I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced relating to a tv show, a character or a scene so much you feel that they practically based it off your life. No? Maybe?? Just me?
I discovered NBC's This Is Us a few years ago and couldn't help but instantly feel a connection to it. I felt like this is super eerie yet I can’t stop watching it type of feeling. Ever know of something that makes you so emotional but you can’t help but cling to it - wanting more? This is me with This Is Us. Like I always mention - it was a hard early road for me in asking for help when I needed. Instead I would try to find every self-help book possible and absorb as much information I could about others in similar positions as I was. Discovering this show was me absorbing and connecting in my original coping state. This time I was doing it with my mom - watching along with her every week. It opened a door for us to start relating and communicating about our experiences with grief like we hadn't before.
If you’re not familiar with the show this is the run down and there’s a lot of spoilers, you've been warned!
You are introduced to what appears as a traditional love story in the 80s of a young lounge singer trying to make it and a young resilient man from a dysfunctional abusive home. We learn that Rebecca and Jack have an undeniable and real life type of love - experiencing all of the excitement, cheekiness and nervousness of dating someone new. When they’re married Rebecca becomes pregnant with twins, Kevin and Kate. At the hospital Jack sees a baby, Randall brought into the unit who was left at a firehouse. The couple decides to adopt him. They call the kids their triplets. They go through the next few decades and delve into the growth of each family member and how their connection is strengthened with every challenge that comes their way in their young family. This carries on to when the kids are in their adolescence. Challenges with relationships, weight, addiction, mental health and living without their father, Jack. Jack dies from heart complications from their family house fire when the triplets are teens. This Is Us explores all of these pivotal moments in one's lives (weddings,loss, break ups, births, deaths, job changes, house moves, family crisis) and the feelings that come up from going through this without the loving essential patriarch we grow a connection to, Jack. They are forever shaped by their relationship with Jack and the loss of him.
I’m totally Randall for the record.
Before all of this world craziness happened, I had fallen behind on a few episodes of the show. I’m finally getting around to them now. The episode I watched the other day was based on what Randall thought his life would look like if his father never died when he was a teenager. This is something I’ve totally thought about. During times when things have appeared to be going stray or new challenges were brought my way I would often fall into this line of thinking especially when I was still a teen: Why me? Why aren’t you here? If you were here I wouldn’t have to feel all of this pressure and weight on my back. This isn't my job or role to be doing this. If you were here I could focus more on my school work/ starting my career. If you were here I wouldn’t have all of these expectations and responsibilities and could feel like a normal 20 something year old. If you were here I would have been able to get out of that mess sooner, you would have talked me through it. Maybe I could’ve saved my money sooner. Maybe I would have to fight less for the things I wanted. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed myself more without having anxiety about my family and feeling immense guilt for trying to be happy.
In the episode before this last one, Randall asks his brother Kevin if he's ever wondered what life would've been like if their dad were still alive. He asks this after they spend time in New York trying to convince Rebecca to go through with a clinical trial as she is experiencing cognitive impairment. His brother says no but Randall lets him know that he always does. Throughout the seasons and decades worth of Randall's journey we get to see that he suffers from anxiety - something his father tried helping him with but was left to navigate his own coping as an adult, panic attacks at work, he’s an overachiever at a young age, takes on responsibilities after his father passes caring for his mother and constantly puts pressure on himself to “fix” situations. We see that he begins to spiral once things in his life become out of his control - a stranger breaks in his home while his family is sleeping and his mother's health declines.
No matter how much healing I’ve done and work that I’ve put in myself I do wonder what life would be like with my dad here still. Would I have moved out by now? Would I have traveled more? Would I have been married already? Would I have a baby by now? Would I have chosen a different career path? Would my relationship with my mom be different? My siblings? Would I have made less reckless mistakes? Would I be less cautious and have been more focused on my own growth earlier on in my 20's?
Similar to Randall's imagination sequence in this episode where he shares with his therapist how in his eyes, his life would’ve been different if teenage him would’ve prevented his father from going in the burning house to get their dog, he pictures all of the positive outcomes like I have with my What Ifs that were always in my favour, making my life “easier”. He pictures himself feeling less burdened with the weight of caring for his mother and focusing more on his own growth as a teenager who gets accepted into college early , connecting with his addict birth father sooner and having a wonderful relationship with him, him having the same wife and children living happily, being successful and and having an untouched strong bond between him and his siblings. His therapist gets him to consider that the What Ifs might not have gone the way he thought they would - in his favour. We see an alternative What If sequence where him meeting his birth father causes an indefinite wedge in his parents marriage, his relationship with his mother is cold for decades as he holds a grudge toward her for keeping the secret of meeting his birth father when he was a baby from him, his relationship with his siblings is strained and he’s a professor who sleeps with his TAs unable to ever commit and have his own family. His therapist highlights that not only him trying to save his father from the fire wouldn't have saved his life ultimately since we learn that he had a heart condition but Randall's life likely wouldn't have been the same if his father was alive. He wouldn't be like the man he built himself to be, following a very different path and experiencing life with a different perspective.
We all have been led to the What If mindset over the last few weeks. What if this pandemic wasn’t going on right now? Would my relationship be healthy? Would my mental health be in a great state? Would I be making better choices for me? Would I feel more accomplished? Would I have gotten that job opportunity? All scenarios that would make our lives much easier. Some may be true - but that we’ll not know for certain until we’re far removed from this situation and the time has gone by.
This mindset is typical and not an unhealthy place to start at. It’s the human in us and persistence in us to see through our fullest and happiest lives. It’s okay to explore the What Ifs and appreciate what we had - because we built that ( routines, connections, our successes, our outlets). Who is to say you can’t keep building? While in this mindset we try to process by imagining our current situation being different and more desirable for us. Our current situation is actually shaping us for the future and that, we cannot know for certain how it'll go. We can only control ourselves and our reactions when things fall apart. It’s okay to feel sad that things aren’t going your way or that you’re not getting what you need right now. Be accepting and compassionate toward yourself. It’s hard out here right now - we’re navigating some unexplored territory sis. Even for those of us who are attuned to ourselves and have experienced grief before, our What Ifs may look a little different now. This is part of the grieving process as we see with Randall, myself and many of you and it’s part of our healing.
What are some TV shows, movies or characters that you can connect and relate to?
Keep healing and take care,