It Really is “A Wonderful Life”: 4 Lessons the Film Has Taught Me

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is more widely known as a Christmas film but I believe that the story is one that every person should keep with them all year round.

For the college students who may feel like they’re drowning, stressed out and perhaps lost in their educational career, I encourage you to watch this movie if you haven’t already. The film is black and white, you say? Oh, I know. Regardless of the date that this film was made, I promise you that you will still laugh, smile and more importantly, learn something. You won’t be made to learn anything particularly academic like science, math or history but rather something more along the lines of emotional and mental education.

It’s a Wonderful Life may teach you something about yourself or what you can do for yourself as a college student when life gets you  down. This inspiring film taught me 4 great lessons and whether you watch the film or not, you should always keep this lessons in mind.

1. Sometimes, It’s Okay To Be Selfish

Throughout the film, George Bailey, the lead male protagonist, always talks about dreams of traveling the world, creating large buildings and adding something to this world. He wants to make a difference. Unfortunately, something always seems to get in his way just as he is about to walk out the door and have an adventure of his own. Something always keeps him in his same hometown, keeping him in the same job and giving up different dreams so that someone else can live their own. He always puts others before himself.

Being selfless and helping others is always a wonderful thing and you should never forget to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and remember that the world does not revolve around you. However, when it comes the most important things in your life such as getting your dream job, traveling abroad somewhere new or getting the perfect internship, you should never ever let anyone get in your way.

If your friends are pressuring you to come hang out when you should stay in and do extra studying on the big exam you have in the morning, it’s okay to let them down. You have yourself to worry about. Or perhaps if you have a dream of studying abroad across the world in Australia or Russia but your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t want you to go because of the distance, don’t listen to them. Go, have an adventure and do what you want because in the end this is your life and you deserve to make it as wonderful as you want it to be.

No one in George Bailey’s life ever discouraged him from anything but if you ever have someone who does, then they aren’t worth being in your life at all. True friends and the right partner for you would never discourage you from doing something that would benefit your life and make you happy. It’s okay to be selfish when it comes to controlling your life. So be selfish.

2. Remember What Makes You Smile

George Bailey goes down a road of such disappointment and crushed dreams for so long that he thinks that the only way out is to hurt himself. That is never the answer, regardless of how badly things are going or how discouraged you may feel. As a college student or someone going into college, you know or you will know that work is stressful and that your educational career will be full of ups and downs. You have to remember to take little breaks here and there from all the stress and the worry.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “It’s the little things”. It’s totally true; it’s the little things that make people happy. Try to create a kind of list of small and easy activities that make you happy. Maybe it’s watching one episode of “The Office” on Netflix, perhaps it’s reading your favorite magazine or maybe creating a drawing or playing an hour of your favorite video game. Whatever it is, make the time to do it because smiling or doing something that makes you smile even for just a few minutes is always worth it.

3.  No One Is a Failure Who Has Friends 

“Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends…” says Clarence, George Bailey’s guardian angel.

Another lesson It’s a Wonderful Life has taught me is that there are always those who love and care about you; you’re never alone. In George Bailey’s darkest hour, all of his friends and family gathered together to help him out and he realized how wonderful his life really is.

To all college students feeling like they’re alone and lost in college or having trouble finding the path to their careers, remember there are always people in your life who love you, support you and are always there for you in your time of need. If you feel sad or discouraged, talk to someone. Talk to your parents, your big brother, your best friend, your boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe even your Grandma has some wise words for you. Even more so, talk to your advisor or any guidance counselor at your school for help.

There  is always going to be someone around who wants to help you and wants to see you smile. Coming from someone who recently felt lost in her major and couldn’t find the right path for a career, talking to friends and others helped me immensely because they reminded me that I wasn’t a failure, that everyone goes through struggles. I even found out that I had a bunch of friends going through the same thing; I found out that I wasn’t alone. Your friends and family are there to make sure you don’t ever feel like a failure because you’re not and never will be!

4. You Really Do Have a Wonderful Life

Another piece of advice this film has given me is to look at all the aspects of my life that makes it so wonderful. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, take a minute to remind yourself about all the amazing things in your life. You can even write a list! Something like:

  • You have a home
  • You have a good family
  • You have good friends
  • You’re able to go to college when others can not
  • You are educated
  • You are healthy
  • You have a pet
  • You traveled to these places
  • You’ve seen these wonderful things

…and so on. Remind yourself that you really do have a wonderful life even when everything seems to be at its worst. No matter how tough the days may seem, they can always get better

Its A Wonderful Life is a feel-good movie for a reason; it reminds you to really feel good about yourself because you are worth it and  as college students you have a whole other wonderful life you’re about to live when you graduate. These are lessons to keep with you always throughout the year. But at Christmastime, I do recommend you watch this film because it’ll only make the days that much brighter!

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Nina Reichenberg, a junior at Syracuse University spent her first two years in the Communications Design Program but is now currently working towards a degree in Computer Art & Animation. Whilst at school, Nina spends most of her time animating, watching films, and working as a design intern at SYR Outside of SU, she enjoys traveling, singing, dancing, spending time outside and collecting thimbles.

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