Living in the Now: Phil Connors and The Concept of Time
Katherine Arpino, Division 2, 12th grade #ws18e-s1d2

In this world, life decisions are always deeply connected to the concept of time. People center their lives around the unavoidable fact that, someday, their time will eventually run out. Yet, most are reluctant to do away with the outlook that they must always just “get through this week,” “get to summer vacation,” or “just get until they are in college/a better job.” Those who share these dilemmas are effectively throwing away the time they have been given– when a life is spent waiting for the next day, there is no time to genuinely and unapologetically live. This leads to the question of what if the concept of time was taken out of the equation entirely? What if it was guaranteed that there would always be hours to learn more and pursue your dreams? If this was the case, everyone would become more aware of their surroundings and the impact they have on the world. These hypotheticals are why, if I could be any character from a movie, TV show, or book, I would be Phil Connors from Groundhog Day.

Yes, the character of Phil is essentially stuck in a hellish loop, forced to experience the same day in the same small town over and over and over again. He resists at first, attempting to find a way out of his mind, going through all five stages of grief throughout his first few years caught in Punxsutawney, PA. However, once he eventually scales the hurdles of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, he reaches acceptance, and strives to make the most out of the situation that he has been thrust into by an unforgiving god. He learns everything from ice sculpting to piano, finally attempting to make the most out of his life, however long this trip may last.

He learns the workings of every single cog in the machine on that February 2nd, finding every minute detail that went wrong in every member of the population’s lives, and doing his absolute best to fix it. He catches children falling from trees, gives his entire wallet to a homeless man on the corner of the street, and buys life insurance from an old high school friend-turned-salesman. He also learns that sometimes death can be unavoidable, as he is unable to save the life of the aforementioned homeless man that night, no matter what he might do during the day. He comes to the realization that the night will come, no matter what he does. Death is inescapable, but he must soldier on nonetheless, and do the best he can with the time that he has been given. Through this, Connors learns how to both change the changeable and accept the fates that have been set in stone.

Through Phil’s acts of philanthropy, he not only helps the lives of others – he helps himself. Through his kind deeds and selfless choices, he effectively takes the strings back from the puppet master that has been controlling his life for so long. It is both the acts themselves and the willingness to do them without a “moral dessert” that eventually launch him out of Groundhog Day after a countless number of years. He does not know that these acts of kindness will be the factor that finally saves him – he simply does it out of the realization that, if he’s stuck in this loop, he may as well ensure the best for those who have to go on after. Through this, he learns how to become a better person, and not just how to act like one. It is this change that proves how, given the time and perspective, anyone can change their life and become the person they are meant to be.

While the situation that Phil Connors is thrust into is unideal to say the least, I believe that it would be beneficial to every human on this planet to learn how to truly live in the now. The acceptance of the passage of time can take an incalculable number of years to reach. Often, it is never truly reached in one’s lifetime. That is why, given the opportunity to have my time again and again, I would take it. I would be able to help those around me, albeit just for that one repeated day, as well as have the time to learn the things I have always dreamed of knowing how to do, but never had enough time for. I would learn how to ski, how to hang-glide, how to fly a plane. I would study all of the languages that I have always wanted to speak, from Arabic to Afrikaans. It would be an insanely difficult situation, but I would come out the other side a stronger, kinder, more empathetic person. I believe that, if we take the time to appreciate what we have been given, the human race can become infinitely better.
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