Kill Bill to beat the blues

Goals in the new year; now is about this time when everyone gives them up.

Resolutions start off well-intentioned. Some people want a new job. Some people join the gym. Others still try to commit themselves to 31 days of sobriety. But there’s a notoriety in giving up on goals by the third Monday of the month. So it got me thinking… what drives us to set goals in the first place, and how do we know which ones are worth reaching for?

Finding what’s important enough to reach for, to really pursue, should be everyone’s goal. But it’s a wholly personal endeavor. This lonely path can be confusing, but that doesn’t mean advice can’t be gleaned from comfortable (if maybe somewhat unlikely) places.

For me, it’s movies that inspire–and my tried and true favorites offer particularly potent doses of inspiration. Top of my personal list is Kill Bill, wherein, if you know how to peel back the layers of blood, you can see a clear and inspiring message shine through.

PS-spoilers ahead.

Lesson one:

COMMIT

The name of the movie is “Kill Bill.” There was never any question as to what the goal was here. It may take the Bride on a journey through countless casualties, but her crosshairs are squarely on her target, and she doesn’t stop until its done.

That in itself is an inspiring message of perseverance.

BRACE FOR THE TWO R’S

Kill Bill starts off as a new beginning, much like the reason for the New Year.

The New Year comes on the heels of jubilation, offering a chance to set some intentions for ourselves for the year ahead. That’s basically the whole reason for the season: refresh.

But as with every high, there’s a comedown, and the same goes for the Christmas season and all its holly jolly.

Imagine the original Christmas scene: the three wise men carry precious goods through the desert, guided by nothing more than the promise of a bright star. Finally, they come across a humble shelter housing the son of God. They give him gifts, celebrate peace unto men, then turn to each other wondering, what now?

Maybe the wisemen return to their kingdoms and spread the news of what they set out to confirm. Maybe they live out their days comfortably believing the end of suffering has come (even if we all know how well that played out).

The only thing is folk millennia later know is that we haven’t heard anything about them since.

For all its disappointment, New Year is an essential part of the cycle. Inevitably, we all learn that the top of one mountain is the bottom of another.

This theme plays out in Kill Bill, too. Elle, hell-bent on seeing the end of the Bride, gets the news that she’s 6-feet under. The man responsible, Budd, asks specifically how she feels about the vanquishing of her foe: relief or regret? Elle answers, confidently, both.

Relief or regret–this is something I’ve learned to think about deeply when I set out to do something. Will it be a relief to get there? Will I regret the time spent on it? Is it truly worth it? Which R you arrive at may be the final answer to that, but hindsight is always 20/20. Choose your goals–and enemies–wisely.

WEAR THE MASK–BUT REMEMBER TO TAKE IT OFF

There’s one thing I noticed in my most recent Kill Bill viewing, and that’s the diversity of the Bride’s outfit choices.

In Tokyo, she nods to Bruce Lee in yellow with a black side stripes. When she visits Budd in Texas, she wears cowboy boots. Even to the very end, when she makes her way to Bill’s south-of-the-border hacienda, she wears a long blue tiered skirt with matching tank, and tops it with a contrasting orange shoulder wrap.

Why does this matter? It’s more than just style inspo, but a very distinct way of committing to the cause by blending into her surroundings. Essentially, she wears a mask to survive.

It’s a technique to meet her goal. But it’s always temporary, it always changes. Ironically, it’s Bill who reminds her who she is beneath it all.

Bill’s major movie monologue is a lesson in “being yourself.”

In it, he talks of superheroes wearing masks. “Batman is really Bruce Wayne, Spiderman is Peter Parker,” he explains. But Bill takes special care in describing who Superman really is. No, he’s not Clark Kent. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s Superman that he was born to be, but even Superman needs to wear a mask sometimes. The tie and glasses transform him into Clark Kent in order to live amongst the people.

The same is true of the Bride… and perhaps of all of us.

What Bill is saying is that there’s a bare-bones truth to all of us, a default state of existence. And very few of us, if any, can hide from it fully or forever.

Regardless of all the outfits she donned, or the life she tried to recreate for herself, at her core the Bride was one thing: a stone-cold killer. And we see that in all its forms throughout the movie, and that’s exactly what leads her to her ultimate destiny.

STILL…

It was only in being true to herself that the Bride reached her goal and evolved into a better version of herself. Even if there was a setback (like getting shot in the head) and a long string of fights and struggles, she stayed true. And it got her through.

She wears different masks, but finds a way home to herself by committing to her goal, despite all the setbacks. For her, reaching the end brought an unmistakable sense of relief. She chose her path wisely.

Although her path and her story were very specific, it still offers us a relatable message: when you set out to do something, you should let nothing in the world stop you from doing it.

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