Imagine sitting in a dim, but not dark, theater about to see a movie at ten on a Monday morning. As you’d expect this isn’t a full theater, but 26 people it isn’t exactly empty either. What’s more, half of the attendees are less than one year old.
This is the scene of the Cinema Salem on Mondays as mothers from the surrounding area come to see a new release each week at the Baby and Me movie. Lights are a fraction brighter and there is a changing table in the hallway. They even discount the movie to make up for the extra “soundtrack” that sometimes comes along in the form of the (surprisingly infrequent) lusty infant wail.
On this particular Monday, we were all gathered to see The Five Year Engagement. I went to see this movie because of the hilarious trailer, an appreciation for Emily Blunt and Jason Segal in some of their previous roles (Devil Wears Prada and I love you, Man respectively), and of course, because the premise struck a spark in me. It’s only been a few short years past my own wedding day, and I vividly remember interminable and detailed discussions about the pros and cons of every day in August, who to invite, and all the turbulent emotions that come with making serious life decisions.
The course of the movie follows Tom (Segal) and Violet (Blunt) from a rooftop garden proposal on through their ever-lengthening engagement. The romantic glow of that proposal is quickly saturated with the reality of two people attempting to mesh their careers and ambitions. Violet is offered a plum position at the University of Michigan doing post-doctoral work in Psychology, and Tom self-sacrificially chooses to forgo his dream of running a swanky restaurant in San Francisco for what they imagine will only be two years.
And this is the part that gets nitty-gritty and somewhat heartrending to watch. As they move away from friends, as they meet new people, settle into different roles, and deal with the weather upsets of southern Michigan, the couple begins to change, to grow, to age… It’s here that I started to see that much of age is simply adding one year onto another, another wrinkle, another job, another memory. Age is the slow and inevitable pile of experiences, good and bad – the first flake falling in a gentle snow. Then you realize everything has been covered in white and it’s hard to tell what’s beneath. Age shows us that we can’t choose to do everything; that some things are important, and others aren’t.
Tom and Violet struggle through their choices and emotions for the rest of the movie dealing with jealousy, depression, heartache. Violet says to Tom – “I don’t think we can figure out all our problems before we get married.” And even though they do get married, they certainly don’t figure out all their problems. Instead, they learn how to turn them into a different view of success. Yet another thing that aging gives us – perspective.
Watching this movie reminded me of the things I thought I really wanted when I was young (to be a bread baker), and since then have put aside or changed my mind about – or even reinterpreted – the same way Tom reinterprets his dream job to own a restaurant. It also reminded me that life is not always just about what I want, but about the interaction between my desires and the experiences of people that my life strongly interacts with (my husband, baby, friends).
How have you changed your ideas about what you want in life since you were 21? How do you deal with the interaction between what you want and accommodations you need to make for others?