Green Light!

April 27, 2024

Outside of the facade of the glamor and the parties, do you really feel alive?

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

There’s an ever-burning electric lamp that sits at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock that guides ships back to shore. The luster of green reflects across the bay, directly toward Jay Gatsby.

The green light is meant to be symbolic of Gatsby’s love for Daisy — albeit a superficial love, and one that inhibits Gatsby emotionally. He can’t move past his love — it informs every decision he makes, every direction he’ll choose to go in. His life has become one governed by heartbreak. He is no longer living it for himself.

Heartache puts a romantic filter on our past. We long for the same person we fell in love with. We don’t allow ourselves to consider anything deeper, anything that may destroy this perception.

Perhaps Gatsby’s hopes of a future with Daisy, rendered through a lens of superficiality, make the dream futile. Daisy, to him, is a dream thing. He is in love with a version of her that no longer exists but that he still fantasizes about. He believes these dreams will be fulfilled if he complies with a guise of luxury, burying himself under layers of grandeur.

Beyond the pretense of opulence, there is little depth to be found. We know he lived a life before yearning, but desire has led him to change himself beyond repair.

Like Gatsby, we curate new masks for ourselves when we’re trying to impress. We try so hard to meld these masks into our own faces, to make the two become one, but they never quite fit. We become a hollowed version of the mask instead of a complete, alive, version of ourselves.

What can the green light really symbolize for someone who lives as an empty vessel, longing for something he knows he won’t be able to obtain? A ship lost at sea, never to return back to the shore.

There’s an underlying theme of hope, but it feels shallow. The green light is a light at the end of an infinite tunnel — one he will never see the end of.

Why do we long for things that we know, consciously or subconsciously, are unobtainable? Maybe it absolves us from the potential rejection that comes with wanting something tangible — something that could be real. The deepest part of Gatsby knows this desire is in vain, that Daisy wouldn’t come back to him. But still these comforting desires persist.

When we dream, the visions we conceive are the ones that are the furthest from reality. We lack true vulnerability and succumb to numbing our wants and desires, prioritizing our solace over facing discomfort.

Like Gatsby, we tend to yearn for things that feel comfortable but don’t challenge us. Maybe living life as a shell of ourselves is more comfortable than living a life that could potentially cause you pain. Outside of the facade of the glamor and the parties, do you really feel alive?

“Honey, I'll come get my things, but I can't let go / (I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it) / Oh, I wish I could get my things and just let go / (I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it)
- Lorde, Melodrama

When you’re sitting at a traffic light, it feels like you’re sitting there waiting and waiting for the light to finally turn green. Your heart begins to race, your mind starts buzzing. There’s a sort of exhilaration in the anticipation. Past that green light, the rest of your life awaits you.

In ‘Green Light,’ Lorde is waiting at that traffic light. She’s ready to move forward — to let the new sounds in her mind guide her. She’s waiting for that signal to tell her to go.

There’s a tangibility in this green light. Unlike Gatsby’s, you aren’t separated from the light by a bay of water. You sit 30 feet from this light. Once you put your foot on the gas pedal, you’ll speed past it and toward what lies ahead.

This light won’t burn forever. A few moments after you pass it, the light will turn yellow, then red again. It becomes entirely different for the next driver who approaches.

Did it frighten you? / How we kissed on the light up floor?

Wanting, really wanting, is inherently daunting. So much so that we tend to suppress our wants. We pretend things don’t mean as much to us as we do. We act like we don’t care when, in reality, we care a lot. We pull away from things right when they’re within our reach. We risk that rejection — we’re afraid we may face a lack of fulfillment. (Why would you want to live a life with all of those risks? Wouldn’t it be easier to live without them — to be comfortable?)

Heartbreak is an innate motivator. We seek closure through a posthumous understanding of the past. Lorde, as the song progresses, surrenders her desire for understanding and seeks closure on her own terms. You can’t heartbreak control you. You have to confront it — to drive toward it.

You need to let go of the person you knew – let your skewed vision of them go. You said you loved the beach, you’re such a damn liar. An idealized version of them no longer serves you. It no longer exists.

There’s a presence of uncertainty in Lorde’s Green Light. There is no finality in what she wants — no concrete destination. She speaks about wanting to let go of the things holding her back emotionally and to push forward. We’re never sure what the green light will lead her to, whether the risk will be worth the reward. Still, the act of taking that risk might be worth it on its own.

We’re averse to making any decision that may cause us pain. But, life is intrinsically painful. How long can we avoid feeling pain before we stop feeling our emotions as resolutely as we should be?

The more we try to avoid feeling pain, the less we really live.

We need to embrace the discomfort and pain that comes with taking risks, with taking those steps forward. Sometimes, it’s worth it to accept a lack of resoluteness and to keep moving ahead despite that. Embracing the moments that are uncomfortable makes the feelings of euphoria so much more powerful. What’s the point of living with diluted emotions? We should be living to feel alive.

The unrestrained ecstasy that Lorde feels at the end of Green Light shows that, despite the consequences, these risks are worth taking. It’s worth that euphoria you feel when you step on the gas pedal and start driving. That feeling of fear mixed with exhilaration — it’s what we’re always searching for. It’s what we need to continue to search for.

You sit at a traffic light – its red glow washes against your face. Your car radio is so loud it drowns out any thoughts that could deter your decision.

You sit, and you wait for the light to turn green. ■

Layout: Grace Park
Photographer: Julius Gonzalez
Videographer: Natalie Salinas
Stylists: Lili Bien & Tomas Trevino
Set Stylist: Angelo Corridori
HMUA: Audrey Hoff, Xavier Willians & Floriana Hool
Models: Morgan Cheng & Brian Thai

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