I have always had a soft spot for the movie Moneyball. It touches something inside me that I don’t even know if I can explain. The first time I watched it was in high school, and I remember falling in love with the main character, Billy. who is a GM for a small-budget baseball team, and is nevertheless trying to win the championship, competing against teams with huge budgets who can grab any star player they want. Billy has a cut throat personality. He wants success and will try to achieve it at any cost. He is a ruthless, assertive person, who does not waste his time explaining himself to people. I fell in love with his personality, and aspired to acquire some of his good qualities.
But that was what I thought of Billy back in high school. Right now, I am on a plane to Los Angeles, for PhD interviews at a very, very prestigious university. I started my day with love next to me. I started my day with coffee like usual. I felt alive, and I haven’t felt so for a while. I have to admit: I wasn’t exactly feeling great about being alive recently, let alone flying all the way across the country and having to think about the future. I kept asking myself: why am I not excited? I worked hard in my undergraduate years, and things are supposed to be paying off now (and they certainly are).
Well, I wasn’t feeling good because of a lot of factors, but here is one of them that is suddenly making sense right now. I realized that I lost track of my life dreams. I simply forgot it in the midst of everyday life. I can’t afford that to happen.
Once I saw this movie on the airplane tablet thingy, I jumped at it. I realized that I need to watch it because I need to restore in me the spirit of the hard-working fighter that I know I am at heart. As I write this, I am halfway through the movie, and I can’t help but realize the sheer excitement of the opportunities that I have right now. I am about to graduate, and I have many marketable skills. Gosh. My life can be anything that I want. This is the time to make things happen. This is the time to be like Billy and try to change the game. I needed a reminder of who I am, and the movie provided it.
Interestingly though, as I watch the movie right now, I realize that Billy is not just a 100% hardcore guy who just wants success. His sense of drive and purpose is not just there for no reason. Billy has subtle yet very clear vulnerabilities, and they are his source of motivation and sense of purpose. There is a scene where Billy’s daughter sings:
I’m just a little bit
Caught in the middle
Life is a maze
And love is a riddle
I don’t know where to go
Can’t do it alone, I’ve tried
And I don’t know why
I’m just a little girl
Lost in the moment
I’m so scared
But I don’t show it
I can’t figure it out
It’s bringing me down
I know I’ve got to let it go
And just enjoy the show
and just enjoy the show”
The movie makes it seem like this is just a random song. But in fact, this song is about Billy himself. As tough as he acts and sounds, deep inside, he is the little girl who is lost and scared and does not show it. He is trying to achieve the impossible because he is trying hard to fill a need and prove something about himself to himself. That really is his main drive, and the movie shows it multiple times. For example, Billy wants a high salary not for money itself, but for “what the money says”. And the money says: I am a big shot. I am smart. I mean something. I can now feel good about myself.
Here is a little personal confession: I am just like Billy. I need to prove my worth to myself all the time. I do it sometimes through intellectual challenges, and sometimes by stepping outside of my comfort zone and pushing my limits. I pride myself on “being able to do anything if I want to”. It might seem like a bad or even a good thing. Who knows? But it’s certainly who I am, and it is an element that I need in order to be happy. It is a part of me that I have lost track of recently, and I am happy that now I have found it.
Cheers to everyone reading this and esp. to one person (you know who you are, Owen).