The first time I saw Harold and Maude, I was a teenager. I think my mom suggested it because she thought I would like the music (the entire soundtrack is Cat Stevens, who wrote two songs specifically for the film). It's weird. Like, I am a weird human being, and this movie is weirder than weird. Harold is a young man who stages elaborate fake suicides. Maude is an old woman who steals, sculpts, and endeavors to have a new life experience every single day. It's a bizarre compilation of montages and ponderous silences, intersperced with absurdist humor and deeply moving emotional truths.
"You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries. But I decided that was an idea way before its time. Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing... oh my, how the world still *dearly* loves a *cage.*"
You are unique, and that's what makes you special
Yes, we live in a world of generalizations. We are categorized and compatrtmentalized since the way we are born. We are defined by our gender, race, sexualiy, class, ethnicity, forced to fit into boxes. To heck with it all. If these definitions don't fit, don't accept them. And while you're at it, don't force them on other people, either.
Be silly- you deserve it
"Harold, *everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much."
Sometimes caring for yourself just means letting yourself be happy. So what if your version of happiness is weird or goofy or out of the ordinary? As long as you're not hurting anyone (that includes you), you are allowed to be foolish and strange. A few months ago, I was broke and confused and terrified of the future. So one day I left my house, out on a costume I'd spray-painted gold, and became a living statue in Times Square. I even called myself 'The Weirdo', because I felt like my super-still alter ego should have a name. I gave almost all the money I made away. I figured, if I could stand very very still in this big, ruthless city, dressed up like the strangest version of myself, the future would be fine. And so far, I've been right. So, here's to making an ass out of yourself.
Treat people kindly, but take no s***
This is an easy lesson to learn, but hard to put into practice. You're going to encounter conflicts during your life, but how you deal with them says a lot about you. Do your best to react with kindness, and try to assume the best of people. But stay true to yourself at the end of the day. You need to be your own best friend, because you're going to be stuck with yourself your entire life.
It's okay to change
Did you know the cells in your body fully regenerate every seven uears? It's a gradual process, but you are changing all the time. That's ok. Maybe you like new things, or new people. You're not doing a disservice to the person you were before, because that oerson is gone. Do what you can for the you of the future. Learn a new skill, make a new friend. Life is the next big adventure.
"Consistency is not *really* a human trait."
If you want to sing out, sing out
It's the title of one of the two songs written for the film, and it really encapsulates the story's vision. Be who you are, embrace that person. Here are the rest of the lyrics:
Well, if you want to sing out, sing out And if you want to be free, be free 'Cause there's a million things to be You know that there are And if you want to live high, live high And if you want to live low, live low 'Cause there's a million ways to go You know that there are [Chorus:] You can do what you want The opportunity's on And if you can find a new way You can do it today You can make it all true And you can make it undo you see ah ah ah its easy ah ah ah You only need to know Well if you want to say yes, say yes And if you want to say no, say no 'Cause there's a million ways to go You know that there are And if you want to be me, be me And if you want to be you, be you 'Cause there's a million things to do You know that there are
It's a lesson I learned at fifteen and am learning again at twenty-five. You can't live your life the way other people want you to live it- you have to make the decisions that are right for you.