Gatsby was dealt a bad hand, he kept persevering, always believing in his destiny, despite the overwhelming odds against him. He was a deeply flawed man, who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, but would also do anything for those he cared about. He was a self-made man, albeit a shady, bootlegging, self-made man.

At the end of the book, Nick Carraway is beside himself, unable to comprehend how Daisy and Tom Bunchanan could go on with their lives as if nothing had happened, when they had been directly responsible for Gatsby's death. As he contemplates the "glamorous" New York City life he had envisioned, he sees it for what it really is and realizes that sometimes terrible things happen, but you can't let those things define you; you have to move on and believe that good things are still possible. You will always be affected by these terrible things, and they may influence your decisions, but things will get better, and life goes on. That was what he learned from Gatsby --- no matter how impossible things may seem, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may take you a while to find it, but you will find it eventually.

Since the quarter-life crisis has replaced the mid-life criss, it's become an even more important theme for twenty-somethings, overwhelmed by all that post-college life entails. As crazy and unsure as this time in our lives is, just remember to stay true to yourself, or as the very wise Babe Ruth said in the classic 90s movie The Sandlot, "Follow your heart kid, and you'll never go wrong."

That is unless you let someone borrow your car --- SPOILER ALERT --- because that someone might be having an affair with a woman who has a crazy husband who will hunt down the owner of the car and you might end up dead.

I was looking forward to spending my holidays with Gatsby --- and Leo in the role he was born to play, even though the trailer makes me nervous --- when the latest film adaptation of this classic was scheduled to hit theaters. Unfortunately they pushed the release date back to May 2013, so it looks like I will have to pretend to be a patient person for the next few months.

P. S. If you have a literary-inspired tattoo we want to see it! Post them to our Facebook page here.