On Being All In

diving into pool

I went to see the live action Beauty and the Beast last week. It was the first film I’ve seen in theaters since July 2015, when I saw Inside Out in Chicago.

It’s not that I have an aversion to cinemas, but for a long time I caught up with most new-ish releases on long haul flights and that minimized my desire to go to the movies. That, and the outlandish $20 price tag. (When did movies get so expensive?)

Anyway, it takes a lot to get me to a movie. In this case it was the magical combination of cheap Tuesdays and the live version of an animated film I have had committed to memory since 1991.

The familiar opening notes burst into the darkened room and I was immediately transported back to my childhood. I have been watching this movie for 26 years, and it is probably the movie I have seen more times than any other.

The remake and I did not get off to a great start. I reflexively recited the lines in my head, and when the narrator said ‘in the hidden heart of France’ when she was supposed to say ‘in a faraway land,’ I thought she was casually rewriting history, assuming no one would notice.


I felt like Hermione and Cousin Matthew spent two hours being reckless with one of my favorite toys, but in the end they did return it to me in one piece. It wasn’t exactly the film I’d loved so much as a child, but then it wasn’t supposed to be.

* * * * *

The next morning I texted my sisters to debrief. Megan and I spiraled off into tangents on our opinions, while Kate, who hadn’t seen it, asked whether the singing was as bad as it had been in Les Miserables and La La Land.

“Bad is not accurate but Emma Watson is no Paige O’Hara,” I said.

“She’s not knock your socks off but she’s good enough,” Megan said. “But did you really like the cartoon version growing up or no?”

“I mean I thought I did but you two seem really passionate about it so now I’m not sure that I’m at that level,” she said.

We were a Disney-heavy family, but with Beauty and the Beast I took it a step further, memorizing the names of all the voices behind the characters and learning the backstory to the animation process.

“What a rich inner life you had related to Disney,” Kate said. “I really had no idea. Thought you just liked cats.”

I did like cats (like, really liked them), but later in life I was also heavily invested in Beauty and the Beast, Archie Comics and origami.

“Whatever you were into you were ALL IN,” said Megan.

I had never thought about it that way, but she was right.

Playground with toy
Note that I am wearing a different outfit in each picture; these were not taken on the same day.

* * * * *

Now I keep thinking about what, if anything, it means to be ALL IN as an adult.

In a 2015 article in the New Yorker, Going All In on “All In”, writer Ian Crouch compared the origin of the phrase—going all in in a poker game—to how we have come to use it.

“Going all in is often a spectacularly bad idea. But in life, it seems, it is all good—the only way to live boldly is to be all in on many different things at once.”

For me it was one thing at a time, which was less bold and more…well, weird. My cat obsession defined me for years until Disney came along. All of my intense interests became part of who I was, layered beneath each other over time as I grew up. My last big obsession was in college, when I became a full-fledged *NSYNC fanatic.

Let’s just say it was much more than being in the fan club and I’m eternally grateful that social media did not exist then. While it’s fairly normal for kids to dedicate themselves to wacky interests, it seems to be a characteristic that doesn’t usually extend to adulthood, when it’s OK to be all in about our careers or family, but not much else.

Eventually I went all in on something else that some people found strange, and that in turn has shaped my professional and personal adult life.

That thing was travel, obviously.

I went to a friend’s wedding in 2006, after Australia and before New Zealand. At this wedding I talked about nothing but where I’d been and where I was going. I was utterly consumed by my burgeoning lifestyle; I hadn’t loved anything so much since Lance Bass (you can guess how well that worked out).

It must have been incredibly irritating; one of my friends even commented to another that she’s got it bad, meaning my inability to have conversations about anything but travel. Over time I stopped subjecting my friends to verbal slideshows, but travel is indisputably still a part of who I am.

And though I didn’t realize it until Disney launched its remake factory, so is Beauty and the Beast.

* * * * *

Our interests don’t have to define us, but they do shape us. I think about the ten-year-old kid I was, and how she fell hard for a movie that had an adventure-seeking bookworm for a heroine. Did that story tap into a part of me that was always there, a thread of personality that later manifested as a love of travel? Or did the film actually influence me, acting as a motivator for my adult lifestyle?

It’s a chicken-and-egg type of argument, but I think our interests are instinctive. We know the difference between being sort-of into something and really into something. For example, I enjoy taking photographs, but I’d get much more pleasure from a stack of fresh origami paper.

Despite this, I’m more likely to spend time learning my way around a camera because it’s a skill that is arguably more useful than origami—though knowing how to make an origami cup has come in handy more times than I can count.

There’s room in our lives for a range of interests, and pursuing them is, of course, how we find out what we’re into. So when you hit on something that compels you to go all in, don’t ignore that tug that makes you want to find out more. (Assuming you’re not hurting anybody or breaking the law.)

Even if that thing is a movie about a woman who inexplicably falls in love with a hideous beast over the course of a week.

It may lead you to a life that is exactly what you never knew you always wanted.










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  1. I loved this and makes me wanna try being more ALLIN with things. Also need to update my vocabulary after remembering I actually did use the phrase ‘knock your socks off.’ Yikes.

  2. Once again, I can so relate to this — I’m ALL IN when it comes to the Olympics. My interest in it has defined my for as long as I can remember, everything I’ve worked for in my life has been towards that end (I’ve even sacrificed relationships for it) and it’s also led me to my itinerant life.

    But also: I’m all in about penguins. AND NO DIGGITY

    1. Your all in choices are EXCELLENT. Even if they can at times be detrimental to your personal life. Next post: the DARK SIDE of being ALL IN.

      (I also seem to be moving towards being ALL IN about CAPS)

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