My sophomore year of college, I was a mess. I spent close to zero time doing the things I was supposed to be doing (attending class; making meaningful connections with new peers and mentors; drinking my face off) and more time doing sad, weird shit (reading books in bed all day; talking to my old high school friends on Instant Messenger; walking around campus and taking photos of broken tree branches and other cliches I thought were arty metaphors for my depressing life).
That year I had a roommate named Noah, who also had a penchant for sad, weird shit. Noah had a book and DVD collection that belonged in the Emo Hall of Fame (coming soon to a suburban wasteland near you), and I spent both semesters working through bummer indie movies and Brett Easton Ellis novels.
Not surprisingly, one of the movies that spoke loudest to me was High Fidelity, a 2000 John Cusack film based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name. Not only did I identify with Rob’s search for meaning, but I also liked how he attempted to make sense of the world through Top 5 lists.
Searching for my own way to organize the chaos of the real world, I began to do the same. Top 5s became a thought experiment, a question I’d pose to my friends at the diner or to myself in the van on the way to the next tour stop. It was mental masturbation designed to both give me the illusion of control and distract me from whatever larger, more abstract problem hung over my head at the time.
Seriously, I did this, and I still do. Weird that I didn’t have a good time in college, right?
What I discovered about my Top 5s, though, was that if I thought too much about my choices, it gave me more anxiety and became counterproductive. The simplicity of the Top 5 is also its downfall: how can you objectively list the five best ANYTHING and provide sound logic to justify your responses? Like, could you ever in good conscience say yeah, “Blackbird” is the number three best song on The White Album, and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” is number two. How could you quantify such a thing?
I also found my answers would vary day to day, sometimes hour to hour, depending on my mood. I’d create what I felt was a pretty solid and logical list of, say, Top 5 fast food restaurants, and then hours later I’d bolt upright in bed and go fuck! How could I forget Sonic?!
As time progressed, I learned to embrace the flaws of my system. I had to cut out the over-thinking and analysis and just go with my gut. Whatever I spewed out as my Top 5, that was it. No revision, no filter. And I found this thought vomit method gave me insight into how I felt and where I was.
For this summer series, I’ll present to you my Top 5s as I see them in the moment. I’ll write as quickly and purely as possible and provide brief justifications or anecdotes when appropriate.
I know this isn’t a world-changing format. Right after I hatched this plan, I saw ESPN analysts debating the Top 5 NBA duos (Jordan/Pippen was number 1. Duh.)
I also know these won’t be YOUR Top 5s, and sometimes that will make you annoyed. You’ll hate me and think I’m a moron because I put Rancid’s …and Out Come the Wolves ahead of Operation Ivy on a Top 5 list of important punk albums.
If this occurs, here’s the Top 5 things you can do:
5 – Accept your opinion is just as valid as mine and do nothing.
4 – Leave a comment and I will debate you until I grow bored of the conversation.
3 – Call me out on Twitter/Facebook and let the whole internet know how much smarter/insightful/cooler you are.
2 – Buy a website and make your own damn list.
1 – Eat shit.