This is the time in our lives to learn that happiness is not borne from acts of cultural normalcy, but from the act of being genuine
From my mother, I inherited a dream: that one day of my life could be a musical. Raised on a strict diet of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz and every Disney animated feature released in the 90s and early 2000s (okay and Frozen), the possibility of everyone that I encountered within the realms of one day knowing and performing to perfection a choreographed song-and-dance number didn’t really seem so far fetched.
Since the dreaming days of my youth, however, I’ve learned that people generally aren’t into random breakouts of song or dance or anything that makes them mildly uncomfortable as they attempt to go about their day normally and music-free. So, disregarding every inspirational Pinterest quote, I put my dream of a musical day on the backburner and went along with my life, keeping the songs to a minimum and the dancing to a thing to be done behind closed doors (behind which I dance fake ballet to Lana Del Rey, as any normal person should).
So as I watched Little Miss Sunshine last night, I noticed how Olive, the oddball star of the film, was encouraged to solely be herself – to sing and dance and rip off her Adidas flyaway pants – not because of how it made the people around her feel, but because of how happy it made Olive to perform. The whole film follows the journey of a dysfunctional family on their way out of their daily performances of American normalcy and into a world of discovering just what it means to do what they do for their own happiness rather than for others’ satisfaction.
It is easy to watch this film and scoff at the father and his sorry version of the American Dream that he seems to be faithfully living out and yet it seems that even us vivacious and dreamy college students can fall into similar traps – choosing homework over friends, salaries over dreams and a busy schedule over the chance for spontaneity and adventure. Even now, as we come back from our intrepid ventures of spring break, we look forward instead of downward – counting down the days until Easter break, summer break, graduation. We worry about our futures without a thought about what this all does to our present experience, as we shelf current opportunities in favour of the promise of bigger and better ones that the fabled “future” holds for us.
We’ve all done this: refused to go out for drinks with friends to work on a paper that we have told ourselves will surely be the key to our eventual success. We sit here and tell ourselves that there is a distinct hierarchy of important things in our collegiate lives at the moment and that list is topped with homework, internships and remain busy (!!!) while fun, friends and play bring up the rear. Even as I write this, I must stop myself from agreeing with this proverbial list – that tells us all that being busy is the ultimate goal, that having “nothing to do” is a laughable fate, that a completed essay means more than a walk with a friend.
Through Olive’s small but wise character in Little Miss Sunshine, it is noted that the self is most happy when it is performing a script written purely by one’s own self – not by cultured expectations or handed down lists. It is with this knowledge that I try to press forward out of my university days and into the so-called real world. Learning to write a script completely out of my culture’s reach is a lesson that will surely have to be learnt many times over, but one that I will continue to try to emulate until my moves are as free and silly and utterly real as Olive’s.
Maybe my dream of a musical day does not have to be so far fetched after all.