Why ‘This Is Us’ Hits Home Every Time

this-is-us-castIf I could point out one tiny but kinda huge flaw with This is Us, it would be that they left out the 4th baby. Yes, you see, I’m Randall’s twin. I too was there shivering and crying that night at the fire station, which means I too was adopted, thereby converting the Big Three into the Big Four.  Now, I won’t be petty and talk about how they wrote me out of the show, but just know I AM a part of that family. Jack and William ARE my fathers, Rebecca IS my mama, and those are the facts I need you to accept before we can move forward, mmkay?

So as a real life (secret) Pearson, you can understand why I feel so close to the characters my siblings. But beyond my for real, for real blood relation, each of them embody a different part of me. Regardless of race and/or gender, they speak to the common emotional themes that run through my life—and probably yours too.

The Loser/Underachiever

Let’s start with Kevin. Given that he is a white male AND a recovering jerk, it seems he’d be the person I relate to the least, but I was surprised to find so much of myself in him. His struggle to add meaning to his life feels a lot like my own. He sees himself somehow barreling and drifting toward 40 and still struggling to plant roots, establish a legacy that’ll prove he walked this earth…and left it better. If that aint me, I don’t know what is.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I most definitely have loser moments. As a freelancing, stay-at-home mom of two school age children, I’m always one breath away from drowning under the weight of my responsibilities to them. And I struggle to eke out an identity that isn’t tied to my duties to these little people I’ve created. It’s hard not to feel like I don’t do enough, don’t produce enough, don’t prove enough (to myself) that the person I was before them still exists. Kevin doesn’t even have children, but he does have a large part of himself he’s trying to give life too. So me and Kev, we’re twins.

The Insecure Self-Doubter

And then there’s my sister Kate. She’s me too. Not only is she cute and fun, but she has such a relatable vulnerability that I can’t help but look at her and see myself. Her presenting issue is weight (something I can relate to to a lesser extent), but it really all boils down to doubt and fear. She is doubtful that she is indeed worthy of what she wants to achieve and fearful that she is nothing more than the inadequacy she feels inside. Kate shoots herself in the foot over and over again because of her insecurity, her fear that she’s not as wonderful, as powerful, as capable as Toby and Kevin insist.

In the season opener, Kate walks out of a singing audition before she gets the chance to perform. It made me think, how many times have I let fear talk me out of opportunities before I even attempted them? How many times have I given up on challenges because the shadow alone was too scary? Kate has a habit of getting in her own way, being her own saboteur, being a true frenemy to herself. So me and Kate, we’re twins.

The Perfectionist Idealist

Last but not least, we have my OG Randall. First off, he’s blackity. No, not black—blackity, meaning his blackness goes far beyond skin color and extends into his thinking, his consciousness. This is exhibited mostly in his and Beth’s efforts to raises their two kinky-haired, brown skinned daughters to be intelligent, confident, self-loving, un-brainwashed young black women. The fact that he (playfully) disses them by calling them Omarosa and Stacy Dash is black gold of the highest order. But anyway, that’s just icing on the cake. What really makes Randall relatable is his soft heart and stubborn yearning for perfection. Randall wants so fiercely to create a beautiful reality that overshadows the complicated ugliness he was born into. And though he knows with every bit of his mind that he is loved without reservation, it seems a tiny (or not so tiny) piece of his heart still feels the need to prove that he didn’t deserve to be left alone at the fire station all those years ago. So he works and works and works, and tries and tries and tries, sometimes to his own detriment, to etch at least into his own mind the redeeming idea that abandonment was never meant for him.

For me, the connection is not such much in the abandonment (I am thankful I haven’t experienced that), but more so in his struggle to let life unfold organically and accept that things cannot and will not be forever picturesque no matter how hard you try. THAT is what I identify with. I have had many a crying session over failed plans and popped bubbles that didn’t pan out in the beautiful way that I just knew they would. So me and Randall, we’re twins.

There is so much of life that is out of our control, so many bumps, bruises and deep gashes that are meant specifically for us, not as a punishment, but as a way of sparking growth and imparting lessons that wouldn’t be received any other way. For example, would Randall be as driven, as hard-working, as accomplished, as loving as he is had he not suffered that dramatic loss just as he entered this world? Maybe, but probably not. So if I can understand that Randall’s losses have actually built him, actually pushed him to a level he might not have reached otherwise, then I should probably create a similar narrative around my own. Of course, that’s easier said than down. Of course, deciphering the subtext of a fictional character’s TV life is much easier than extracting the gems from my own. But still, it is helpful. To see myself repeated over and over again in various forms is at least entertaining and at most therapeutic. It lays bare all my issues and then has the nerve to go off and not come on again until the following week. What type of foolishness is that? They stay doing me wrong. Such is life.

~Nadirah Angail