Home » Why Along for the Ride is my favorite movie

Why Along for the Ride is my favorite movie

Growing up I was incredibly repressed and out of touch with who I was. I was focused on embodying the identity of a very academic-oriented, achievement focused good girl who made being a good student the majority of her personality. I thought that the most important thing in my life was that I get into a reputable enough college like Harvard and that I become a doctor because that was the best path ever. It was the most right thing to do, and I never questioned it even though I didn’t ever feel particularly passionate about it.

This led me to suppressing my true desires, pushing down the things that would incite passion, excitement and joy within me me. I saw these things as “wastes of time.” In addition, I saw friendships and romantic relationships as secondary, as things I would only be allowed to pursue when I had been succeeding enough at school. In addition to being a religious Muslim (I’m agnostic now by the way), brown skinned, South Asian girl in a predominantly white, very conservative and Islamophobic school and town, this mentality made making friends a lot harder for me. There was always this inherent feeling like I didn’t belong because of my religious and cultural “otherness”, and that I wasn’t worthy of belonging because I hadn’t worked hard enough to deserve the pleasure of connecting with other people in ways that weren’t tied to productivity.

And it wasn’t until my junior year of high school where my true self started to resurface. I realized that I actually did NOT want to be a doctor. In addition, I may have not wanted to do a career that was STEM related at all. I wanted to perhaps do something unconventional like being a writer. Expressing this to my parents did not go over well, as you may expect in discussing unconventional careers with Desi (Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani) parents.

But the summer before eleventh grade had awoken me and brought me joy in ways that I forgot existed, because of how much I was suppressed from my own self and restricted in various ways from my self expression. I got a taste of freedom I had never experienced before.

I went to a summer camp at Harvard which welcomed high school students and college students, called the Harvard Extension School. I got to take two college level classes there, and I of course, being at a stage in my life where I kept on the mask to align with my parents’ vision of me, had selected not the ones that would make me look the most impressive. Pertaining to the medical field that I had no true passion for, but forced myself to pursue thinking that I was “supposed” to want without really asking myself how I really felt.

But the taste of freedom that came for me wasn’t from my classes. It was from actually having a social life.

Actually making friends and meeting people from all over the world. The late morning/early afternoon runs throughout the city that made me feel so refreshed. Having community was such an important thing, and spending a lot of time under the summer sun outside going to and fro my classes, my dorm and the grocery store did wonders for my mental health and even overall health, now that I think about it.

But even during this time, even though I felt “popular” compared to my actual high school back in Virginia, I still had low self esteem that had not been addressed. I still felt lonely. I still had wounds that needed to be addressed and I was still in need of genuine, intimate human connection.

I wish I could go back and tell myself to take the classes that I actually wanted to in the fields that I actually wanted to. I wish I told myself that passion was supposed to feel different– natural, not forced. Something I wasn’t dissociated from, but rather something that I actually felt in my body. A source of joy that felt safe for me to immerse myself in.

But at the end of the day, how much of a difference would that really make? I only had so much power, so much say, when it wasn’t necessarily safe for me to voice what I wanted when it was at odds with what my parents wanted for me. But maybe I could have at least come to a compromise with what my parents wanted for me and what I wanted.

I experienced great withdrawal when I came back after those 8-weeks at this summer program. I couldn’t put words for it at the time, but I wanted that freedom and community back. I tried to grasp that that freedom, connection with others and even my identity through Facebook, which at that time in 2014 was still a popular place for young people and before Instagram was filled with a bunch of ads to the extent it is today in 2024.

I didn’t want to be the shy, reserved girl back in Virginia who didn’t have many friends, and especially not any close ones, at school. But once again, I had fallen into this repression of my true self. However, there were still bursts of that rebellion in reclaiming myself as I started being more in touch and more vocal with what I wanted for myself versus what my parents wanted.

Up until going to that summer camp, I had been fulfilling my parents’ vision as best as I could. Even if I wasn’t making the straight A grades, I was still clinging onto being busy with my studies, spending a lot of time in my room and at home to at least show evidence that I was trying. To validate my efforts, even if it wasn’t actually getting me further than if I had spent a reasonable amount of time and actually allowed myself to use the rest of that time towards my joy, play, self expression, relationships with others and leisure without guilt. Guilt for not having done enough to make straight A’s. Shame from guilt for not being enough, for failing to make perfect grades no matter how hard I tried since even my best wasn’t good enough. Shame from this belief that there was something inherently wrong with me for not being able to mold into my parents’ desired identity for me.

In my favorite movie, Along for the Ride, the main character, Auden is a lot like me.

She is repressed. She doesn’t really have many friends in school. She’s awkward, and doesn’t really fit in. She’s intellectual, and she ends up spending a lot of time around her mom’s friends rather than other kids her age.

In high school, I was repressed. Whenever I would go to family friend gatherings in the Bengali community, I would either keep to myself or be near my mom around the aunties. Instead of spending time with friends on weekends, I would go to those Bengali dawaats when I was craving social interaction and community. Or I would say that I had to do homework study, skipping these dawaats only to end up procrastinating and escaping through Buzzfeed or Hello Giggles Articles, videos, and stories.

Like I had a lot of expectations to meet with my parents academically and there was a lot of enmeshment involved in our child-parent relationships, so did Auden. However, Auden actually met those expectations academically and go into Defriese (a fictional college which I believe is analogous to the real life Harvard, which I did not get into).

After her senior year ends and she graduates, Auden goes to Colby, where her super-avoidant dad and his (much younger) new wife live. She is craving to explore her identity outside of who she was at her hometown, venturing outside of her mother’s impositions and expectations of her.

While her stepmother, Heidi, is taking care of her new baby, Auden joins three other girls her age to help out at Heidi’s boutique. There is a lot of awkwardness at first, with Auden giving judgmental vibes and her getting used to the other girls’ freedom of self expression. As the movie progresses, they all become closer and Auden finds more and more of herself by connecting with the other girls, who give her lots of love and support and are intentional about including her in their activities.

There is also a boy, Eli, she has some romance with. Thanks to Heidi and her excitement around Auden, the whole town of Colby knows a lot about Auden even though she is just started to meet the rest of them. And so Eli is already familiar with Auden even prior to talking to her.

Auden is a huge night owl since she has trouble sleeping at night, and so she spends some time by the water where Eli encounters her multiple times on his bike before he finally musters the courage to speak to her and invite her to hang out with him.

After finding out that Auden hasn’t experienced a lot of the stuff that kids did growing up, especially because her head was in the books so much (and perhaps too much) because of her mom’s expectations, in addition to her dad not being around to help her out and do “kid stuff” with her, Eli takes it upon himself to take her on a “quest”.

I absolutely LOVE the night adventures that Eli takes Auden on. I deeply crave to have similar intimate experiences with someone one day in a romantic context, filled with wonder and awe. I remember tearing up at a scene where he and Auden trespassed in a lighthouse with Yumi Zouma’s “Astral Projection” playing in the background. To me, the scene exuded belonging and human connection, and to be honest most people wouldn’t tear up at this scene. And it would be rare for people to. But it just triggered so much desire within me that had been boxed away and suppressed. I often find myself having a lot of existential thoughts, including existential wonder, and I’m grateful for that part of myself. However, I don’t wish to immerse myself in these on my own every time. I crave times where I get to share this beauty, wonder, longing and appreciation with another person– romantically. In the context of intimate belonging and partnership.

But of course it’s not the romance that just made this movie special for me. I absolutely loved the female friendships in this movie and crave similar ones in my life.

I loved the warmth and support, the deep conversations, the genuine curiosity in wanting to learn more about each other. I loved how they helped Auden loosen up into her authenticity, while not causing her to reject the parts of her authenticity that took on more serious traits.

I loved the way they jammed out together and just had fun, and created so much belonging and genuinely wanted the best for each other.

I have had great female friendships in my life even though many of those ended in either friendship breakups or growing apart. And I still have great female friendships in my life, but I still want… more.

That requires that I keep making the effort on my part, including voicing my needs and communicating my boundaries, and overall bringing in more honesty into my relationships. Something I was not exactly taught to do growing up the way I did, being taught to “keep the peace” by pretending nothing was wrong so that I didn’t seem petulant and ungrateful. An internalization many South Asian kids know too well. I might write a whole blog post on this in the future, or I may not. We’ll see.

I just loved the human connection and self discovery radiating from this movie. There is a book for this story as well, with the movie being based off of Sarah Dessen’s novel by the same title. I love the movie so much, I’m not sure if I’ll be reading the book.

The question is– how do I do my part to create more genuine human connection, emotional intimacy, romance, adventure, community and belonging in my life? In addition to what I need to do, what are some things I have to change or stop doing?

Step one is definitely being more vulnerable. I believe that this blog is really helping me with this. Initially this blog, first created in 2021, was meant to be focused on new age spirituality including manifestation, law of attraction, all that… Now I want to puke thinking of me being known for that. I’m going to write another blog post in the future talking about my grievances towards this subject, especially in the ways in which it has promoted so much selfishness and lack of connection among people. It’s crazy to me to think how I initially created an online presence to promote this stuff, which I was obsessed with at the time. Very recently, I decided to change the purpose of this blog to just expressing myself through various elements of my mutlifacetedness. To just be. To not simply niche myself down to make myself marketable, but to exude various facets of my soul comprised of various thoughts, ideas, feelings, stories, passions and interests. To express my longing for human connection.

It’s making myself get in touch with my own narrative around who I am. I am currently reading But What Will People Say? by Sahaj Kaur Kohli, a phenomenal, comforting and helpful read by a South Asian US American therapist. She talks about narrative therapy, and how our stories make up our identity and self perceptions of who we are. She talks about the importance of taking ownership of our stories to empower and get back in touch with ourselves. I intend to do that through this blog.

And as I get more and more in touch with myself, as I stop waiting for permission to share my stories, the more I presume I will be able to connect with others and attract and find my people.

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