In the 1994 award-winning film, Forrest Gump, the eponymous hero (played, as anyone who has seen it will remember, by Tom Hanks) utters the words “My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get'”. It is a film worthy of its many Oscars, Golden Globes and so on – it is a compelling tale which challenges conventional views of what human beings can achieve, and it makes us laugh, cry and think. The rather poignant words about the box of chocolates have stuck in common parlance as a result.
The phrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, and is often assumed to reflect the variety that life has to offer. Certainly, when I look at the enormous range of paths anticipated by our Year 12 leavers, as they await their HSC results in December, I can see an enormous and refreshing variety of options. We want our young people to grow up to become the unique individuals they can be – and life offers them this chocolate-box variety.
In reality, however, the box of chocolates is nothing without the action of selecting the actual chocolates. To experience the chocolate, we must choose it and commit ourselves to it by taking a bite. Sometimes this is a leap of faith, and we do not necessarily know what taste sensation awaits us. Sometimes we like what we taste; sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we learn to like what we thought we would not like.
Chocolates hide an inner delight – the outer coating can give us a clue, as indeed can the guide on the side of the box, or the recommendations of people who have chosen before us. But essentially they are there (in moderation, of course) for the choosing – for us to make our choices. As our Year 12s make their final steps towards life beyond school, they should remember Forrest Gump, and be inspired by the thought.