“Would it Help?” — The best advice I got from Bridge of Spies

I saw the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies about 2 months ago. It’s the best movie I had seen in a year. The best thing about the movie though, was not the plot or the cinematography, but a piece of life advice I got that has been popping up in my mind here and there and unlike so many other life lessons I’ve learned from stories, this one actually does it.

In was simple. In the movie, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) was accused of being a Soviet spy and was held in American custody. While his lawyer was fighting, with many internal and external struggles, to give him a fair trial and save his life, he was in a terrible place, literally facing death. In every stressful, frightening situation, he kept being so irritatingly calm and eventually he revealed why when his lawyer finally asked how he kept his cool, with three simple words, “would it help?” Would it help to be scared? Would it help to tremble in the face of unfortunate fate? Would it help to admit that this situation is terrible and there is no going back? Would it help to self-torture? Would it help to hate, to curse, to be miserable?

No, it wouldn’t. And that was enough for him. I hope that is enough for you and me too.

As a senior student from China in a U.S. college, graduating with a non-STEM degree in less than a month, not knowing what would happen after a four-month internship, I’m no stranger to fear or stress. Sometimes I think about the literally suffocating air pollution in China and find myself in total despair and terror. What if I have to go back? Sometimes I think about how much my parents have spent on my education and how little I can pay them back, I feel frustrated, useless, then I listen to the voice in my head that keeps saying I’m fighting a losing battle. I never had it in the beginning and certainly cannot turn life around. Yet, I stop. I say to myself, “would it help?” All this life-taking negative emotion, all this desperation and fear, would they help me feel happy, fulfilled, peaceful? No they wouldn’t. So I stop. I stop whenever I notice I’m doing it again.

Would it help? It’s that simple. If the answer is no, then stop. I know it’s not easy but hey, we are all faking it till we make it. And we will make it. How do I know? Well, I don’t. But I just know it wouldn’t help to believe otherwise.

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