One way to learn how you feel about things is to, well, talk about things. In this convenient way I learned something about myself when visiting my best friend in California last month. And it’s something I’m not particularly proud of. We went to his high school to visit some of his old teachers, and one of them—Mr. Key—stood us in front of his class full of tired seniors and said, “OK class. Ask them questions.”
I spoke mostly about my experience working in the film and TV industry in New York. Something like, “Working on movies and TV shows is pretty cool. You don’t get to do too much hands-on stuff though. Typical interny stuff you always hear about like running errands, making copies, etc.” And later, “It sometimes takes the magic away from things once you really know what goes on behind the scenes.”
But it was only after our impromptu Q&A session concluded that I realized the tone in which I was speaking. I sounded completely and utterly jaded. How, when, and why did this happen?! I don’t even really believe all those things I said!
Why didn’t I tell them I transferred schools to pursue my dream of writing a movie and/or TV show? Why didn’t I tell them there’s nothing like living and working in New York City where I’ve gotten to work in places I saw in all my favorite movies growing up? Why didn’t I tell him about the indescribable moment when I went to the movie theaters and saw my name in the credits for the first time?
I use myself here to preface the main topic of this little post, which was largely inspired by two people with whom I’ve had brief interactions over the past few weeks. The first was an enthusiastic airline attendant on my flight from Oakland to Phoenix. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I know he loves his job. Everyone on the flight knew it. In addition to smiling and interacting with most of the people on the flight, he took seemingly routine tasks like passing out drinks and collecting trash and turned them into games. Instead of just pouring my soda into the little plastic cup, he said, “Watch this,” and proceeded to pour the soda from above his head down into the cup while yelling, “Waterfall!!!!!!!” He smiled, and it made me smile, too.
The next person was just as enthusiastic but in a less conspicuous way. This woman worked in the frozen food section at my local Giant, and she also loves her job. While she didn’t play any fun games (which was most likely for the best considering she works with raw meats and metal monsters that could slice my fingers off as easily as Justin Bieber could date Selena Gomez or any other Disney tween of the like), she smiled, asked me how my day was, and said, “Take care, honey,” as I was walking away. Simple and sweet. And I appreciated this.
The message here is clear: There’s something to be said about taking pride in what you do. No matter what it is. Seeing these people working at jobs that kinda sorta seem to me to be ostensibly sucky ones has led me to suck it up and count all the good I have in what I do. That airline attendant thinks his job is cool, that Giant employee thinks her job is cool, and I’m working on a Ben Stiller movie right now, and that’s also pretty freaking cool.
A friend of mine asked me, “What if the enthusiasm making you think they like their jobs is totally artificial?” In thinking about this question a famous commencement speech delivered by David Foster Wallace came to mind. In it he discusses the struggle of distancing yourself from your inner monologue, or “default setting,” which automatically surrounds hypothetical angry grocery man in blame and negativity. But, as he explains, you also have to consider what could be going on in the life of said grocery store employee or CEO or anyone who happens to rub you the wrong way. Maybe they’re a single parent and working two jobs just to make ends meet, or maybe it’s something even worse. Or, in truth, maybe they’re just a bitch.
In any case, the takeaway here is simple: A simple change in perspective can go a long way. Then things like Oprah owning her own network and the trailer for the new Adam Sandler/Jen Aniston rom-com just may not piss you off as much. In other words, bad can potentially be turned into not so bad, or good, or maybe even really good.
Unless you’re me and no f-ing change in perspective can remedy the terror felt upon realization that Oprah is taking over the world and movies like Just Go With It continue to get made.
COMING UP NEXT: (ON TOPIC) “The Time I Was in a Jennifer Aniston Movie and it Inspired Me to Write a Blog Post About the Current State of Rom-Coms”