Why “It’s A Wonderful Life” Is Important

I have a confession: I had never watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” all the way through until a few years ago. It wasn’t the holiday movie in my house growing up. I always preferred “A Christmas Story” or “A Christmas Carol” or “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

I’d seen snippets of the Frank Capra classic over the years and knew the basic premise, but never sat down and viewed the entire thing until the Christmas before last. I was at my mother’s house on Christmas Eve and as usual, A Christmas Story was playing for 24 hours and as I was about to partake in my second go-round, much to my mom’s chagrin and sigh of annoyance, I flipped through the channels to find something different, and came across It’s A Wonderful Life, but it was nearly over. I checked the channel guide and found it was going to start again around midnight and I vowed to watch it. After my mom and her husband went to bed for the night, I sat on their couch, curled up with a blanket and some beef sticks (there’s a small family owned meat processing shop in my home town and every year since I can remember, on Christmas Eve my mom would get beef sticks, dried beef, and summer sausage from this place. The beef sticks are the best I’ve ever, ever, ever had and always highly sought after between me, my older brother, and dad).

(Author's graphic depiction of fighting for the last beef stick.)
(Author’s graphic depiction of fighting for the last beef stick.)

The opening credits came on the tv screen and I settled in for the next two hours. I was enraptured and by the end, a sobbing mess and now when I watch it, the same damn thing happens: I bawl like a baby and oh my gosh. It ruins me every damn time.

For those also living under a rock, in a cave, on the moon, here’s a super brief low-down of the film:

George Bailey is a dude finding himself in a pickle and in turn, contemplates what I submit every person does once in their life–to end theirs. A guardian angel by the name of Clarence comes down to earth and ends up showing George what life would be like if George had never been born, and it’s vastly different than anything he could imagine. Lessons are learned, new meaning is given to life, all is well with the world again, and ol’ Clarence is given his wings. Atta boy.

Perhaps it was the beef stick high I was on, or my own sordid past with depression and suicide, but Jesus Christ does this movie get to me. I can’t count how many times I’ve thought to myself, “I wish I hadn’t been born. I’ve caused so much grief to so many people,” or “”If I could just someone be…gone,” I think, “then I won’t have to worry about this crap.” “I wish people would forget about me as soon as I’m gone. If they ever see me again, they won’t recognize me, and I’ll just be a very vague feeling of déjà vu.” LOL depression! LOL! Goofy brain chemicals being all silly and stuff!

The sheer perfection of this picture and how it exactly tells how I feel roughly 90% of the time is incredible.
The sheer perfection of this picture and how it exactly tells how I feel roughly 90% of the time is incredible. Thanks, Hyperbole and a Half.

I watched the movie again yesterday and again, sat in my blanket pile, sobbing. But maybe it was because I didn’t have any beef sticks…no, it was because of the message of the movie and goddamn it, Frank Capra! Goddamn it! And with lines like this, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” it’s hard not to be reduced to a sniveling pile of snot.

Life hasn’t been super easy for me as of late. This whole being unemployed for the last six months thing is really starting to wear me down and I just feel like I’ll never be able to find anything as good as I had before, plus going this long without a job is really effing with my self-esteem. Why can’t I get a job? Why is no one hiring me? What is it about me that no employer is wanting? I admit I have been over-qualified for most of the positions I’ve applied for, which is kind of a good problem to have to an extent, but otherwise, Jesus rollerblading Christ, just hire me! Please! Living off unemployment is not fun. I feel like a shithead for doing so. I’m frustrated and feel worthless and it being this time of year and not having the finances to show my appreciation for family and friends by gifting them small tokens of my affection is really bothering me. I know giving gifts isn’t what this is about. I know that, but I’ve been given some and feel like an absolute heel for not being able to reciprocate. Everyone has said, “oh, don’t worry about it. I don’t give presents to expect any in return.” Well, good for you for being selfless like that, but seriously, it is killing me…and adding to my mounting depression.

Waa waa waa, I know. Tiniest violin concerto for Erin.

I’m glad for movies like this, though. They briefly pull me out of my sad sack funk and give me perspective on things. I too often fail to do that.

I wish I could have a George Bailey moment like this. I wish that anyone dealing with crippling depression could be given a chance to see the hole they’d leave if they were to not be around. Part of depression is being selfish; we only tend to think of ourselves and forget about anyone else. By being shown what would happen if we did carry through with our suicides, we’d be forced to face the product of our selfishness. See? See what you’ve done here? Is this what you want? Look at what would happen if you weren’t here anymore. 

“You see George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?”

Corny? Yes, but sometimes a  person just needs to be reminded of their impact on others, or to be shown it to begin with. Depression grabs hold of you and blinds you to what is going on around you. It makes you feel small. Alone. No one is there and no one cares.

But I know this isn’t true. I have to remind myself there are people in my life who would feel my absence.

And as a wise man once said, “no man is a failure who has friends.”

Thanks for reading,

E

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