Priceless college lessons I learned from 'Felicity'
On this day in 2002, Felicity aired its final episode. Although I discovered the show many years after it had been off the air, I had no problem living vicariously through Felicity Porter’s dorm room drama. And even though my college experience was way different from Felicity’s—hello Google, Facebook and smartphones—the show still resonates with me to this day.
What’s wonderful about J.J. Abrams’ first TV show is that it doesn’t rely on some clever concept or hook. It’s about a naive girl who starts a new phase in her life when she leaves home to
follow her high school crush pursue her undergraduate degree. It was all about the quirky characters: Noel, with his awkward, but lovably geeky RA charm; Megan, with her cattiness and constant Wiccan spells; Sean, and his impractical, usually ridiculous invention; and of course, Ben. But the character who stood above every one else was Felicity Porter (played by the amazing Keri Russell). In honor of the anniversary of the last episode, here are just a few of the wonderful lessons I learned from Felicity Porter.
It’s OK to be awkward.
Woah, were there some scenes in Felicity that were hard to watch! When Felicity leaves for college, she’s a little more than naive. She follows a boy she doesn’t know to a college across the country, for god’s sake. She made a lot of mistakes, but her heart was always in the right place. When her tape is played at her dorm floor party and everyone hears her deepest thoughts that she would only divulge to Sally, I have to leave the room. It’s just too real. Felicity was a little socially awkward, but always well meaning. Suffice it to say, I was too.
Sometimes, you have to listen to your gut.
To me, Felicity is really about the process of growing up and knowing when to listen to yourself over others. It’s not always clear and to other people you may look insane, but if you feel something, you have to follow your heart. From the get-go, Felicity stays in New York because she knows, in her gut, that to be truly independent, she can’t just do what’s easy — going to Stanford, living at home, and having free tuition. She constantly analyzes decisions, most of the time. with the help of her Resident Advisor, one Noel Crane. He gives her advice, usually pretty sound, and she sometimes ignores it. He even tells her at one point, “OK, don’t come back unless you’re gonna listen to me.” Your gut will not always lead you to make perfect choices, but if you listen to it, at least you always will know that your choices will be your own.
If you change your major a few times, it’s alright.
Felicity is definitely torn at the beginning of season one; does she follow the plan and become a doctor or does she follow her heart and study art? College is a totally confusing time and no one seems to teach you how it the whole collegiate system works. She starts as pre-med, switches to art, and ends up switching back to pre-med. Her final decision teaches us another lesson: Just because your parents want something for you, it doesn’t mean that is necessarily wrong for you. The important thing is that Felicity came to that decision on her own and not just because her parents wanted her to do it.
Friendships can change.
Those college years are difficult to navigate. Friends don’t necessarily come into our lives in a pre-packaged group form. Felicity meets Megan, Elena, Julie and Noel. At the beginning, Megan is her out and out nemesis. Elena is scary intense and Julie has a crush on the same guy as Felicity. Possibly my favorite thing about the series is that all of the characters really change, as we do in real life. We grow and become wiser. Megan becomes Felicity’s closest friend by the end of the series. Funnily enough, something similar happened to me. A middle school nemesis ended up becoming a lifelong friend. First impressions are not always correct.
Never compromise who you are for a relationship.
In the first half of the second season, Felicity had been trying to start a relationship with Ben. However, in doing so, she had to hide her feelings and not be upset when Ben forgot to show up for a date. She gave one of the best speeches in the series when she finally broke up with Ben.
The speech in all its infinite wisdom: “I just can’t compromise myself like that. I mean, I’m an emotional person. I feel things, and I need to be able to get upset and talk about how I’m feeling. That’s who I am, and I can’t change it, and I don’t want to. And the thing is, you knew that. You knew it, and you still pursued me. Because you want something with me. You just aren’t strong enough to have enough to have it, which in a way makes you a coward. And the saddest part is that one day, you’re gonna wake and realize what you missed, and it’s going to be too late”.
Everything happens for a reason
Okay, so yes, the time travel storyline only came from needing more episodes after they had already filmed the end of the series. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lesson to learn. Felicity thinks that from knowing how things will turn out, she can finally make the right decision: choose Noel. It doesn’t exactly go according to plan. At this point in time, we don’t have to face the time travel situation, but I’m pretty sure the Felicity writers were right about this one. We’d make just as many mistakes if we went back and lived something over again. In fact, we’d probably make more.
This is just a bonus: Get ready to go back in time. Below is an Emmy parody made in 1999. Felicity writers make fun of the show and re-imagine it in the context of other popular shows of the time: ER, X-Files, Law & Order, etc. It’s pretty fun.
(Images via WB/CW)