Two weeks ago, I found myself at a private Oscars viewing party in Portland. This was me the entire night to anyone I am conversing with: “OMG EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE WON!!!! (not that I’m surprised)”
Watching the Oscars live and witnessing history in the making just hits different.
Not only is this film so magnificent, but it is a symbol of hope for me (personally) — that no matter how many times you failed, no matter if society says you’re “too old”, or your dreams are unrealistic… if you work hard and stay the course, the universe conspires to give you a stage.
Here is why Everything Everywhere All At Once perfectly encapsulates my life.
Anyone relates or feels the same way?
Craving to be Understood
In my teen years, I found myself choosing unconventional routes that led to a slew of advice and worry from my parents. I spent the bulk of my time in University doing freelance work, often coming home past 12 midnight. I was constantly told to focus on my studies, until I got tired of explaining myself and decided to simply keep things from my parents. At times I avoided speaking to them altogether.
Over time, my relationship grew distant. I resented my parents for not understanding me… but looking back, I realised I was not willing to understand them. I simply wanted to have my way.
At the start of the film, Evelyn kept shutting down Joy when she mentions the topic of her girlfriend. Evelyn is quick to give advice or change the topic, and Joy looks visibly frustrated overtime. As the film progresses, we see Joy slowly giving up, wanting to just enter the black donut hole forever.
It was when Evelyn chooses to cling on to Joy and love her despite not fully understanding her, did it eventually lead to reconciliation.
Similarly for me, when I chose to stop simply declaring to have my way and instead have the conversations to understand my parents’ point of view and concerns, did it lead to a much closer relationship moving forward.
This taught me that in any relationship, choosing to understand without judgement and prescription is important. And if all else fails, go back to the foundation — love.
Striving for a Better Life
In the film, Evelyn takes a peek into how her life could be like if she had made different decisions when she was younger — she could have been a famous movie star, receiving money and fame. Instead, she’s confronted by the reality that every decision she has made led her to where she is today — a mediocre life with a dysfunctional family. She tells her husband, Waymond, about this saying “You should have seen! The life I could have without you.”
What she doesn’t see is the struggles that famous-Evelyn has. She only saw the glitz and glamour. Later in the film, famous-Evelyn meets rich business man-Waymond, who even though is successful according to society’s standards, admitted to her saying “In another life, I would have really liked just doing laundry and taxes with you.”
Evelyn eventually realises that in striving for a better life, she’s become frustrated and bitter with herself and her situation, blinded to the love and life that she already has.
Similarly for me, I’ve spent my entire life working myself to the bone, striving for the “success” society paints as ideal. When I finally achieved my goals, I set new ones, and wanted more, eventually driving me to burn out and emptiness.
When I started travelling and took a hard break out of my usual reality, I realised that I can be happy with so “little” — simply enjoying the life I already have with the people in my life.
Making Parents Proud VS Making Myself Proud
In the film, Evelyn’s father never fails to remind her of how her decisions to leave home and be with Waymond have led her to the mediocre life she has today. In some way, her father’s opinions may have added to her perception of her life now, a life that is mundane and mediocre.
Like most Asians, I believe she yearns for her father to be proud of her, which doesn’t seem to be the case, because her father kind of disowned her years ago when she decided to leave home and be with Waymond.
Towards the end of the film, we see that there’s a turning point where she decides to speak up to her father, questioning him on how he could give up on her. She fights for Jobu Topaki, even though alpha gong gong urges her to let her go. In Evelyn’s world, she speaks up for Joy, introducing gong gong to Joy’s girlfriend.
She says to her father “It doesn’t matter if you’re not proud of me, because I am.” Ultimately, we see how alpha gong gong and everyone else chips in to save Jobu, showing that her father is ultimately proud of her.
Likewise, I’ve found it a struggle to make decisions especially when what I want is opposing to what my parents want for me. It’s even more difficult because they’ve raised me, AND I’ve a good relationship with them.
But ultimately, I’ve seen how sticking by my decisions have led to results that prove to my parents that I am able to take care of myself, and that they don’t have to worry. Though my parents advised me against doing my freelance work years ago, they eventually supported me and was proud of the work I do today.
In the beginning of the show, Evelyn keeps telling alpha Waymond that she’s “not the right Evelyn”, because she’s so ordinary. It turns out that it is because of her exact decisions and life situation that makes her the perfect person to save the multi-verse.
Throughout the show, we see how she keeps on fighting not because she wants fame or recognition, but because she wants to save her daughter. She was instructed to destroy Jobu Topaki, but instead, she saves Jobu and shows her love, ultimately saving both Jobu and the multiverse.
I’ve never been extraordinary. I mean seriously I achieved average grades, came from a normal family, and wasn’t born with some child prodigy gifted talent. We don’t need to be extraordinary in order to make extraordinary impact.
In fact, it is our ordinary nature that makes us relatable and inspiring to the people we’re meant to lead. When we decide to use our voice no matter how adequate we feel, we fulfil our purpose inevitably.
Kindness as Strategic
Waymond is initially portrayed as naive and silly, and is what society would call a ‘beta male’. As Waymond is seen dancing with a customer in their laundromat, Evelyn complains to Joy saying “You see how your father is? Without me I don’t know how he will survive.”
Overtime, we see how Waymond’s empathy and kindness actually saves the family — i.e. from getting out of police arrest by speaking to Deirdre vulnerably. In an alternate universe, rich businessman Waymond says “You think because I’m kind that it means I’m naive, and maybe I am. It’s strategic and necessary. This is how I fight”
At the end of the film, we see how Evelyn decides to fight with kindness, as her husband has, and it is this that ultimately saves the multiverse.
I have been hosting events professionally since I was 18 years old, and was 20 years old when I first got exposed into the world of entrepreneurship. I observed that to be a “proper entrepreneur”, I have to speak and dress a certain way, I have to put up a certain front to seem credible.
Over the years, I learnt that there is no one fixed blueprint to being an entrepreneur, just like how there isn’t just one way to “fight” in the film. I’ve learnt that authenticity wins, truly. Everyone has their own personality and way of creating their life, and no one way is the right way. I’ve learnt how it’s important to understand myself and define my path, not follow the mould society has created.
I’ll love to hear from you!
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I work with individuals and organisations through speaking, coaching, and conducting workshops around the topics of Speaking, Communication, and Networking. To find out more, check out my website here: raefung.com
I especially resonate with you on “making parents proud vs making myself proud.” I think our Asian culture always put “xiao4 shun4” high on the list and 1 thing of being Xiao4 Shun4 is to make your parents proud.
So that is why when we see an Asian succeed, often they’d say how many obstacles they have to overcome first from their parents before they tackle the other obstacles.
Whereas for westerners, they don’t really get as much friction from their parents. The worst case is they are left on their own to figure things out. The best case would be very supportive parents that help with providing them with resources they need.
In the western culture, I think their parents