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Dear College Senior: You Don't Have to Have Everything Figured OutElizabeth Spencer
I just mailed out my family’s annual Groundhog Day cards.
Yes, we actually do send a card for Groundhog Day.
Our tradition of “celebrating” Groundhog Day began as something of a joke. We are those lame people who can’t manage to get a card out around the real holidays like Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s. So we started looking for another occasion that would work and settled on a holiday that highlights a rodent’s ability to forecast the weather.
A little quirky perhaps, but so are we. We also like the thought that our card might stand out from the piles of others that have hit the recycle bin by now. And we hope that, in the midst of the cold, dark days and winter blahs, our unconventional greeting might make someone smile.
The choice may also have something to do with the fact that “Groundhog Day” is one of my all-time favorite movies. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in luck — it runs in an endless loop on February 2 (check your local TV listings).
"Groundhog Day" is a genius film that works on many levels — funny yet also profound. Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, is a weatherman stuck reliving the same day over and over in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where he has reluctantly gone to cover Groundhog Day festivities for his news station. A cynical guy with a bad attitude about everything, Phil falls in love with his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), and spends much of the movie trying to figure out how to make her love him back. He finds out the things Rita likes, such as French poetry, and then uses the knowledge to try and trick her into falling for him. It doesn’t work. His insincerity shines through and makes Rita dislike him even more.
I don’t want my children getting “stuck” living a day over and over that they don’t want to be living. I try to teach them that, even if they can’t change their current situation immediately, a positive attitude can make things better until they are able to move on.
At some point, Phil realizes he isn’t getting anywhere with Rita and stops trying to impress her. Instead, he decides to spend his (seemingly endless) time becoming the best Phil he can be. He pursues new interests (playing the piano, making ice sculptures) and finds fulfillment by getting to know and helping the people around him.
Little by little Phil discovers his authentic self and, as he evolves and grows, he becomes happier. He learns that, although he can’t free himself from his situation, he can find happiness by embracing it.
A serious message in a movie billed as a comedy, and one I take to heart and try to impart to my children.
Picking up my youngest son at the high school, I used to ask about his day and his grades. Then last year, I started asking if he had been the best “him” he could be. And he seems to prefer this question. I don’t want him to compare himself to others. I want him to be his authentic self. That’s what I hope for all my sons. I’ve encouraged them to pursue the things in life that interest them and make them happy. I don’t want them creating a phony version of themselves for popularity or love.
I also don’t want them getting “stuck” living a day over and over that they don’t want to be living. I try to teach them that, even if they can’t change their current situation immediately, a positive attitude can make things better until they are able to move on. That applies to school, work, living situations, relationships…pretty much everything.
Near the end of the movie, a transformed Phil embraces what he had previously viewed as a tedious reporting gig and, before a rapt audience, offers a lyrical observation of Groundhog Day: “When Chekov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life.... Standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
Whether the groundhog sees its shadow or not, whether the rest of the winter is mild or harsh, may you always seek your true self and in doing so find joy.
It’s time to celebrate with the perfect gift for your new grad!