Friday, March 11, 2005

Good Rik Hunting

Yesterday I bought the movie "Good Will Hunting" on DVD. As you may know, it's one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time but I've held off buying it for some unknown reason. However, after seeing it at the PowerZone for 15 bucks yesterday I grabbed it. I'd almost forgotten what a great movie it is.

Now before we go any further, let me just say this; I am not the kind of person who "looks at things deeply" or gets dramatic or emotional at certain songs, movies, or whatever.

Having said that, you may be surprised to find out that the movie "Good Will Hunting" actually changed my life. Let me explain...

The year was 1997. I had a good job at a newspaper as a voice information systems coordinator. Much of it consisted of sales and advertising and I was growing increasingly miserable doing it. The more miserable I became, the harder the job got. It wasn't just the job though; I was also growing more and more unhappy with my life in general. I had done what I thought I was supposed to do to be happy - gone to college, gotten a good job, etc, etc. But instead of making me happy, I was feeling trapped in a job that I didn't enjoy. I was restless. I needed to do something, but had no idea what. I figured I just needed a change of scenery, so I started sending resumes around the country. All the offers I received were for sale and advertising jobs. I started thinking that maybe I wouldn't be as unhappy doing that type of thing if I lived somewhere else.

Then one night, I went to the movies with my brother to see a film called "Good Will Hunting". It was getting rave reviews and Oscar consideration, but we went mostly because it took place in Boston. After seeing it, I would never look at life the same. For those not familiar with the story, it's about a boy genius in Southie (South Boston) who grew up in foster homes and was going through life with a huge chip on his shoulder. Rather than capitalize on his gift, he is content to spend his days working menial jobs and his nights getting drunk with his buddies. He relishes every opportunity to make pretentious "smart people" look stupid. Then one day he meets a psychiatrist (Robin Williams) that changes his life. He does this by showing him that, although he is amazingly intelligent, he knows nothing about life. Williams' character has been through it all - traveled around the world, fought in the Viet Nam War, lost his wife to cancer.

There is one extremely poignant scene that still gives me chills when I watch it. The two are sitting on a park bench and Robin Williams' character gives a speech that just hit me between the eyes. I won't recount it all as it's too long, but I'll give you the gist - he tells him, "If I ask you about art, you could probably tell me everything there is to know about Michelangelo. But you can't tell me what it smells like inside the Sistine Chapel. If I ask you about war, you'd probably quote Shakespeare all day long. But you can't tell me what it feels like to hold your dying buddy in your arms on the battlefield." This goes on and on, and it's the one scene that changed everything for me.

See, I realized that I was just like Will Hunting (just nowhere near as smart). I thought of myself as pretty intelligent and well rounded. I thought I had it all together. But the truth was, everything I knew was all from books. I had no real life experience. I had a college degree, a good job, had my share of girlfriends, but I really hadn't done any living. After that, I realized that I didn't need a new job or a new location; I needed a new life. With that in mind, I took the biggest chance I've ever taken in my life. Quit my job, joined the Army and came to Europe. In retrospect, it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Eight years later, I've traveled the world, gotten married to an amazing woman, have a beautiful little boy, and am fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world doing a job that I actually enjoy doing. I realize that it could all be over tomorrow but if it is, I can die happy knowing that, as Robin Williams' character says in the movie, "at least I played a hand."


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