Spoiler alert in advance! 

It was a Friday night in 2008. I’m a preteen in grade eight, my parents are out, and my older sister is taking care of me. I get the upstairs living room to myself. It’s amazing. Normally my dad hogs it, but while him and my mom are out, me and my sister agreed to each stay on a different level of the house. She gets the basement television, and I get the upstairs television.

I finally had the huge living room TV to myself. As I enjoyed my Cartoon Network, I could hear some strange sounds coming from the basement. It was a constant buzzing sound, almost like a car horn, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I tired to ignore it for a while, but it felt like it was going on for forever. I eventually stomped downstairs to find my sister and ask her what was going on.

“Kendal, what is that noise and why is it so loud?”

Kendal looked at me with a apologetic look.

She informed me that the sound was in fact a car horn, and it was coming from this new movie she was watching.

The movie was called Little Miss Sunshine.

She (sort of) explained the plot to me. A young girl, obsessed with beauty pageants, travels across the country with her family so she can compete in one.

It sounded a little weird, but I was interested.

It was at this moment that I found a movie I could watch over and over again without getting sick of it.

I honestly don’t know what it was about Little Miss Sunshine that got me hooked. Mayb it was because I identified with Olive so much it hurt. Maybe it was Paul Dano’s character devoting his life to becoming a pilot, and overcoming his utter devastation when he discovers he’s colourblind and can’t be one. Maybe it was Steve Carell’s character giving some of the best advice I had ever heard at the time. I was a terrified kid about to enter high school. I had been bullied in the past, and I knew what suffering was. His words spoke to me.

Him and Paul Dano have a conversation near the end of the movie. Dano explains that he just wants to skip high school and fall asleep until he’s 18. Carell has some great advice for him.

“Yeah [Marcel Proust]. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he, uh, he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18– ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school– those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.” 

I’m no french writer, but I totally understood what was being said in this scene. I do look back on high school as being some of the best years of my life. I discovered I could paint and make a living off it. I discovered who my real friends were. I discovered it doesn’t matter what you look like (although I still have to remind myself of this from time to time). I discovered it really doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like you, because as long as you know you’re being a good person, other people can take you or leave you as you are. I discovered life is hard and it’s going to keep being hard, but that’s what makes it worth living, you know? You shouldn’t just sleep through the hard stuff, because that hard stuff might end up being the best stuff.

Almost five years later, as I finish a college program that I thought would kill me, I still stand by this point. I’m happy that I didn’t sleep through college either. I learned so much, and I look forward to learning more.

I know this post was supposed to be about Little Miss Sunshine’s soundtrack but it took a turn and I couldn’t help it. Go watch the movie, enjoy it, learn from it, and then listen to the soundtrack to remind you of what you learned. That’s what I do, and I can genuinely say it’s improved my outlook on life.

Listen to the soundtrack here.