This is Us
Daily Opinion

This is Us and the lessons it taught us

I want to dedicate this article to a journey because defining it as simply a series seems redundant to me. This is Us is a journey, and whoever has seen it knows what I mean. Drama series have always attracted me, from Grey’s Anatomy to Game of Thrones, yet there was something profoundly special in This is Us. Something profoundly real that gets you from the first episode. And just as Randall said, I am trying to find the right words.

The series finished earlier this year after 106 episodes of an emotional rollercoaster. The family saga about the triplets Kevin, Kate and Randall and their parents, Jack and Rebecca, left millions sobbing after every episode for six years, including me. Full of schmaltz, some may say, but we all needed a show as captivating, sentimental and beautifully painful as This is Us

This is us

I wouldn’t want to go into details about the NBC drama’s production, directors, cast and plot. We can all find this on Google. I would rather talk about the idea behind it and the lessons it taught us during its six seasons. On the surface, this series is about family, but the constant contrast of timelines presented makes it much more than this, it makes it about all of us. Each one of us can identify ourselves in at least one character if not in all of them. Here are some lessons we can all learn from This is Us:

Be your kids’ comfort

We’re their parents—we do the best we can. But at the end of the day, what happens to them—how they turn out—that’s bigger than us. Sometimes they’ll make good decisions. Sometimes they’ll make bad decisions. And every once in a while, they’re gonna do something that’s gonna knock us off our feet. Something that exceeds even our wildest dreams. Our kids are gonna be fine.

Jack Pearson

Parenting is something that gets represented not very realistically in the cinema. But This is Us gets it just fine. We all want a father like Jack and a mother like Rebecca and we all want to be parents like them. The series depicts real-life parenting so well, with all its flaws and beauties, it shows us what it is like to be a parent, a child, a brother or sister in its most real forms with its flawless combination of witty, emotional and humble characters.  There’s no perfect parent. Parenting is messy, confusing and full of mistakes.

But what Jack and Rebecca taught us is that we are going to make mistakes, we are going to mess up and be vulnerable around our kids, we can’t be flawless, know the answers to all questions and be the heroes in our kids’ lives. The only thing we must be in their comfort when they need it and let them be whoever they want to be. Even Mandy Moore (Rebecca) says her role in This is Us is her ultimate parenting guide. For sure as hell it will be my ultimate parenting guide. 

Small things matter most

“We’re collecting these little moments.  We don’t recognize them when we’re in them because we’re too busy looking forward. But then we spend the rest of our lives looking back…trying to remember them.”  

Jack Pearson

This is Us intertwines two timelines together – Jack and Rebecca raising the triplets on one side and Kevin, Kate and Randall 30 years later on the other. We could all see how the micro-events from the past have impacted the triplets in the future and their relationship with each other.

Halfway through the second episode of the show, we see Rebecca tucking Kate into bed when she hears Kevin and Randall fighting next door. She runs into their room and tries to calm them down. “Everyone thinks it’s weird that we are brothers,” Kevin says. Some of you might know that Randall is the adopted black child in the white Pearson family.

Fast-forward 30 years we see how those little moments had an impact on Randall’s mental health. This is Us is one of the few series to represent so realistically interracial adoption, and many other important issues such as obesity, alcoholism, eating disorders and mental health.

However, unlike Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, This Is Us doesn’t represent only the sad stories. We see how little moments of joy in the past have made an impact in the future and are still remembered. We see how small wins are important, such as a nice family dinner, saying good night to each other, having a good laugh, and being kind to each other, which a lot of us seem to take for granted…or forget. 

This is us: grief has no deadline

“Grief is a tricky thing, you know? You just can’t prepare for how it’s gonna make you feel or how you’ll handle it. Sometimes you just got to grab onto whatever’s around you just to survive.”

Kevin Pearson

After losing Jack in a house fire Kevin, Randall and Kate are still grieving twenty years later and still trying to move on, forgive themselves and find their way forward. As someone who has lost a family member, it was both comforting and heartbreaking to watch the series and realize that even years later, it is still okay to grieve. You cannot magically wake up one day without the trauma, without the pain and without the void of missing someone you love.

This is Us taught us there is no deadline. So often, in films and TV grief is typically seen as something temporary, characters will cry, scream, go to the funeral and then weeks, months after, their grief is no longer existent. Society teaches us this too- you can grieve for a while, but not forever, to the extent that you feel guilty if you are still struggling.

But This is Us nails the representation of trauma after losing a loved one. I saw myself in how Kevin turns to alcohol to hide his pain, how Randall’s perfectionism and caring for every one turn into anxiety panic attacks, and how Kate’s self-esteem is completely destroyed because of her loss and guilt. They taught us grief is not transitory, there are no stages of grief that you have to pass to be over. Rather, it is something that sits with you, changes you and shapes you throughout your entire life. 

Family is messed up and flawed, and that’s okay

“We are perfect together. We are perfectly imperfect.”

Randall Pearson

As human beings we are messy and flawed, we can’t expect to have a perfect family, there is simply no such thing. The This is Us siblings, Kevin, Kate and Randall are on a lifelong journey of healing and progress, just like we all are. Seeing Kevin and Randall fighting and screaminatto each other on screen, and the complicated relationship between Rebecca and her daughter Kate, made me so much more emphatic towards my own family and friends.

Because just like Randall and Kate, I was full of rage, holding grudges towards people I love, for I was unable to see the pain they were experiencing. But behind this, there is always love. This is Us taught us to accept each other, with our flaws and all, because family is everything. 

There is no lemon so sour that you can’t make something resembling lemonade

“Sometimes we lose things. Things that we love. And it makes us feel sad. Really sad. And I know right now it feels like the worst thing in the world. But I promise you, you’re gonna find something else to love.”

Jack Pearson

Life sucks. That is the ultimate truth. Bad things happen, we lose people we love, we lose jobs, we lose partners, we…lose. But we must find something to hold onto, making the best out of the bad. When Rebecca and Jack lost their third baby, the doctor told Jack “ There is no lemon so sour you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”

Later that night there a baby abandoned at the hospital turned out to be Randall. This taught us that everything has a reason behind it, even painful experiences. Sometimes it might feel like you have no idea how you’ll make it through. Yet you do. Life goes on regardless and our only purpose is to make the best out of it. 

This is Us will probably stay the best show I have ever watched. A series full of sweet melancholy, past memories, pain and love. I owe so much to This is Us. Sure, there are other family dramas, but none attempt to depict relatability and humanity so explicitly. Hence, we need this right now. The recent events, from the war in Ukraine to overturning Roe v Wade, have been difficult to process for many of us. And of course, we all fight our personal battles. That’s why we need more dramas such as This is Us. Not only to give us a good cry but to remind us of empathy, sensitivity, love and hope. 

Here is one of my favourite lines from the show that I can’t leave unnoticed:

“I painted this because I felt like the play was about life, you know? And life is full of colour. And we each get to come along and we add our colour to the painting, you know? And even though it’s not very big, the painting, you sort of have to figure that it goes on forever, you know, in each direction. So, like, to infinity, you know? Because that’s kind of like life, right? And it’s crazy if you think about it, isn’t it, that a hundred years ago, some guy that I never met came to this country with a suitcase. He has a son, who has a son, who has me.

So, at first, when I was painting, I was thinking, you know, maybe up here, that was that guy’s part of the painting and then, you know, down here, that’s my part of the painting. And then I started to think, well, what if we’re all in the painting, everywhere? And what if we’re in the painting before we’re born? What if we’re in it after we die?

And these colours that we keep adding, what if they just keep getting added on top of one another, until eventual, we’re not even different colours anymore? We’re just one thing. One painting. I mean, my dad is not with us anymore. He’s not alive, but he’s with us.

He’s with me every day. It all just sort of fits somehow. And even if you don’t understand how yet, people will die in our lives, people that we love. In the future. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe years from now. I mean, it’s kind of beautiful, right, if you think about it, the fact that just because someone dies, just because you can’t see them or talk to them anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not still in the painting. I think maybe that’s the point of the whole thing. There’s no dying. There’s no you or me or them. It’s just us.” Kevin Pearson