"It's everything you ever want. It's everything you ever need. And it's here right in front of you. This where you want to be."
These are the lyrics I have been listening and singing along to for the past two months or so. They are from one of the main tracks from "The Greatest Showman"— a movie-musical loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum.
I have looked forward to seeing this movie for a long time, even before the trailer dropped. First off, the line-up is incredible. Hugh Jackman can literally do anything and plays the lead. Zac Efron, going back to his "High School Musical" roots, is being in his first musical production in ten years. And of course, Zendaya is in it, who is a professional badass-goddess. So, I had to see this movie as soon as possible. I told my sisters and my best friend (who loves movies just as much as I do) that I needed to see this right when it comes out. I wound up seeing it with the same friend and another best friend of ours two days after it released. After seeing this movie tonight, I got a spark of inspiration, as I do with many but few movies. But the message is original all on its own.
Now, I am going to backtrack a little and not focus much on the movie itself. Just stay with me.
Recently, I have just finished my first semester of college. I am a Communication and Media Arts major, so I plan on working in this entertainment industry after graduation. Like any college student, however, I was always second-guessing if I was where I needed to be: was I in the right school, was I in the right major, am I doing life the way a college freshman should? Most of all, is this what the rest of my life is going to feel like? Feeling out of place and always wondering about the "what if"?
One of my mottos in life is to do the things that make you go "what if." Going back to my rethinking of college, I was scared I was passing up opportunities that could lead me to my ultimate childhood dream of becoming a singer/actress. It is so cliché, but I do have a talent in the theatre department. I have sang my way through life behind a shy face but have opened up in ways I didn't know I ever could in high school. Getting the lead role of Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors" in my senior year musical made me believe I could really take this up as a career someday. Of course, it is only a high school musical, but if I also got first place singing Adele's "All I Ask" in the talent show my junior year, shouldn't that mean something too?
So for the past four months especially (excluding all of my life), I have considered just pursuing a career with my singing instead of getting an education. But life isn't a magical game where getting your big break will come easily. I would have to work hard, and most of all, I am afraid of having to choose between a college education or pursuing a dream I have always had within me. Even writing about it right now stresses me out to no end.
So, taking it back to present-day, watching this movie on this day was not an accident. I woke up feeling pretty productive— in the sense that I actually made healthy self-conscious choices for myself. I tweezed my eyebrows then washed my face with my Clinique 3-step products (which I barely do, but should more often), I had apples and peanut butter instead of Christmas cookies for lunch (even though I did eat those afterword), and I even shaved in the shower. These are such tiny accomplishments that probably will mean nothing in the long run, but they mean something today and I am proud I did all of them in one shot. And on a Friday during Winter break.
Along with these mini accomplishments, my little sister and I finally got our older sister to start "Stranger Things" over dinner— something she promised us she would do once break rolled around. Let me tell you, when someone agrees to watching a TV show or movie with me, it gets me so excited and happy. Yet again, the little things make me feel more complete. And during this marathon, I had to disconnect myself from the world of Hawkins, Indiana to put on my Uggs and pick up my best guy friend to go see this movie. I was a little annoyed I had to leave this long-awaited marathon, but I knew it would be worth it.
After getting to the movie a little late, my friends and I made it just in time for the movie to start. It began with the old "20th Century Fox" intro and old-timey title cards, which I was so down for. The movie was just a fantastic ride: my theatre was interactive, the movie took some surprising turns, and the musical numbers tugged at my heartstrings. But what really got me was the ending.
P.T. Barnum hands his hat over to Efron's character, Phillip Carlyle, as the ringleader of the circus empire he helped create while he went off to do what he wanted and needed to do all along, which was to be there for his wife and two young daughters. All while this is happening, "The Greatest Show" from the beginning of the movie is sung again. The ending scene shows Barnum and his wife sitting in the audience of their daughters' ballet recital. Jackman sings these lyrics while his leading lady, played by Michelle Williams, nestles her head on his shoulder.
Don't get me wrong, this whole movie is filled with many of these moments. But this particular one stuck with me. Like so many messages, this one can be conveyed in all sorts of ways for different people. But here is how I look at it:
All what Jackman's character wanted was to bring joy to his family, which would in turn bring some to himself and what he wanted from his own childhood. He spent a whole part of his life trying to get this circus together to make money for his family so they could have everything they want in the world. Now, of course I am glad he did this because he made so many other people's lives better and joyful because of this circus (the "freaks", Philip, even the audience-goers). But, he did not have to do all this in the first place. By doing this, however, I believed he realized that he only ever needed his family and to see the joy that they brought him and each other through the little things— not big houses or materialistic things. He only ever needed what was right in front of him.
As you know, I have been listening to the songs from this movie for a while. So going into this movie I knew "The Greatest Show" was a complete jam that made me want to conquer the world and show everyone what I am really made of.
After the movie, my friends and I went to our local Starbucks for coffee and a quick chat, then made our way home. My friends jokingly said that tonight would be the greatest time to finally take the highway home. (Long story short, I have only ever driven on the highway once- not a bad experience, but it's just one of those things where you get more scared to actually do the thing the more you put it off.) After being in such a great state of mind all day, I decided that I should finally do it. My best guy friend was in my car while my best friend was in hers, and I decided that before I did this, I needed a good pump-up song. What better song than "The Greatest Show" to kick this thing off?
With the starting beat playing, my heart racing, and the red light waiting to turn green for me to roll on out, my adrenaline was just on fire. I got on the highway with the song taking over every fibre of my being while my foot pushed on the gas and I sang along with the great song while my friend cheered me on and made a Snapchat video. It was such a dumb and short stretch of highway, but it made me feel so badass. During the rest of the drive home until I got into bed, I felt like I could do anything. Be anything. The adrenaline made it feel addictive of itself; I even think I sang better because of it. This was a feeling I wanted my life to be consumed of.
Going back to the movie and its ending that stuck with me, I realized that I needed to do something with this insane emotional mixture I was filled with today. And so I brought out my laptop and started writing.
At the end of this whole rant, I realized the connection my life had to this inspirational ending. Maybe I am meant to be a musician and star in movies. Maybe I should take the leap of faith and run with my dreams because that is what gets my adrenaline pumping. Simultaneously, what if I am missing what is right in front of me right now? I love being able to spend time with friends and family, the feeling of stability and hard work of getting a college education, and the daydreams of the "what ifs."
What if I am missing the answer to all of my problems that is staring me right in the face— whether that be my dreams or the path I am on right now.
The complicated messages of this ending provoked the complicated feelings within me. I don't know if I am writing this because it is two days before Christmas Eve and I am feeling ambitious and jolly, or if it is because I watched "Sex and the City 2" today and Carrie Bradshaw's narrations are rubbing off on me. But I do know that this felt good— writing.
I do know some definite things I want to do that will feed off this hopefully refillable ambitious fire within me. I am pursuing a musical theatre minor in the beginning of my sophomore year, I will continue to post covers on my Youtube channel, and I will look into auditioning for "American Idol" in the upcoming year. With all that said, music and movies do have the power to completely change the outlook on life of a person. A handful of movies spark that special something within me, and "The Greatest Showman" did just that.
So, in conclusion, I really don't know if not pursuing my dream is the right answer. I know it is the "safe" one, but I do not want to let that take over my life. Whatever happens, though, I just hope (and may even truly believe) that I will be able to be right where I want to be— with everything I want and need right in front of me. But right now, I will just try and enjoy the ride that is going to take me there.
Most of this article was written the night I watched this movie, and it shows just how much I've grown and learned in only a year. And here I am now, thinking about how much this movie has really impacted my life. This movie-musical motivated me to start posting on my Youtube channel weekly (which I have done for the most part!), pursue a minor in musical theatre, join my school's Chorale and even be part of an original production in my school's theatre club. I might not have auditioned for American Idol, but I do plan on spending a year auditioning for real gigs after I graduate college.
Without seeing this movie amidst the holiday magic it was released in, I really don't know if I would've gotten that big push of inspiration to start making my music a real part of my life again. Maybe I would have in a different way, honestly, but this movie specifically makes me feel the sort of inspirational magic you can't find in just anything (this also goes for whenever the songs from this soundtrack start playing on my Spotify, particularly "The Greatest Show" and "A Million Dreams").
So after this whole spiel, I say thank you to everyone who was a part of making this movie (on and off-screen)- I hope I can thank you all one day, in person, when my name is up in lights somewhere.