The Metaphor of Groundhog Day


I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day?

When life is kicking me in the ovaries, I always think back to this quote, from my personal favorite Bill Murray movie – Groundhog Day. In the film, Phil (Murray) is an embittered television reporter that is magically forced to re-live the same day over and over again. Phil isn’t really a happy guy. He hate that he has to go to Punxsuatawney to cover the groundhog festivities. He’s lonely, kind of curmudgeon-y, and isn’t living the life he wants. Plus he has to deal with Ned Ryerson and stepping in an icy puddle every day. Not cool.

Throughout the movie, he goes from being a total grump to losing his sanity (who wouldn’t if you were re-living the same day over and over again?). He begins to feel god-like and attempts suicide numerous times which only results in his resurrection the following morning at 6am, awoken by the sounds of Sonny and Cher.


But with time, he begins to see things differently. His approach changes. He starts to realize all the things he’s been doing wrong, seeing the things he was taking for granted, using his powers for good, and eventually becoming a happier man.

It would be wonderful to say that it’s easy to come to these kinds of realizations without enduring a prolonged period of hardship, but that isn’t always the case. For the past few months (and honestly, for many moments throughout my life), I, like many others, have had that nagging feeling of being stuck on Groundhog Day. I think back to this quote and wonder, “why the hell couldn’t it be another kind of day I’m re-living again and again?”

Today I woke up and felt it again. Why can’t things be easier? Why is there so much stress and hardship in my life? Why am I living in this state, under these conditions? In the end, there is nothing to blame. No external forces to point fingers at. I can only recognize the mistakes I’ve made and be accepting of the situations that have come my way.

Director Harold Ramis discusses the metaphor of Groundhog Day: (embedding has been disabled unfortunately) He tells us how the Jews, the Buddhists, the Christians, the psychoanalysts, the yogis, and pretty much everyone else approached him soon after the film came out to discuss how much the film reflected their own philosophies. And how others who had seen the film once, and then re-watched it again years later were able to take so much more out of it. And it’s true because it’s happened to a lot of people, and it’s happened to me. Groundhog Day, once a silly movie about Bill Murray throwing tantrums and a fuzzy animal looking for its’ shadow, is now a metaphor for my own life. And like Ramis says, it’s not the film that changes, but we as the viewers that do, and this forces us to reflect on those changes.

Groundhog Day is an intense exercise in self-reflection. We could all use a little of that. What we do after, of course, is what determines whether or not we keep having to smash our alarm clocks, or if we can finally move forward with our lives and out of the dark fog that sometimes follows us around.

Today, Punxsuatawney Phil came out of his home and did not see his shadow. A short winter, and a beautiful spring await us. I’d like to take that as a sign that the harsh, bitter cold that has kept me frozen for so long is finally beginning to melt. Spring is on the horizon for us all.


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