I shouldn’t watch “The Family Man.” For me, it’s too powerful — and some of it hurts too much.
I haven’t seen this movie for about five years, but I came across a copy tonight. I wasn’t planning to watch it, but, somehow, I watched a few minutes. Then a few more. And then I couldn’t turn away. In some metaphorical way, I saw too much of myself in Jack.
Even more than that, though, I knew what he felt like — after he found himself transformed against his will — to know what his future could look like if he pursued love instead of selfishness.
And I know what it feels like to see Kate and to know she’s slipping away — to chase her and to beg her to have faith in a crazy dream. I know what he feels like when he delivers the sales pitch of his life standing in the middle of an airport: “I know we could both go on with our lives, and we’d both be fine. But I’ve seen what we can be like together.”
And that line crushes my heart each time I hear it, because I’m terrified Kate will get onto that plane anyway.
My story doesn’t really fit Jack’s life. The story of my love doesn’t match the movie story. But when I look at it with squinted eyes — and look at it more like an impressionist watercolor than like a realistic picture — I can see truth from my own life.
When I was younger, I was driven to succeed. I was cocky and confident, probably arrogant. I was good at what I did. I expected to run the world. I wanted success and I tasted it at times.
Jack is more successful than I’ve ever been. He’s more of a cocky jerk than I’ve ever been. He heartlessly used people in ways I never have.
But there’s no denying that I once thought I had everything I needed. Jack tells the angel in the film that he has everything he needs. But I was humbled in ways that still terrify me. I lost my money. I lost my success. And I ended up alone.
I found out that I had nothing I really needed. The things which hurt to lose weren’t the money and success — because those are the easiest to replace.
During his “glimpse,” Jack ended up without any of the success he had known. He worked a job which he thought was beneath him. He became a nobody. But he had powerful love and a couple of beautiful children. Before the dream was over, he realized what he had really needed all along.
The movie asks us to answer some important questions.
What if you made different choices?
What if you said yes instead of no?
What if you got a second chance?
I can’t get these questions out of my mind lately. I know better than to think I can go back 10 years or 20 years. The past is the past. It can’t be changed. But imagining the outcome of different choices then can help me make better choices today.
This past January, I shared with you my surprise (and horror) when I discovered that my Kate didn’t brush me off as I had remembered her doing. It turned out that I had foolishly failed to pursue an opening which she gave me. I won’t rehash the whole thing here.
But what if I had made a different choice then? What if I had pursued her? What if I had said yes to the opportunity she gave me? How could life be different today?
And that’s the point. I do see how things would be. I see now “what we can be like together.” I can’t go back to that point, but I see vividly, in living color. I was once blind, but now I see.
What if I got a second chance? Everything would be different.
I see a clear vision of what that life would be. It wouldn’t be perfect. I’m not perfect. She’s flawed. There would be obstacles. But if you know what you can be together, would that matter? Should it matter?
For me, this movie really starts at the end. When Kate finally decides not to get onto the plane — to sit with Jack and talk instead — that is the first scene in the rest of their lives.
Everything that has come before — all the heartache and pain and rejection and even loneliness — become irrelevant. The entire movie is prologue to the lives we know they are going to live together. And I feel as though all of the struggle I’ve gone through will be the same — if there is a second chance.
I shouldn’t watch this movie.
I love it too much. It hurts too much. It means too much. And I want that scene at the end too much.
I know what we could be like together, but it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t know that — doesn’t see it, doesn’t want it, doesn’t believe it’s worth it.
Because if she doesn’t believe in my crazy dream, she gets onto that plane — and I’m sitting in that airport lounge all alone instead.