I’m Fine, Thanks trailer.
“I have a good life. I have a beautiful wife and two healthy, mischievous boys. We have a nice house in the suburbs and good friends in the local community and we’ve done the things that we’re expected to do and we have the things we’re expected to have. But somethings missing. I feel guilty even admitting that. But I feel trapped.” – Grant Peelle.
It’s taken me a while to write this review. Even though I first saw it when it was just released to donors, the message and meaning of the documentary have been floating around in my mind for the past two weeks and it’s been a bit of a challenge for me to sort out my resulting thoughts.
The premise of the documentary is that there is this ‘life script’ in which we’re told by society that we have to go to college and get a degree, get a secure job, get married to the best looking person we can get to agree, buy a big house, buy two cars, have 2.5 children and then work until you’re 65 when you can retire and finally do what you want. Millions of people follow this path each year and while none of these things are bad in and of themselves, it is a convenient template that few take the time to question. Instead they follow the path of least resistance. After all, we’re told that these things are guaranteed to lead you to happiness.
But does this script lead to happiness?
People get caught up in a desire for success and tend to acquire things as markers or visual representations of achievements. It’s something that even Adam and I began to follow despite knowing before we started that it wasn’t what we wanted. I can’t even tell you why – I have no idea what was going on in my head at the time.
I’m Fine, Thanks, directed by Grant Peelle and produced by Adam Baker, discusses this life template and the complacency many have in following it. I’ve often heard in reference to the template that “this is just life, suck it up and accept it.” I and others have accepted jobs that didn’t make us feel fulfilled, because that’s just what you do. And, to be unhappy was like saying you were ungrateful for the job, money and life you have.
The documentary opens with Grant recounting his own feelings of uncertainty and unhappiness, and guilt that he even had these feelings in the first place. Then he realized the only way to be happy and to show his sons about following their dreams was to follow his own. He then sets off with his rag-tag group to find and share the stories of others who have also had this realization, and how it’s changed their lives. They had just a couple of months, absolutely no experience, but were overflowing with passion.
We were so inspired by the sensational trailer for the documentary we chipped in on the Kickstarter campaign to help ensure it got completed and because it would give us early access to the film. While the cinematography and sound were wonderful, I will admit I was a bit disappointed in the brevity of the movie. It’s only 68 minutes and because of the timing doesn’t go quite as in-depth on the interviews. Nonetheless, the message of the movie is still prominent, important and told very well. For their first time making a movie, Grant and Adam did a fantastic job. As one person says in the preview: “Sometimes you just need life to shake you and say ‘WAKE THE F**K UP!’” For many this movie is the wake-up call.
Complacency and Fulfillment
“You’re climbing the ladder and you get to the top and you realize you have it leaned up against the wrong wall… And, I didn’t even know what the right wall was.” – Vanda in I’m Fine, Thanks
The interviews center around people who’ve realized they were unhappy with the status-quo, and how that effected the choices they made after the realization. As Grant conducted these interviews he relates throughout the film how he began to realize how complacent he had been in his choices and priorities and his growing determination to follow the career path he had always wished for. For many of the interviewees once it was clear that what they were doing was wrong for them often feelings of desperation or sadness began to creep in. Some knew what they wanted to do, some didn’t have any idea. Even if they knew what they wanted, could they follow it? How?
Matt and Betsy’s story particularly resonated with us – nearly everything they said had me and Adam looking at each other yelling, “that’s us!” From not questioning what we were doing, to getting jobs we thought we’d enjoy but turned out not being what we thought they’d be, hating the alarm every morning, that sinking feeling in your stomach on the way to work and then coming home admitting “I can’t do this anymore” every single day.
The Road to Happiness
Is what you’re doing making you happy? What legacy do you want to leave for your kids and society?
The most important message of I’m Fine, Thanks is to seek happiness over checking the boxes off of some socially-approved list. Don’t get a job because you felt pressured or because it was easy – find a way to do what you love. It may not be easy but you’ll actually be fulfilled. If you don’t enjoy law, don’t be a lawyer. Sure they make a ton of money but isn’t there more to life than what amount of money you have?
I believe that it is by pursuing what we love that we can also make our greatest contributions to society. I’m not content with just humming along through life. I want to have fun, have adventures, but most importantly I want to have an impact – however small or big it may be – and to make the world a better place. I can’t accomplish any of these by having a convenient job doing something I hate.
In addition to this theme of happiness there is the theme of not seeking this happiness through stuff. In the documentary many people told of how they felt trapped by their possessions. They had to keep the job that made them miserable because they needed the income from it to support their things – house, car and so on.
Possessions aren’t the problem. Jobs aren’t the problem. It is living someone else’s dream that’s the problem. It’s letting society handle the tough decisions for you. What this leads to next, is all up to you.
You’re Not Alone
We’ve already realized what was going on and have been actively working trying to change our lifestyle to be more in accordance to what we want. The biggest value I found in I’m Fine, Thanks was reassurance. Reassurance in that we weren’t crazy and that we aren’t alone. It doesn’t matter what other people think of what I’m doing – it’s my life, not theirs. The choices are mine to make and I’ve got to do what makes me happy, not what makes them happy.
It’s good to know we’re not alone in following our own path. The roads may be different, but we are united in our following the way that’s best for us instead of taking the easy route that so many feel pressured in to. The ‘American Dream’ is someone else’s dream – live your own dream. Do epic things. Don’t be okay, don’t be fine. Be freakin’ great.