7 life lessons I’ve learned from The Sound of Music

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I am a Sound of Music FREAK! Ever since I first saw the rooftops of Salzburg in the midst, and heard the swelling orchestral overture that builds to a climax as the little English woman runs over the hill singing “The hills are alive!!!!”… I’ve been hooked.

Then came the children and the stern yet handsome Captain von Trapp, and Edelweiss, and So Long Farewell and Do Re FRIGGIN Mi! I mean, what is not to love!?

I watched it religiously every day from the age of three to about five…(ahem. 25). It was my church, my meditation, my mentor.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised a few key things about the Sound of Music that my toddler-self missed.

For one, I had no idea there were Nazis in it!

To be fair I didn’t know what Nazis were, but I honestly missed that whole section of the movie — either my Mum fast forwarded it or I was too busy humming the Lonely Goatherd to notice. I mean… who knew?

But that’s not all, it also taught me some very important life lessons, like the breathless “weeeeee” feeling you get when you have your first (decent) kiss; what “incorrigible” means; that pink lemonade really does taste “too pink” and that brown paper packages tied up with string almost always contain the most wonderful things.

I also maintain, that due to the sheer amount of scales I sang as a toddler — thanks to my obsession with The Sound of Music — Julie Andrews is solely responsible for teaching me to sing!

So for those of you who haven’t quite made it through the three hour long classic (shame on you!), here are a few life lessons you may have missed...

  1. How not to catch a ball

The moment when Liesl accidentally ends up winding Baroness Schraeder while the von Trapp children are meekly throwing a ball around on their terrace is one of the most iconic comedic moments of The Sound of Music — ok, so it clearly isn’t a film known for its comedy.

Even now when my personal trainer — who is as equally as obsessed with The Sound of Music as I am — brings out the medicine ball, we can’t help but re-enact the scene.

But the truth is, this moment in the film teaches us all a very important life lesson.

No, it’s not to avoid going up against Julie Andrews in a step-mum-off — although I wouldn’t recommend it.

It’s to “give” when catching balls. I promise, this isn’t a euphemism.

I don’t know about you, but when a ball is coming at me thick and fast my initial instinct is to overt the danger by blocking it or going towards it HARD (also not a euphemism), which inevitably leads to me winding myself (like the Baroness), or a severely sore wrist. Still not a euphemism.

So what I learnt from the Baroness, is that when catching a ball you should “give in” to its weight by supporting it (rather than stopping it) at the moment of impact. Following me?

Unfortunately, apart from being well aware of this simple yet effective early life lesson, I still struggle to catch balls. Yep, that one was a euphemism.

2. Guitars are heavy and awkward to carry

When Maria is gallivanting around the streets of Salzburg from Nurnberg Abbey to her new mansion (complete with an angry widower and seven naughty yet misunderstood children), she’s carrying two key pieces of luggage: a very ugly suitcase with presumably no change of shoes or makeup in it — it’s basically the size of a large clutch — and a guitar.

As a kid, I had a violin and every night when I hopped off of the bus at the end of our dirt road I would wink at old Jack the bus driver knowingly before “doing the I have confidence scene,” e.g. pretending to struggle while exiting the bus doors because my wonderfully giant “guitar” case was getting in my way oh so cutely, while singing “I have confidence in MEEEEEE!!!!”

Jack loved it.

Fast forward 20 years and the violin has been replaced with a real guitar and a seriously large travel guitar case, that is heavier than sin.

Needless to say, the novelty has worn off.

Traveling with guitars is quite simply the pits. They are big, bulky, and awkward, you have to pay extra to sit with them on a plane or risk their ruin in excess baggage hell, and when you do take them with you the “damsel in distress” shtick doesn’t work.

It’s every man and woman for themselves in our modern world, and let me tell you one thing, no one finds it cute anymore when you get yourself and your guitar stuck in a bus (or aeroplane) door.

3. Mansplaining boyfriends will end up breaking your heart (and becoming Nazis)

Liesl and Rolfe’s fabulous Sixteen Going on Seventeen scene in The Sound of Music was my first real insight into what love must be like.

The optimist in me always thought that Rolfe would eventually realise his wicked ways, stop being a Nazi, and come back to Liesl so they could live happily ever after, dancing in rotundas together and screaming weeeeeeeee!

WRONG.

Now that I’m a cynical 30-something, what I’ve realised about Sixteen Going on Seventeen is that Rolfe isn’t being romantic at all, he’s actually being a bit of a dick.

He’s only one year older than Liesl and he’s treating her like she’s some idiot child, mansplaining the world to her like he’s got the key to the kingdom, presumably because: a) he’s a big strong man and she’s a delicate flower; b) he’s a whole year older than her (seriously?); and/or c) he’s been hanging out with Adolf. So, not really a catch anyway, it turns out.

Instead of romance and stolen kisses, what I now see in this famous love scene, is a glimpse of the person Rolfe really is, and who he will become — a fascist who doesn’t know how to express his feelings and dumps Liesl without so much as sending her a telegram!

By littering in a few early signs of him being an overbearing mansplainer Rogers and Hammerstein are actually doing all women out there a favour by pointing out a few relationship alarm bells. Like, avoid dating a guy who talks down to you, doesn’t like your family, and, well… is a Nazi.

4. Schnitzel with noodles is AMAZING!

In Australia we have schnitzels with chips, which is a fantastic pub staple. In Austria, Italy, America and (basically) the rest of the world they serve Schnitzel with noodles or spaghetti and parmigiana sauce, here’s a recipe I’ve tried, it’s beyond amazing and you should all try it. That is all.

5. Thinking of your favourite things helps calm anxiety

Thunder and lightning can be scary, life can be scary, people can be scary. So when the world scares you, why not just think about the parts of the world that make you happy.

Simple right?

Sadly, it’s not always that simple, but in the same way that meditation and mindfulness can help calm anxiety, so can refocusing your energy on the things you love and are grateful for.

In his article 10 Things You Can Do This Morning To Heal Your Anxiety, Benjamin Foley discusses the power of focusing on the little things.

“Practicing gratitude daily can reduce anxiety and depression,” he says. “The key is to focus on being aware of the smaller things in life.”

So, when life gives you thunder and lightning, you might want to try singing a few bars of My Favourite Things. And then you won’t (might not) feeeeel sooooo baaaaaad!

6. Sitting on pine cones hurts

Nuf said.

7. If you have confidence the world can be yours

The older I get the more I realise the power of confidence “in confidence in meeeeeee”!

Just think of Donald Trump, or Kanye and Kim! Not that Fräulein Maria would have condoned their behaviour, but even back in pre-war Austria (actually 1960s Hollywood) Maria (actually Rogers and Hammerstein) knew that blind, ignorant confidence was (and still is) the key to world domination.

And while this is pretty scary when it comes to politics, and procreation, in many ways it’s an extremely useful life lesson to learn.

Since hitting my 30s I’ve noticed that my youthful, self-confidence has fizzled. Not to say I’m not confident at all, I’m just more thoughtful about the decisions I make and the things I attempt to do — it took me a year of thinking about this blog before I finally sat down to write it.

This happens when you get older because important life decisions replace youthful ignorance, arrogance, and general flightiness — but sometimes it’s that blind confidence that can lead to moments of greatness.

There’s a reason why many of our most iconic musicians became famous in their early 20s — and many died by the time they reached 27 — because they didn’t worry about making the first big step, the grand gesture, changing their lives to follow their dreams, they just went for it. It might have killed them, but they went for it.

So when Maria sings of having confidence, what she’s really talking about is “faking it till you make it”, shrugging off the imposter syndrome, and using what ever confidence you might have to do something that scares you!

Kate FullerComment