I Watched 'Arrival' with the Former Love of My Life and Regretted Every Decision I Ever Made by Sophia Chang

The third in my Love series...

It's been 4 days since Arrival and I've hardly left the bed.

After crying hysterically for an hour in the theatre and the quiet victory of discovering a fellow yellow brother wrote the genius fueling this decade's alien movie, I've lapsed into a hermetic stupor.

Yes, this film spoke to my multilingual identity the way single-language plebes will never understand. But this film messed me up not due to its Sapir-Whorf crisis, or to the plight of growing up colored and code-switching in a country that everyone else just realized was racist last November (seriously, who was in denial that long?) 

No, this movie destroyed my mind on a much deeper level. 

I've only been asked twice in my life about the event in my life so severe that it marks the B.C. and A.D. of Sophia Chang. It doesn't come up often - you have to get me talking about the biggest regrets of my life before I'll tell you why I am the way I am now, why I had no choice but to change and be changed, irrevocably.

It is that I lost the love of my life and I am still recovering from it.


I'll be discussing the spoilers of my own love story more than the movie, but do watch the film because it will change you.

In the briefest way: in Arrival, Amy Adams plays a linguistics professor named Louise who learns from the aliens to view time non-linearly. Once you understand that twist, the inevitably of time clamps down on you and you are struck on all sides by the rage, the grief, and the peace of acceptance. 

I caught on to the reveal about thirty minutes before the rest of the audience, and I spent the end of the movie huddled in the corner of my seat, sobbing uncontrollably. All I could do was hold a futile hand to the screen, unable to watch, unable to stop time from unfolding, unable to stop what already has happened and is happening simultaneously and will always happen.

The realization is nearly too much for a human, particularly one who regrets nearly every moment of her life.

The question Louise faces upon the moment of realization is this: 

If you knew what your decisions would result in, would you still make them?

Click to TweetTweet: If you knew what your decisions would result in, would you still make them? Here's what I chose:


The film prepares us to make this decision in the most stunning, visceral way. We watch Louise replay the moments that make a life what we sign up for: the birth of your child, the heartache of divorce, the smiles of the people you love the most in life, the acute coldness of lying alone in a bed (without the covers on, natch.) Even kissing your child goodbye at last to cancer, and then the inexorable days of surviving afterward on your own.

Director Denis Villeneuve walks us through this repeatedly, yet when our own moment comes at the end to make this same decision, it steals your breath as cold as a drowning river all the same.

The Things We Can't Change

For the last 4 days I've lived my version of the film. Every low and highlight of my last 8 years since I met that man played in sharp relief, simultaneously, as if I speak heptapod now too.

And I kept asking myself:

Would I make the same choice still?

If I had known the path it would take me down, would I make the same choice? 


Azrael is not the first love of my life and, God willing, will not be the last. And I know he'll protest but secretly enjoy being called his gaming moniker: Azrael, angel of death, the harbinger of destruction, who bathes in the tears of Lord Vader and all sides dark.

People laugh when they hear about Azrael. He's short, heavyset, with a wicked temper and very distinct features. There was something about him - I left a boyfriend for him, and then dropped out of a fully funded grad program in my hometown of New York to go back to LA - a city I dislike - to be with him. I have met and been loved by truly wonderful men in my life, and Azrael is one of the best. If he called me up to bury a dead body with him in the middle of the night, I would already be shrugging my puffy jacket on.

But if you had told either of us what we would be asked to go through in order to be together, both of us might have run screaming in the opposite direction before our first DJ AM concert. Just today I cried remembering the worst things I've said to him and how I begged for his forgiveness years later. When I remember the ultimatum he gave me that I ultimately had to walk away from (one that he does not even remember, but will haunt me for the for the rest of my life), I know all too well the inevitably of time.

And how some things you cannot take back.

We have been apart now almost as long as we were together. I stayed many months with him as roommates during #nomad2015, which not everyone knows. He was at my birthday this year and both of our friends are familiar with each other. After living with each others' music for so many years, we still do concerts well together.

Where exes can be

On Halloween, we went to see Danny Elfman conduct the Nightmare Before Christmas at the Hollywood Bowl, one of his favorite movies. We laughed while waiting for sushi and I told him one of our former coworkers who had tried to steal me from him years ago (karma?) had actually asked me to the same concert tonight but I had declined. I didn't hesitate to say yes to Azrael.

"Hey, you're a free person," he said, "You can go down that hell if you want."

I shook my head at him. "He does have better seats than us."

We can laugh about this now.

Later we finally saw an Oogie Boogie cosplayer and chased her down so I could take a photo for them.

"That's my favorite," he said.

"I know," I told him. 'I handdrew and made you a card of Oogie Boogie our first Chirstmas because he's your favorite." Handmade paper is one of the things I do for people I love.

"You did?" Azrael looked sheepishly at me. His memory is terrible and he's not as sentimental as me to begin with. He'd always been the pragmatic one who kept the insurance paid and the Netflix subscribed. We love differently, but both very fiercely as only two fire signs can. My two favorite lessons from this love story is 1) learning how to love someone 2) learning to see how someone loves.

We nearly killed ourselves learning these lessons. And while I don't have the courage to go through it if you tell me in advance, now that I'm done, I hold on to these lessons like little purple hearts on my collar.

we dont have to make the decision

After a week of processing the movie's final question - would we really make the same choice all over again - I draw the same conclusion each time: you don't make this decision. You will never be able to say, "Yes, it's worth it' or "No, I can not, please don't make me".

You don't make the decision. You just gravely face it, inevitably, because that is what time does and in the end, it always wins. You are but a human constrained to live in a temporal way.

The best we have, without heptapod language, is hindsight. And with that you can choose to live in the regret. You can rehash it like I have for years. You can remember the pain. 

And you do.

You also remember each hard won moment. Each goodness. The pain and the tenderness of family, heartache, heartbreak, love, loss. The love of my life that I am not all the way done grieving, and may never be. Because I believe some things you don't get over - and love just may be one of them.

The movie didn't make me realize I would choose the same story again, but that I must. Simply because it is mine and it is the one I was meant to live.

Because it is not, in the end, for me to bat around the strings of fate like a bored cat. But for me to bravely face and presently live with everything I have been given, so in the end I can say I fought the good fight, I loved as best I could, and I truly lived.

Always In Love: An Addict's Story by Sophia Chang

Last article Hippies in Tevas: A Love Story kicked off the Love Series! 

My friend Amy and I met for Indonesian lunch last month. When she went to her car to get milk for her new son, I scooped him up.

The boy is a parental dream; he settled instantly into my arms. Then he began to smile at me.

Me having a Twilight moment

Me having a Twilight moment

I knew then and there I was in love.

It was unreal. I was Jacob imprinting on Renesmee. (From the Book of Twilight, 4 Jacob 1:897,592.)

The sticky plastic menu in front of me disappeared; the waitstaff and other diners faded. I didn't move - neither did time. I was transfixed.

the addiction

I have been in love. I have also been infatuated, or in need, and called that love, but I'm talking about real, sacrificial love. I've been lucky enough to have that.

Those few experiences of real love changed me. They broke me, and re-whole'd me. The effects have lasted forever and regrooved my neurological patterns.

And, if you're hurting like me, you search a lifetime for that love. Sometimes, like holding an adorable baby, you can replicate the feeling for a moment.

Then you want it forever. You're addicted, sure as sugar or cocaine. Biochemically, it's the same.

I sought this feeling in men. In the party. In fame dreams. Everywhere I looked for that high, I fell. Click to tweet!Tweet: I sought it in men. Money. Everywhere I looked for that high, I fell. READ: An Addict's Story @thesophiachang Over and over again, I picked myself off the concrete, held together by band-aids.

It's a form of self-immolation, I tell you.

The secular world tried their best. Coaches and friends urged me to "love myself".

It didn't work. 

It will never work to tell someone who's never known unwavering, encompassing love to just love herself.

It took three decades for me to find the one thing that does work. You know I love a good love story: this one gets better.

Addict for Life

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
— John 15:12 NIV

God did not cure me of love. 

That "addiction" is not meant to be cured. It was given to us by the original love addict - Love itself. It's our right, and our command.

It's just meant to be channeled correctly.

‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
— Mark 12:30-31 NKJV

It's hard to do this perfectly. Every day, every moment, I remind myself to look up first. I don't always remember. I'm often distracted by old habits and values. But now, when I fall, there are hands to catch me, sisters to minister to me, and a web keeping me from splattering. 

These days when I fall, I'm set back on my feet quickly.

I've searched a lifetime for this kind of love. Now, I finally know where to look. Click to tweet!Tweet: I've searched a lifetime for this kind of love. Now, I finally know where to look. READ Always in Love: An Addict's Story

Hippies in Tevas: A Love Story by Sophia Chang

I'm a Bible toddler. When I started going to church I had no idea what it was about. As far as I knew, Peter, Paul and Mary left on a jet plane. 

Because of this, I always wanted to go to Sunday school. On my way to the bathroom during adult service, I'd pass the ring of kids sitting cross-legged on the nubbly gray carpet. Inevitably, I'd drift closer to peek at the drawings, wishing I could plop down with the children Billy Madison-style. But I was too shy to sit, so I lingered on the outskirts, goofy, grown, and God-hungry. 

One day Jonathan was teaching. He held up a page in a picture book and asked, "What is this?"

"The Bible!" the kids shouted.

"And what is the Bible a story of?"

Well that was a loaded question. If you'd asked me at any point in my life I would have shouted:



An epic myth all screenwriters base our stories on since Joseph Campbell!

But these are kids, so it had to be a good thing. I settled on the perfect response. 

Jesus, I answered in my head, feeling smug and Christian-y.

"Love," Jonathan said.

The top of my head blew clean off.

A Love Story

The Bible is a story about love. 

It's a manual, actually. One that uses God's love as an example, so that even those of us who grew up in crappy families eventually get an instruction book in life, after thousands of dollars of therapy and a string of poor relationship choices. (Not that I know anything about that...) 

So how come I never heard it taught like that?

I spent decades thinking the Bible was a messily organized amalgamation of marriage tips, Jewish versions of fortune cookie sayings, Aesop fables, some dude's family tree, a town that sounds like a venereal disease, and a warning about haircuts. 

Starring a bunch of hippies wearing Tevas while sustainably farming crappy land.

That the Bible as a love story was such a shocking revelation to me speaks to how skewed representations of the book have become. Humans are clearly missing the point. 

And Christians need to take responsibility for that. 

Tell the Real Story

We're doing a disservice to everything God intended when we lead with anything but love.

Are you using the Bible as a "told you so" more than a "good for you"? Are you regulating more than you're praising and uplifting?

This isn't an either/or question. It's one of degree and focus. Yes, sin and conviction and all that are vital, but, more importantly, so is remembering the point, the whole point of being on this big blue ball. 

The point is: we are loved.

Don't let the human tendency towards superiority and condemnation obfuscate that message. (Like the word obfuscate does that sentence.)

No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.
— Philip Yancey

I can vouch as a former atheist which type of message drew me closer to God, and which pushed me away.

The Bible deserves a better book report than the ones going around. It deserves to have its main message put first and foremost. 

Will you spread the love? 

If so, please click "Share" below!

It's the Relationship That Changes You by Sophia Chang

In counseling psych grad school we took a yearlong class exclusively on therapeutic communication. The most important lesson we learned was that the client healed not from some specific technique or information - but from the relationship with the therapist.

In fact, one of the most healing things that could happen was the inevitable therapeutic break: when the therapist messes up and doesn't say what the client needs to hear. At this critical juncture, the therapist has the opportunity to hear the client's hurt, to make amends, and let the client be cherished as vulnerable - often for the first time in his/her entire life.

This is life changing.

We come from families where our needs and feelings were squashed. We had no model for healthy communication and even fewer examples of how to listen.

To have someone see your pain - to witness your wound - and non-defensively hear your feelings provides a kind of wholeness that is sublime.

relationships that heal

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, seminarian Ph.D.'s and pioneers of relationship therapy, hold in their groundbreaking book, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, that the very purpose of relationships is to complete our needed healing and development.

Relationship is the context in which you get healed…and we think couplehood is the most powerful source of healing there is.
— Harville Hendrix

They've since expanded their theories and practice to include all kinds of relationships.

This, of course, applies to the the most important relationship in your life - the one between you and Spirit.

letting love change you

We were made for intimacy. That is how God lives in us.

It is how God relates to us, and how we're to relate to ourselves, each other, and the world at large. Every connection is meant to change us in some way - to open us up, to heal, to teach us something that no other way can.