What ‘500 Days Of Summer’ Teaches Us About Chasing What Can’t Be Ours


So I have just finished watching a movie called 500 days of Summer for the umpteenth time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s basically a movie about a guy (“Tom” played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who madly falls in love with a girl (“Summer” played by Zoey Deschanel) and during the span of 500 days, he desperately chases her until he finally realizes the inevitable truth that she just doesn’t love him the way he would’ve wanted her to, and he accepts the fact that this relationship that he so desperately craved for so long is simply not meant to be.

It is worth mentioning that during the course of the movie, Tom does succeed at temporarily getting together with Summer but the movie does an excellent job of showing us how much Tom is over the moon over his relationship with her while making it painfully obvious how absolutely indifferent she is about said relation. It becomes crystal clear that Tom wants Summer a hell of a lot more than Summer wants Tom. Naturally, the relationship doesn’t last for so long, despite Tom’s best efforts.

At this point, Tom hits rock bottom and his life falls apart while he hopelessly (and indifferently) watches his very own personal apocalypse and it’s a while until he starts to recover, accepts that Summer is a thing of the past and finally starts rebuilding his life (and yes you guessed it, meets another girl in the process).

At first glance, you would think that this is just another Hollywood romantic flick which offers nothing new with regards to a topic that has been notoriously covered by movies ever since the dawn of the movie industry (and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong).

However, upon closer examination of the movie plot and comparing it to real life, it becomes evident that Summer works as a metaphor for many of our personal targets that we just fail to attain. Summer could be a job opportunity that just keeps evading you, it could be a social status you just can’t seem to realize, it could most definitely for most of us also, be a girl/guy you love with whom things just never seem to happen with, just like in the movie. The list goes on.

Each and every one of us has his/her own personal “Summer” in our life which/who we are pursuing albeit almost hopelessly so, and for some reason we can’t seem to give up or let go even after we’ve well established the sheer impossibility of our goal. We only tend to consider the idea of letting go WAY after that point (and in many cases even then, we continue hitting our head against the steel wall naively hoping we’ll eventually shatter it and reach our oh so elusive holy grail).

Perhaps this is because for the last five–10 years, we’ve been slowly but surely subjected to a global philosophy/school of thought that only the absolute best will suffice and anything other than that is sheer and utter failure. By “absolute best” I am referring to our plan A, our best option, our best case scenario. Any deviation from the master plan is a disaster. Plan B is advertised to look only as appealing as Plan Z.

Take a look through the quotes of famous figures circulating social media, for example. I would safely say that the majority of said quotes are in a way or another pushing us to never give up on our goals, that failure is a direct result of not trying hard enough and that anything is possible. It’s a great motivational tool and those words ring true for most aspects of life. No argument from my side that nothing worth having comes easy. It is a known fact that we should fight and strive to realize our life goals.

However, we also need to realize that life will have its way no matter how determined we are. And one thing about life is it really couldn’t care less about our personal plans and endeavors.

One thing’s for certain, and contrary to popular belief, not everything is possible.

The part where many of us (especially, yours truly, included) do not seem to get quite right is identifying when a goal we set out for ourselves is simply unattainable and that it’s time to consider an alternative. We almost seem to have been subconsciously programmed to ignore signs that we should take a moment to take a broader look and reconsider our goals.

That’s definitely not to say that we should give up and stop when faced with the first hurdle on our way; the road to success is paved with failure. But with each failure, we gain massive experience that is absolutely necessary to finally achieve success. However, should we eventually reach a point where we realize we are simply chasing our own shadow, perhaps it would be wise to stop, catch our breath, and re-assess our situation.

Further pursuit at this point does not fall under the category of “never giving up,” but rather the category of “utter waste of precious time.”

Time that could’ve been better spent chasing other potential goals and opportunities. This is obviously not as simple as it sounds, because our sense of need so often overshadows our sense of judgment. We tend to believe only what we want to believe, no matter how far-fetched and filter out what is deemed undesirable.

Mind you, it’s always going to be a tough choice to let go of something you’ve sought after for so long. The longer the time spent chasing our goal, the tougher the decision to abandon it will be. However, it also shouldn’t take us 500 days as it did Tom to give up on Summer and move on to better things.