I was late to jump on the This Is Us bandwagon. Then again, I’m late to many things, like piano lessons and basketball practice and the LulaRoe leggings trend. Oh, who am I kidding? I have two kids, and I’m kind of slow so I’m late to, well, everything.
Aside from morning talk shows to get me through the hell that is the treadmill, some Netflix, and annoying kids’ shows, I don’t really watch much television. So when my News Feed starting filling up with posts about this “AMAZING” show called This Is Us and how it gives you “ALL THE FEELS,” for the most part, I tuned them out. For a while at least. But come mid-December, the hype had finally broken me down, and I turned on the first episode late one night.
Three days and a debilitating case of sleep deprivation later, I had watched all 10 episodes. I ugly cried more times than I could count, saw little pieces of myself in just about every character, and fantasized about being friends with the entire family. For days — hell, weeks — after the “Last Christmas” episode, I walked around in a This Is Us haze.
I couldn’t stop thinking about Toby and Kate, Randall and his parents, and Kevin and his six-pack abs. I asked strangers on the street if they thought Toby would be okay. I peppered conversations with references to Kate, Kevin, and Randall, as if they were old friends from back home. I held imaginary therapy sessions in my mind with each of the characters, and I counted down the days until its return from the holiday hiatus.
So, yes, I’m a little obsessed. And so are you. We’re all freaking obsessed. And if you’re not, you will be.
Because this family, this show, this story really is us. It is all of us, or at least it could be. The details, of course, are different, but at one point or another we have all faced the struggles and triumphs, highs and lows, of the Pearson family. This isn’t just us; this is life.
For the past month, I have been in limbo wondering whether Toby will be okay, what will happen between Randall and his mom, and what plot twist might be in store for Kevin. I haven’t been able to concentrate on things like work, grocery shopping, or homework, because who has time for trivial things like bill paying and dinner cooking when someone’s onscreen life hangs in the balance? How can we be expected to answer questions like, “What’s for lunch?” and “Where are my snow pants?” when we still don’t have answers to questions about deaths and reconciliations? How are we supposed to deal with our real world when this fictional world has captured our hearts and minds so completely?
Sure, there are the naysayers out there who think it’s silly to get caught up in a television show, wondering how we can be so obsessed with a made-up family living a made-up life. To which we would all respond with a collective “But have you seen it?!” Because to watch just one episode of This Is Us is to understand.
Not only does the Pearson family capture our attention and hearts, but they also inspire us to be better people in our real lives while simultaneously helping us to forget (if only for an hour, or two, or three…stop judging me, please) the struggles of our real lives. The story of the Pearson family shows us what it means to be human in this world we are living in — the real world we are living in — not the stereotypical world of an upper-middle-class white family with a bumbling dad and a nagging mom, like most tired (and boring as hell) sitcoms.
They show us what it’s like to struggle with weight and body-image issues, and how moms can unwittingly impact the ways daughters see themselves. It shows the rage bubbling within many black men who are understandably tired of bearing the weight of systemic racism and its accompanying stereotypes. And it shows the struggles so many parents face — with alcohol, their sense of self, their relationship — as they face the daily joys and challenges of raising children. Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart, after all.
Let’s be honest, for most of us, 2016 was like one long case of menstrual cramps thanks to depressing-as-hell news headlines, an election cycle that left us all feeling like we needed a shower, and our own personal dramas and challenges because life is hard sometimes. The world might, in fact, be going to hell in a handbasket, but for one hour each week, we’re sucked into the ups and downs, joy and pain, successes and failures of the Pearson family. We let ourselves escape, and we let ourselves feel (even if it means we’re a puddle of tears on the floor), because witnessing the power of this family’s love convinces us that anything is possible.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to clear my schedule and stock up on Kleenexes, because This Is Us is back, baby.