Let Yourself Off The Hook.
I was watching Dave Chappelle’s hilarious stand-up “Equanimity” the other night, and every couple minutes I kept thinking how tired and used he looked. His body looked great for a man his age, but his eyes had a lot of pain in them. I didn’t wonder what he had been through because he already told us. He has told us in interviews and even in his stand-up. What I was wondering about though, was how many stories can we listen to about fame and celebrity and still believe that this is the best route to happiness and a better quality of life? Better yet, how come we all want to “make it” so bad? And why do we feel like shit if we haven’t fulfilled SOMEONE ELSE’S idea of what it looks like to be a successful person?
The second part of Dave’s special came on after, on a smaller stage, his material noticeably darker. He talked about the relationship between a pimp and his bottom bitch. The media and this world is set up to make you believe the way to be happy is to keep consuming and competing. (Why do you think the most popular social site shows us how many likes and followers OTHER people have?) We are taught to work endlessly to become successful so we can have everything we want. Do you ever think about why you want those things? Just like a pimp, they won’t let you think for yourself. They can’t have you realize that you already have everything you need and you can do what you want on your own terms. That’s not beneficial for them. You are programmed to keep wanting more. You never rest, you’re never present, and you are always waiting for the day when you can say you finally made it. Whether that day comes or not, you’ll have wasted over half of your life being unhappy, trying to get there. You have become their bottom bitch.
After I got home from watching the special I felt relieved and light. I realized that what I had been stressing over, the notion of “making it”, wasn’t real and it was the cause of my feelings of inadequacy. I don’t feel that strongly about “making it”. It’s just been forced down my throat every moment of every day, whether it’s the media or others carrying out the message for them. I’m already a successful person. I’m good right now. My decision to work hard and get better doesn’t come from any material or outside influence. I decided to start thinking for myself. I had just “Let myself off the hook.” That phrase kept playing itself over and over again in my head. When I Google’d it, this quote came up:
“What would it feel like to just be okay with being where you are right now while knowing that you’re doing your best and moving forward?”
It would feel fucking good. I put the quote in an IG story and someone responded, “What if it’s not enough?” This may be shocking, but you can actually decide it’s enough while continuing to work toward your goals. Whatever “it” is. The pain and suffering comes from your decision that it’s not enough, that you’re not enough. Deciding that you’re enough doesn’t mean you get to stop trying. It means you get to try in peace.
I want to get better at writing. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with writing. Everything else I’ve said about it just sounds good. It sounds ambitious and worthwhile to strive for success and money, but personal fulfillment, not so much. So we begin to explain our lives and interests in the same way everyone else does. “I’m a writer. Ultimately, I want to write movies.” People are impressed by that without ever reading a word of mine. No one is impressed with “I like writing and I think I’m sort of good at it so I’ve been working on it everyday.” But that’s the truth and when people ask what else, I’m going to tell them that’s it. That’s enough for me. I’m letting myself off the hook.
What if you let yourself off the hook? What if you did the work because you just wanted to? And took your time doing it because no one else is waiting on you to finish? And if they are, that’s their problem, not yours. What if you decided that being able to do the work was enough? How freeing would that be?
Before, I felt like I needed a certain person to read my writing and I needed to do a specific type of work to be seen as successful, or at the very least, I needed to show everyone I was working to make those things happen. Then I became more fixated on HOW to show I was working, than actually doing the work. I felt like creating content about doing the work was valuable. It’s not. I was trying to prove that I knew what I was doing. Not only did I not know what I was doing, I was wasting the time I could be using to learn how to do it.
Since Instagram and the internet showed us that we can pretty much monetize anything, everyone has become a consultant. People tell you that “you should have a Youtube channel, a podcast, you should do stand up, you should charge people for this.” They ask you what you do, what you’ve done and what you’re going to do next. People don’t realize what they’re saying is that what you’re doing now, isn’t enough. If it’s not making money, or if it’s not an opportunity to make money, why are you bothering with it? What if being able to make fun videos on my phone is enjoyable and that’s it? What if I’m finishing a 106 page script just to start over and write it again for practice? Feeling like something is worthwhile because it contributes to your well being seems to be at the bottom of everyone’s priority list. Everyone, including myself, seems more obsessed with doing something for the sake of saying they do it. So now, when someone asks, we’ll already have an answer. You are living a whole entire life, that’s what you’re doing. That’s what you do. That’s enough. If it’s not enough, make sure you know what is enough and why.
Once you decide on your own what your best life looks like to YOU and figure out the healthiest way to work toward that, you’ve let yourself off the hook. When I stopped comparing myself, other people’s work no longer upset me. When I stopped writing so everyone can see how smart I am, I was able to relax and take my time with my work. And once I let go of my attachment to the outcome of a specific work, help and criticism didn’t make me question my abilities. I learned that I can get better in a healthy way. Getting better doesn’t always have to equate to constant struggle and sadness.
You are not sad because you’re not good enough. You’re sad because you haven’t proved to others that you are. Take that power away from them. That’s letting yourself off the hook.