After the Credits Roll

When I leave a movie, I can’t help but compare it to my own life. Whatever moods or themes resonate with me remain stuck in my mind. I think about the similarities between my life and the movie. Sometimes these thoughts leave me feeling like my own life doesn’t measure up. I’m not happy enough or fit enough or fulfilled enough. It’s a frustrating feeling based on some illusion that these life-goals are attainable and sustainable. After all, Hollywood shows us that it’s possible.

One problem we have in our society is that we tend to think that, like in the movies, we are going to have the perfect ending. You know what I mean, I’m sure… At the end of the movie, the protagonist of the film drives off into the sunset, or reunites with a loved one, or gets the girl, or accomplishes a mission, or grieves a loss, or overcomes a big hurdle. Often, he or she winds up in a better spot. There is a sense of resolution and relief, of profound and lasting positive change. The end.

This is what we want for ourselves, too. Resolution. An ending that is better than the beginning. Eventually feeling better than where we started. And the movies appeal to us because they give us the idea that we can wind up there, too. And, what is more, that we can remain there, permanently. And seeking this ending can become our lifetime goal. We imagine that it is attainable and that it will endure.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this feeling. But it is a fantasy. Because none of us gets to stay in a good spot forever. That’s just not life. It’s not reality. In reality, we may get to the climaxes we see in the movies. The difference is that we won’t stay there. We’ll reach a goal, a personal apex. But we will inevitably backslide. And then the journey will begin again.

Life is a series of perpetual highs, lows, and in-betweens. And coping with this reality is what it’s about. I think some of us become more depressed and anxious when we think that there is some positive end-goal, some delightfully happy ending. And that once we find it, we’ll stay right there basking in the sweet goodness forever. Like in the movies. But it’s simply not going to happen. And, really, we can live with that truth. We can cope. We can evolve even as we struggle through life’s muck.

A challenge we all face is to know what comes after the happy ending, should we ever reach it. Because, trust me, life isn’t over after that. And it’s impossible to stay in one place for too long. And that, my friends, is the stuff of real life. It’s where fiction ends and reality begins.

©2013 Stephanie A. Heck, Ph.D.

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