Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

When asked "what's your favorite movie," I can never decide if I should answer with That Thing You Do!, Garden State, or It's a Wonderful Life. I love all three of them and can quote each of them pretty extensively. Are you allowed to have three favorites? I do. But if I am only allowed to have one favorite at a time, today's favorite movie is It's a Wonderful Life.

I have been doing a lot of thinking. I always do a lot of thinking, but recently I have been doing more thinking than normal. There is this crazy thing that has been happening to me recently (well, in the past few months): nothing in my life is working the way I had planned it. And that can be so very frustrating. But it has also provoked some serious soul-searching. And while that might sound melodramatic, I am melodramatic. It works for me.

What is it all about? Why are we here on this planet? I used to think it was exploring, discovering, experiencing; those things were why I was put here! This globe is filled with adventure, and I will find it! So I set out on a new adventure, one called adulthood. I know our society defines adulthood somewhere between the voting age and drinking age, but I was still in school then. Within the past year, I graduated, I secured myself a big-girl job, I moved to a new state, I settled into an apartment (sans-roommates for the first time in my life), and I started forward on this trek called adulthood. I was ready! Or so I thought.

As different types of frustrations ebbed and flowed over the next several months, I had to seriously ask myself, "Wait, what is it all about, again? Why am I here? I wanted to be here, right?" I generally did that in the form of phone calls to family members (my kid brother has probably spent more time talking to me in the past six months than he has in his whole life... and we grew up in the same house together). The best three weeks over the last six months happened in Tennessee and Texas- trips to visit family and friends and people I consider near and dear to me. Oh, I am learning a lot here in Louisiana and "discovering" new things all the time. But my explorations, discoveries, and experiences don't mean much without sharing them with others. And by "others," I mean "loved ones."

So I put myself in George Bailey's shoes (back to It's a Wonderful Life, again. I really am going somewhere with this, I promise). He went through a hard time and did some of his own soul searching. In a scene at Martini's bar, George gasps"God, dear Father in heaven, I am not a praying man, but if you are up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I'm at the end of my rope, show me the way." And, if you aren't familiar with the film, God sends Clarence to answer George's prayer. Indeed, Clarence shows George the value of his life as a way to save George from ending his life. And that value was found in making a difference to his family and friends. Call me a sap, but I can't not cry at the end scene when the whole community rallies to support George Bailey in his time of need. Everybody loves George!

One of the things I relate to the most in the film, even as a kid, was George's fascination with the bigger world. He was going to "shake the dust of this crummy town" off his shoes and see the world! But then life happened. When it comes right down to it, my three favorite films don't seem to have much in common. A musically-infused comedy, a coming-of-age-indie flick, and a Frank Capra classic? But in each of the films, the main character is seeking something away from home. They don't know what they are seeking, but are seeking, nonetheless. Each character finds what they are seeking while at home (well, technically, Skitch in That Thing You Do! finds what he is looking for away from home, but he finds what he is searching for in the things that he originally had at home... you have to watch the movie if you haven't).

One thing I have realized in my short time in Louisiana has been that life is about impacting your world. And traditionally, one's world was geographically restricted. Technology has made it so we don't stay in one spot, we can leave our families and homeplaces, all while staying "connected." Our world is now so big! There is a lot of pressure to make a difference in the big world! You are supposed to grow up, move out, be successful [usually, that is defined financially], and make a difference. And for my generation, you do these things independently, even independent from family. But doing these things requires that we sacrifice something for the "American Dream." This New Yorker article looks a little at those sacrifices:

Meanwhile, the culture’s data pool is filled with evidence of virtuous togetherness. “The Brady Bunch.” The March on Washington. The Yankees, in 2009. Alone, we’re told, is where you end up when these enterprises go south.
And yet the reputation of modern solitude is puzzling, because the traits enabling a solitary life—financial stability, spiritual autonomy, the wherewithal to buy more dishwashing detergent when the box runs out—are those our culture prizes.
The American Dream! "Financial stability, spiritual autonomy, the wherewithal to buy more dishwashing detergent when the box runs out[!]" It sounds a little preposterous, and yet, I have known this as truth. I have even attempted to console my singleness with the fact that I don't have to do anybody's laundry than my own. Ha. Is that really the American Dream? Do you suppose Thomas Jefferson sent explorers Lewis and Clark out with the thoughts "one day this great nation will be filled with individuals who will have the individual right to choose whether or not they wash their clothes with Tide or All or whether they wash their clothes at all!"

If this post seems long and slightly meandering, it is because it is. Back to my man, George Bailey. In the end, he realizes the impact he made by just living his day-to-day for those he loved. He realizes that he has made a huge difference by existing. And he realizes how much his family (both family-by-blood and family-by-choice) means to him. Sorry if I rambled slightly here. I am still a'churning all these thoughts in my head. I have done a lot of "sharing" in the past few weeks via phone calls and letters and every single person I have talked to has helped shaped some of my perceptions (in good ways!). It is almost as if during my moments of strife, when I asked God to show me the way, He sent Clarence in the form of family and friends as a way to say "hang in there, kiddo... it really is a wonderful life and I'm not done with you, yet."  

No comments: