When it comes to inspirational figures within geek culture, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn is very much up there with the best of them. Not only has Gunn turned his love of the niche and nerdy into a spectacularly successful movie career, but he's done so in such a way that it's a pretty daunting challenge to find a single person in Hollywood with a bad word to say about him.
Add in his sterling work within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his key role in the making of (America's Sweetheart) Chris Pratt's career, and his general aura of affable niceness, and it's hardly surprising that fans everywhere would want to recognize the director on his birthday.
What's perhaps a little more surprising, however, is the fact that when he turned 45 yesterday, Gunn decided to do something pretty darned incredible. Y'see:
James Gunn's Birthday Message to Us All Was Super-Inspirational
Well, first up, I'll let his words speak for themselves...
Now, if Gunn had simply revealed his own struggles with anxiety and sadness, as he did in the first paragraph, and then ended the post, it would've been pretty awesome all by itself...
"Today is my birthday. I've been reflecting a lot lately on what makes me happy. In part this is because I'm getting older, and it's time I quit messing around and focus on what's really worth doing in life. And in part it's because I've had a big boost in my career over the past year or so and I've come to realize this has had almost no affect on my personal level of happiness. Yes, I've had some great highs, but the overall rise in stimulus in my life can cause a lot of anxiety I didn't have before."
...and if he'd done nothing more than share his personal methods for actually ensuring his own happiness and emotional well-being, that would've been pretty darned cool in and of itself:
"So if money doesn't make me happy and sex doesn't make me happy and fame doesn't make me happy, what makes me happy? And the problem with my conclusions are that the keys to my happiness - or at least the keys to my happier - are really BORING. They're dumb things I'm almost embarrassed to say out loud. But, at least for me, they work, so, what the hell, I thought I'd share them with you. Here's what I try and do every day:
1. Meditate for at least 10 minutes.
2. Exercise for at least 20 minutes.
3. Work on something productive for at least 3 hours.
4. Get at least 10 minutes of sunlight.
5. Have one real, honest conversation with a friend for at least 15 minutes.
Many of these things I do for much longer (I usually meditate for 22 minutes, work out for 30, and God knows how many hours I work), but these seem to be the minimums for me. I also find it good to take occasional days off from work, but the rest I can do every day."
In fact, even if he'd simply opened up about his struggles with depression, and made a point of both normalizing it, and talking about it in a balanced, careful fashion, that'd be incredibly bad-ass all on its lonesome...
"These things don't cure sadness, but they help me to deal with it in a more calm manner. Also, I want to note, like so many of us, I have suffered from bouts of depression. For me, it has usually been situational depression, and these activities help - but they are also better for preventing me from becoming depressed, than getting me out of depression once I'm in it. For that, I personally need hardcore therapy. For others, whose depression may be more biologically based, they may need medical treatment."
The reason James Gunn managed to rock his birthday harder than a lot of people could ever dream of, though? Not only did he do all of those things, but he did it for the best possible reason - to try to make a difference to the lives of others:
"Anyway, I'm a little embarrassed even posting this, but maybe there's someone out there who it will help, even a little, even just to think about how we have a say in our own joy. I know I've often thought of happiness as something that happens. But I've come to believe, like physical fitness or financial success, it's something that requires work and dedication.
Have a great day, everyone.
Which is...well, it's a seriously classy - and inspiring - move, is what it is.
Happy (belated) birthday, good sir. You most surely earned one...
What do you think, though?