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Lessons from La La Land

La La Land’s Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling)

It is rare that a new movie comes along and earns a spot on my mental trophy case of all-time favorites. Most of my favorites are classics that came out years ago, like Mary Poppins or Lord of the Rings. But I just can’t get recent Oscar-winner La La Land out of my head. I saw it for the first time over winter break, wrote about it in my last Silhouette post, and saw it again last week. I’d watch it a third time in a heartbeat.

Seeing it for a second time made the emotions I felt upon first seeing it hit me even harder. The movie centers around two dreamers in Los Angeles: one wants to be an actress, the other the owner of a successful jazz club. Their story beautifully captures the emotional roller coaster of being just one small person in a city teeming with aspiring actors, playwrights, musicians, producers, and the like. It is at once heartbreaking, inspiring, and all-too relatable for anyone who has ever found themselves clinging tightly to a childhood dream, afraid to let it fly and discover that they aren’t good enough to make it after all.

It occurred to me, sitting there in the local Lyric movie theater, that I rarely go out of my way to attend artistic events in Blacksburg or in my hometown. Even if I walk by a poster advertising an up-and-coming musician or student-based art show, I tend to brush it off, too apathetic to make a note of its date. In fact, Silhouette’s Open Mic Night earlier this month was the first event of its kind that I’ve attended since coming to college. And if I’m being completely honest, my reason for avoiding those events is only sometimes because I’m lazy— a lot of the time, it’s because deep down, I’m scared.

I worry that if I go to one of those local shows, I’ll discover that I’m not good enough. I convince myself constantly that everyone around me is somehow better at all things arts-y, and it’s hard to remember that admitting someone else has talent doesn’t mean I can’t have any too. The thought of sharing my own work is even more terrifying— what if no one likes it? Or worse, what if I have a complete breakdown in front of the microphone? It’s so much easier to just stay home.

In the end, though, every aspiring artist, no matter their medium, carries these fears. La La Land reminded me of that. Even stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling must have felt at one point, like the characters they play, that they should have simply thrown in the towel and tried a desk job. It’s a strangely comforting thought.

So, since falling in love with La La Land, I have resolved to go to more local shows, to listen to the aspiring writers and musicians, to attend the art and photography exhibitions, to support in some small way a community of dreamers so much bigger than myself. Even as a little girl, I remember feeling utter joy if one of my clumsily pieced-together stories was read and complimented— the sense of pride that comes from someone, whether your mom or a total stranger, paying attention to your dreams is incomparable. If I can somehow impart that pride to someone else, why not? Maybe one day they’ll make it big. Maybe my support will have made all the difference.

I don’t want to look at fellow artists with jealousy or fear anymore. It might take me a long time to lose that mindset, but I’m at least going to try. As for my own dreams, I might not make it, or maybe I will. I guess I won’t know until it happens. But I’ll be damned if I don’t at least believe it can.

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