The Common Good

Wanderlust: A Sojourn to Elysium

(Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
Producer Judd Apatow, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd arrive at the L.A. Wanderlust premiere. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

If there were a movie about your life, what would it look like? Which celebrity would play you?

Ah, the timeless ice breaker question.

Over the weekend, I made plans to see Friends with Kids with a few coworkers. I thought I was heading to see a comedic depiction of my current life stage as the young adult who is left in the dust of the friends-getting-married-and-having-kids frenzy.

If this confession prompts an eye roll from you on account of my young adult angst, let me add one bit of vindication: the movie was sold out.

Our next option was to see Wanderlust, and something interesting happened: in my search for one snapshot of my current context, I found a wholly different but still parallel other. Bring on the ice breaker questions — I have found the film about my year in intentional community.

The movie is complete with actors in my comedic go-to lineup, including Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man), Jennifer Aniston (Horrible Bosses), and Kathryn Hahn (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). As the title suggests, Wanderlust takes a look into the exploration of a world beyond the New York City microloft-dwelling lifestyle for a couple who suddenly find themselves unemployed.

During their drive from NYC to suburban Atlanta for a brief respite and entry-level job offer, George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) stumble upon the Elysium commune intentional community, and hilarity ensues.

The couple first meets Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio), who is the community’s resident nudist. Wayne quickly dismisses the hippie notions associated with the word "commune" and instead opts for a more palatable term: "intentional community."

Wayne's explanation elicited the first of many facepalm moments for me throughout the film. I caught myself in many instances saying, “Wait, this is my year!”

Yes, this year I have joined the ranks of people much like the Elysium community and embraced the shared lifestyle of simple living and intentional community. We do not have any nudists, but like George and Linda I vacillate between complete embrace of this lifestyle and dissonance with my former patterns of behavior. And much like the community in Wanderlust, I have learned new ways of communicating with different personality types that abound.

For example, since watching the movie I am now tempted to forego clapping for the less aggressive approach that looks more like I am massaging the tips of my fingers. If nothing else, it is sure to make for some interesting glances during staff meetings.

Speaking of work, did I mention that the fictional Elysium community began in 1971 — the same year as our Sojourners community? Cue one more facepalm moment.

Wanderlust is an enjoyable film, full of laughable moments and lovable characters. The beautiful interpersonal connection as well as self-actualization that emerge in community is certainly the lesson here, but I also found the awkwardness that arose in search of that connection as an equally important reality.

Doing life together is messy. We all come from different backgrounds and we all have something to contribute. Sometimes we may have to stare in the mirror and psych ourselves up to get on board with the group — and there is sure to be moments of awkward dysfunction — but it is a beautiful and fun journey all the same.

I may get myself in trouble with the rest of the staff with this, but if there was a movie about the beginning years of Sojourners, I’d like to think that Wanderlust is a light-hearted fictional depiction of it. Minus the nudists, of course.

Nicole Higgins is an administrative assistant at Sojourners. A graduate of Fuller Seminary in California, Nicole lives (and works and budgets and cooks and prays and plays) with eight other one-year Sojo interns in Washington,D.C. Follow Nicole on Twitter @rareblackbirds.

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