We’ve all heard the warnings about how life can be wasted, indefinitely stuck and stagnant, when we’re unable or unwilling to step out of our comfort zone. When we do venture outside of what we’ve become used to, exciting and unexpected things can happen. It’s certainly not this black and white, and I’m not one to hate on comfort zones (they can be lovely), but it's interesting to consider how a simple change in your environment can take your life in a different direction.
Maybe a visit to the countryside makes you realize you don’t want to live in a city anymore. Or, maybe it’s a trip alone that helps you realize you don’t really want to be in a relationship after all. You don’t go into new environments assuming they’ll change your life’s course. It’s hard to recognize you’re even missing a new perspective, until you're fully immersed in one.
There are stories, old and new, that reflect this very notion. From Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, exploring new environments can shift what you feel, how you act, and the choices you make. We noticed that this reality held true for Mateo, Kurt, and Nikki, who we meet in AMC’s anthology series, Soulmates.
Adventures in Mexico
Mateo's on his way to Europe to meet his soulmate. (Ed note: In this future world, you can take a test to learn who your soulmate is.) When we say soulmate, we don’t mean someone he’s drawn to, we mean a complete stranger that's been scientifically confirmed as the perfect person for him. On his way he has a stopover in Mexico. Here he relaxes by a bar, drinking a beer. A man who we come to know as Jonah, approaches Mateo and makes a move. After a bit of persuasion, the two end up back in Jonah’s room where they have a one night stand.
Why would Mateo get with Jonah when he’s on his way to meet his soulmate? We don’t know him well enough to say. This very well may be the first moment in which Mateo's new environment influences his decisions—it’s certainly not the last. After learning that his passport has been stolen by Jonah, Mateo forces his one-night-stand, who's apparently also a thief, to help him find it. This leads to the two journeying around Mexico together. While Mateo is absolutely furious at first, we watch as his walls drop, and his attitude shifts as he ventures through unfamiliar territory with this complete stranger.
Cults Can be Clarifying
Now, take the story of Kurt. He’s also taken the test to find his soulmate, but sadly by the time he does, his soulmate has died. Even though he’s never met her, he can’t let go of her. He attempts suicide. When that fails, he tries a support group, but it doesn’t really help. Then he meets a woman, Martha, at a different support group for people with dead soulmates. After an unplanned night together, Martha rejects him in a pretty awful way, leaving him even worse off than he was before. He then sees an ad claiming services that would allow him to meet his deceased soulmate. With nothing left to lose, Kurt responds to the ad, and ends up in a place that leads to more questions than answers.
“When he goes to that first meeting [in the barn] and the preacher tells him suicide is not a sin, he's like, "Wow, these people understand how I've been feeling," explains Charlie Heaton who plays Kurt in Episode 5 of Soulmates.
This new place that Kurt finds himself in brings him hope—not only that he could indeed meet his deceased soulmate, but that he could actually be happy again. Not too long after arriving, he finds that Martha's also there. Clearly, this is also her last resort. In this unfamiliar environment, Kurt and Martha find themselves sticking together. They silently look to each other for some affirmation that what they’re doing makes sense -- especially when they’re told to dig their own graves. Slowly but surely, this extreme environment changes something in Kurt. His desperation subsides, and suddenly he’s considering new possibilities, like the possibility that he could find love outside of his soulmate.
Times Are a Changin’
A new environment doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. What if the status quo faded away, and even the traditional ways we went about finding love changed? Nikki and Franklin, a happily married couple, met before the test to find your soulmate came out. They’re what people 15 years in the future would call an “old fashioned couple,” and these kinds of couples are faced with unusual challenges in this new world.
First, Nikki’s brother takes the test and immediately marries his soulmate, only two weeks after meeting her. Then Nikki’s neighbor matches with her soulmate, and is incredibly excited to meet him... but there’s a problem... she’s married. Despite Nikki’s advice, the neighbor breaks the news to her husband and meets her soulmate. As each new instance of the test emerges in Nikki’s path, you can see something shifting inside of her.
“Nikki and Franklin have been together for 15 years. As a natural progression, there are peaks and valleys in relationships. You sort of fall deeper in love in a different way, and during a natural valley that they would normally be able to climb out of, here comes the test,” explains Sarah Snook who plays Nikki in Episode 1 of Soulmates.
For Nikki, the test implies that something might be missing in her relationship, and it becomes something that she can’t ignore. Eventually she must face the inevitable question: is she going to take the test?
The idea that your environment impacts your perspective is especially relevant now, given what the world is currently going through. With COVID-19, many of us have halted travel plans, stopped our daily commutes, stripped down our social interactions, and been left with little more than our comfort zones to work with.
One way to escape? Diving into television shows that show us new perspectives. When it comes to AMC’s anthology Soulmates, everything you’ve come to know about love and finding it in the wild will be tested. Stream the entire first season of Soulmates now on amc.com and the AMC app for mobile and devices. Check out the on-air schedule for encore viewings of Soulmates on AMC.
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