Online Journal 5: Analysis of the Short Story ‘Eye
The meaning of a fulfilling life differs from person to person. Some might say that a fulfilling life is being connected to the world at large, be it through large feats like going to the moon or simply helping others. Others would say that simply being successful and financially stable counts as a fulfilling life as well. Nonetheless, there really isn’t an absolute formula on how a person would feel fulfilled, and there are absolute possibilities on how to achieve happiness.
Even so, why do we still feel inclined to live the way we are told to live? What do we get from following a formula of a supposed fulfilling life that, in retrospect, doesn’t feel right for us personally?
Sarah Lumba-Tajonera raises these questions through her 12-page piece “Eye Candy”, which depicts Maya, a successful banker in her forties, observing a couple of things at a restaurant, but was mostly intrigued with the sight of a cougar and her date. However unwanted, her emotions and thoughts on the matter soon make her question if the life she’s been living has been a fulfilling one at that. The piece tackles love, life, and the lack of both in an unexpected yet inevitable manner.
The story is about Maya, a financially stable woman waiting for her husband in a fine dining restaurant. It can also be said that she is also trying her best to fit this setting and act how she is supposed to act — a dignified woman. The author does this through her extensive descriptions of the setting and Maya’s actions: from the wine she drinks up to her certain interactions with people around her. It’s also important to point out that the author also tells this specific story in an omniscient point of view, which means the audience has the privilege to know not just Maya’s surroundings along with her thought process, emotions, and character — factors that would play a bigger part later in the story.
While she was enjoying her time observing the place, however, her attention suddenly gets drawn by a May-December affair. In a corner near the wine rack is an unnamed “self-preserved witch” or, in other words, a cougar, along with her partner Andrei. While they are enjoying the night away, Maya has mixed feelings of intrigue and utter disgust. As a self-righteous woman with a supposed content life, the witch’s lifestyle isn’t something to envy but rather something to shame since, in her eyes, people her age should act more mature. This self-righteous part of her immediately judges the unconventional and societally unaccepted way of living.
However, the pair also reminded Maya of her younger days with her husband, Richie, and it gave her several flashbacks on how they met and the wonderful memories they went through in their younger days. This nostalgia soon evolves into an unconscious desire of wanting to turn back time and feeling happy and alive, never feeling like she had to fit a certain mold she set for herself. She also realizes how much she and Richie have changed, with their relationship becoming more and more stale through the years. These realizations cumulates in the final scene of the story: after keeping up this “dignified woman” façade, she realizes that her “content” life is not as content as she thinks she is. She meets up with a loveless Richie, and the witch laughs and mocks her sad life.
All in all, the story talks about the struggle of fitting in a mold that one forces themselves to fit in, but ultimately failing. It discusses the internal struggles of a woman who would think that a good societal status and a stable relationship is the ideal setting for everyone, and deconstructs this ideal by contrasting it with the opposite of this lifestyle. And through this contrast, it conveys a message that having the ideals that society sets for us doesn’t exactly mean it will lead to a fulfilling life, yet it would take a lot of pride for us to admit that sometimes life isn’t as perfect as we’d think it should be.
It’s really hard to know what the meaning of life is, and twice as hard to know what a happy and fulfilling life would be. The conflict between “risky dreams vs. safe realities” has been an age-old conflict, and people who have lived long enough will experience this multiple times in their lives: from choosing a quality education sought after, from choosing the people to be with and people to shun, up to choosing the career paths that have been tried and tested. These norms of decision-making, in turn, makes us feel unnecessary pressure to fit the mold, as well as a large amount of self-doubt when defying this norm. The thing is, though, this so-called “fulfilling life” and happiness are things that people have to seek for themselves to find out, and, in hindsight, letting conventions dictate our lifestyles is a toxic way to live. However, it seems like we, as a collective, have forced ourselves in this loop of being cookie cutter versions of what works just for “the greater good of our society.” And it’s not because we don’t want to be happy, either. It’s because we have this constant fear of failing to succeed in what we wish to do when we choose to pursue what we really want to do in life, added to the fact that basically everyone is either directly or indirectly involved in making us fit the stereotype that society deems “right” for us.
As the school days fly by at a somewhat concerning rate, the message of the story hits me too hard. To be frank, I still don’t have an exact vision of what I want to be and who I want to be in life, especially career-wise. After endless days of walking, talking, living, and thinking about this certain topic, I could safely say that whatever norms society has been perpetuating is very effective yet scary because it actually works. It worked for everyone who is currently unhappy that they never got to choose a degree program they wanted in college so they are now stuck with a job they hate with a burning passion, it worked for everyone who wanted to engage in careers society would think is “niche” yet never had the finances or push to feel free to fail while trying, it worked for the people who get to do what they want yet never get the attention they deserve because society just doesn’t want to acknowledge them, it worked for the people who had constant “reality checks” of what they want to pursue only for it to end in having every possible dream they had shattered. It worked for me, and it worked for many others in situations I don’t think I can even enumerate. The way society made us think has broken a lot of us in ways they’d wish they could avoid yet never escape, and it will continue to break others if we don’t do something to stop it. And the only way to stop it is to follow, fight, and protect not just our dreams, but other people’s dreams as well. We are now coming to a point where we are gradually acknowledging the flaws in the system, and it makes giving up much less of a viable option that we think it is. Our time has come, so we must not let our dreams be dreams, empower one another, especially the ones who need it the most; and be who we want to be.