Traveling home for the holidays, I watched a charming little indie comedy/drama called Beginners. The title refers to how we all act when dealing with relationships. The film is about how “deeply funny and transformative life can be.” And one part in particular struck me as truly profound.
Hal (Christopher Plummer) has passed away from cancer and as his commitment-challenged son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) navigates a quirky new love, he reflects back on his memories with Dad. After the death of his wife, Hal came out as a gay man at the age of 75. Oliver recalls watching his dad experience this renaissance: going to gay bars, throwing parties, becoming an activist and even finding a hot new young lover. Hal used to be the typical middle-class surburbanite but it’s not until he comes out that his flamboyant, joyful, adventurous side really shines through.
And then he’s diagnosed with cancer and dies, only five years after this new lease on life..
But there was one part in particular that stuck with me.
When Dad is diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, he decides to throw a party instead of revealing his condition to his friends. Oliver is flabbergasted that his father refuses to tell anyone, especially his own lover, about his diagnosis. They argue: (and I’m paraphrasing here)
“Dad, this isn’t going to get better! You have Stage Four cancer!”
“Oh, son, that doesn’t mean what you think it means. It just means there have been three other phases before this one.”
How often do we look at “the end” as a bad thing? How often have we looked at getting older as a bad thing, rather than simply “another stage that is happening after the ones that came before?” Or can you recall times you’ve looked at the end of something as sad or bad, when maybe it’s just about making room for rebirth or new opportunity?
For me, I never would have started my consulting practice and this blog had my old company not layed off the entire marketing team. What others might see as bad, I was actually hoping for so that I would have no excuse not to try my hand at freelance consulting. I saw it as the beginning, not the end. And I haven’t looked back since.
I love this idea of viewing every “stage” as merely another step in the journey – not to be judged as good or bad. Hal’s character proved that he was his best self and led his happiest life in what could be considered this last stage of it all. Maybe it’s not about the chronological order of things -but about what you do within that stage of the journey that makes it count. Just because it’s the last stage doesn’t imply it’s the worst one. Chronology has nothing to do with it.
Check out the film if you get a chance. It’s a bit slow and “cerebral” at times, but I found myself thinking about it long after the end. PS: There’s also a charming subplot about the human/dog connection as Ewan adopts his father’s dog, Arthur – and Arthur’s thoughts are revealed in subtitles.
When has an ending actually turned out to be the beginning of something wonderful for you? Did leaving a job end up helping you find one you absolutely loved? Did something bad happen in your business that opened up a new opportunity for you? Please share in the Comments!