"How I Met Your Mother" is a well-known sitcom about five friends in their mid-20s, all of whom navigate their careers and love lives together over the course of nine years. Future Ted, the main character of the show, narrates the story of how he met his wife to his kids, and includes every last detail. A cinematic masterpiece, the show weaves in valuable lessons along the way.
It's never too late to pursue your dreams.
Robin started off working as a reporter at dead-end new channels with little viewership, but she kept pushing her way up the ladder and became a world-renowned journalist. Likewise, Ted began his career working at architecture firms that supported corporate clients, often forcing him to go against his belief system. But with some effort, his building design one day sat along the skyline of Manhattan. And for years, Lily supported Marshall with the stable salary of a kindergarten teacher for him to achieve his dream of working at the NRDC. Later on in the show, she drove her way into the world of art with connections, and the couple went on to live in Rome for a year while Lily worked as an art consultant.
"I am just a kindergarten teacher. And, yes, I have a degree in art history and I was meant to do something with it, but I didn't. Somewhere along the line, I forgot to pursue my dream, and now I'm old and I'm a mom and it's just too late for me."
"Lily, okay, okay. No, no, no, it's not too late. You're gonna quit your job tomorrow, and you're gonna go back and pick up right where you left off with that art stuff."
- Lily and Marshall, "How I Met Your Mother," 8x17
The characters didn't achieve these feats overnight. All of these achievements required time and perseverance. The gang were all well into their 30s before they accomplished their major career goals. "How I Met Your Mother" taught us that if you set out to attain a successful career in a competitive field, the chances are that you won't reach your goals instantaneously. Unrealistic expectations will be the death of you if you don't go easy on yourself.
A friend is a treasure.
"Kids, your aunt Robin never did become a pole-vaulter. But she did become a famous journalist, a successful businesswoman, a world traveler, she was even briefly a bullfighter - that's a funny story, I'll get to that one later. But there was one thing your aunt Robin never was; she was never alone."
- Ted Mosby, "How I Met Your Mother" 7x12
Throughout "How I Met Your Mother," the characters demonstrate a strong lesson: friendship prevails through thick and thin. And yes, it's oftentimes about being there for the "big moments," as Lily puts it. The gang is there for Lily and Marshall's wedding, and they're there when Marshall's father passes away, too. They're there for Barney when he finds his father, and they're there for him when he grieves the loss of his childhood, too. It's about thriving together at the highs in life, and supporting one another at the lows. If you find friends like that in a lifetime, consider yourself rich.
Searching for "signs from the universe" is overrated.
From the pilot, Ted's character was dubbed a hopeless romantic. Indeed, the rest of the gang depend on his rosy outlook on love and life. However, heartbreak after heartbreak, he starts to lose the optimistic attitude we observe in him during the early days of the show. By the time he hits his mid-30s, Ted has quite a few failed relationships behind him, and loses faith in the notion of leaving the fate of his love life up to the universe.
"Maybe we don't need a sign from the universe to tell us what we want. Maybe we already know that, deep down."
-Ted Mosby, "How I Met Your Mother," 8x23
What we can learn from Ted's character development is that we mustn't wait idly by for a "sign" to act. Are you ready to take that next step together in a relationship? Go for it! Are you prepared to declare your major and start working toward your dream career? Do it! There's no sense in waiting for the permission of the universe to let you know what you want out of life.
Cherish what you have.
"How I Met Your Mother" teaches us that you must cherish what you have. The episode "Time Travelers" involves a series of scenes between Barney, Ted, and future versions of the two of them, all of whom are fabricated through Ted's present concerns, like never finding love. In reality, it is revealed that he had spent a night all alone in MaClaren's Pub staring at a Robots v. Wrestlers ticket because the rest of the gang couldn't make it. While Barney and Robin are off planning their wedding and Marshall and Lily are with Marvin, Ted ruminates over the fact that he seems to be stagnating in life, all alone.
In hindsight, he realizes he wasn't alone. He tells the kids that if he could go back and relive that night, he wouldn't spend it on his own. He'd go home, to his old apartment, and he would visit his friends for whom he cared so deeply. And without missing a beat, he'd head to the mother's apartment and profess his love for her. A tearjerker, the episode conveys the message that everything and everyone in your life is a blessing, and time spent dwelling over what you don't have is time wasted.
"Hi— I'm Ted Mosby. And exactly 45 days from now you and I are going to meet. And we're going to fall in love. And we're going to get married. And we're going to have 2 kids, and we're going to love them and each other so much. All that is 45 days away, but I'm here now I guess because…I want those extra 45 days with you."
–Ted Mosby, "How I Met Your Mother," 8×20
Love is the best thing we do.
"None of us can vow to be perfect. In the end, all we can do is promise to love each other with everything we've got. Because love is the best thing we do."
- Ted Mosby, "How I Met Your Mother," 9x22
If there's one thing "How I Met Your Mother" teaches us, it's that love sometimes turns us into fools, powerless to control how we feel. Love is summoning the courage to give yourself to another person in humble hopes of reciprocation. Love is going to the ends of the earth simply to make that person smile. Love is the privilege of bearing hardships and celebrating triumphs as a team, and growing alongside one another. Love is an enduring companionship. Love is honesty, compassion, and compromise. Love is senseless, spontaneous, and inexplicable. Nonetheless, a world without love would not be a world worthwhile.
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