Friday, May 13, 2016

Life Lessons from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


I recently finished binge-watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so it's time for another one of my goofy Life Lessons series! Mild spoilers.

Just start living as an adult (even if you don't feel like one).
In season 1, Kimmy found herself suddenly expected to act like a 30-year-old, even though she still had the emotional maturity and cultural knowledge of a 14-year-old in the 1990's. She took it in stride, taking the opportunity to buy herself light-up sneakers and eat ice cream anytime she wanted. Still, she also found a job and an apartment, and got herself in a GED program.

I certainly relate at times, doing adult-y type things like getting married and getting a mortgage even though I still have the same basic interests and sense of humor that I did when I was 15. What makes you an adult isn't being serious and stuffy, and it isn't having all the answers or knowing what to do all the time. It's doing the work to take care of yourself, even when it isn't easy.

Be creative about sources of income.
Kimmy has has some points against her in the job market. Having spent the last 15 years in an underground bunker, she has no work history and only an eighth-grade education. She has to get creative about job options, first taking a job as a baby-sitter/personal assistant/general gopher for a rich lady, and then in season 2--after a short stint in retail--as an Uber driver.

Have self-discipline when it comes to working hours.
Kimmy learns a few lessons when she's fired from a retail job for being late all the time because her friends need her. First, she benefits from a job with flexible working hours, which her driving hussle provides. But, second, she needs to be disciplined about what hours she works if she's going to make any money. Later in the season we see her say no to friends and turn down other activities in order to get out on the road for the passenger rush at different times of day. If you do have flexibility due to being self employed or having a nontraditional job, it is all the more important to have self-discipline to work specific hours.

Barter, trade, & share resources.
Many of the characters in Kimmy Schmidt are basically moneyless, so they exchange time and other resources instead of cash money. For example, Kimmy agrees to do some side work for her now-penniless ex-boss in exchange for the use of her car for her Uber driving hussle.

Exude confidence.
We can all poke holes in Jacqueline's plan to fool her swanky friends into thinking she's still rich by spending all of her limited remaining money on a single extravagant painting to dominate her otherwise empty apartment. I am certainly not advocating overspending in order to show off your status and look richer than you are. But there is something to be said for appearing non-needy when you are looking to attract a favor from someone powerful--be it a potential employer or, in Jacqueline's case, donors to her charity or a rich husband.

Take care of yourself.
In season 2, Kimmy begins dealing with the psychological consequences of her past, including acknowledging PTSD-like symptoms and beginning therapy. She learns to take care of her own needs before she turns to help others. The show is silly, but these are lessons that felt very real and relevant. Kimmy is bright happy character, but she has a lot of darkness to deal with, and it's inspiring to see that her positivity is not entirely effortless.

A positive outlook can be a source of strength.
Overly peppy characters can be the butt of the joke in sitcoms, and Kimmy certainly generates plenty of jokes. But they are not at her expense. Her positive outlook and resourcefulness, after all, are what makes Kimmy "unbreakable." This is what enables her to notice and seize opportunities that come her way, whether it's the chance to help a friend, learn a skill, broaden her social circle, or just eat as much candy as she possibly can. Perhaps because she's already lost everything and bounced back, or perhaps just because she's a naturally Pollyanna-ish kind of person, she isn't overly cautious or afraid to try new things. She lives life to its fullest.

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