Sunday, December 13, 2015

Life's Choices

Robin (Cobie Smulders): You know, that was really cool what you did. When we all needed it, you got us back on the right path.

Ted (Josh Radnor): It's what I do.

Five years ago tonight, How I Met Your Mother did one of the things it did best — it told a tale of how one character's life (o, in this case, two characters) could have ripple effects in the lives of those closest to him/her.

It was a 36 Hours in the Lives of Robin (Cobie Smulders), Ted (Josh Radnor) and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) story, sparked by a positive home pregnancy test that Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and Marshall (Jason Segel) had. The news that they had conceived and were expecting a child made the other members of the group reflect on their lives and where they were going.

It was a story about doubts and hopes and fears and insecurities. Those forks in life's road that everyone encounters sooner or later. Hasn't there been a time in your life — at least one — when you faced a life–altering decision? Of course. Sometimes it has been a decision for which you believed (at first) that you were ready, but, upon further review (as they say in football games), you weren't really ready at all.

And that is one of life's lessons, too, isn't it? Life won't wait until you are ready for it. It happens when it happens. (One of my favorite quotes of all time is attributed to John Lennon: "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.")

Robin, for example, was faced with a career decision. Should she take a lower paying, more demanding and less glamorous job as a behind–the–scenes researcher? Or should she take an easy on–camera job as a "coin flip bimbo" — think Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune — on a network game show?

Barney, who had been the recipient of an apparently huge Christmas bonus, had gotten a taste of the joy of philanthropy and, because of Lily and Marshall, he resolved to give even more.

And Ted?

Well, Ted, was in a perpetual state of introspection, anyway.
"Now, kids, when your friends have great news you're happy for them ... for, like, a millisecond. And then you start thinking about yourself."

Older Ted (Bob Saget)

And both Robin and Barney were on the verge of making what would have been, for them (at those moments), really bad decisions (although their decisions wouldn't necessarily have been seen as bad by others) when they got texts from Marshall and Lily advising them that the pregnancy was a false alarm. The pregnancy test had been mistaken.

And both reversed course.

Through it all, Ted tried to act as the voice of reason. And, eventually, he did guide his friends back to where they probably should have been all along.

The thought that kept coming back to me — or, more accurately, the quote that kept coming back to me — was from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland."
"Alice came to a fork in the road. 'Which road do I take?' she asked. 'Where do you want to go?' responded the Cheshire Cat. 'I don't know,' Alice answered. 'Then,' said the Cat, 'it doesn't matter.'"

This episode of How I Met Your Mother showed how, when we are young, we see ourselves as invincible. Our decisions don't take long–term ramifications into consideration because they haven't been factors for us yet.

There was an exception to that — kinda — in this episode. Robin explained her career decision this way: "I just realized that I am about to have a little niece who looks up to me, and I don't want to be sad Aunt Robin the aging coin flip bimbo who gives her the creeps. I want to be cool Aunt Robin, the respected journalist who gives her beer."

That, of course, was when everyone thought Lily was pregnant. When they found out she wasn't, it changed everything for everyone.

When we get older, we think of the long–term consequences because we know they are inevitable. We're more deliberate in our actions as we get older — and, as a result, sometimes life passes us by while we're making our life decisions.

Whatever it is that one wants — Happiness? Love? Peace of mind? — to make a change, it is necessary to act. Clearly, that means choosing one thing over another. You really can't get around that.

Sometimes choices intersect with other things, other objectives — like Robin's desire to be a cool aunt instead of a sad aunt — which is probably more long term than most people in her age group tend to think.

Still, I thought it was a good, thought–provoking episode.