You did it. You won. You're a success. You earned the blue ribbon. You're wearing the championship belt. Be proud of your accomplishments. Yes, I'm talking to you. No- not you, Kanye. I'm talking to you, dear reader.
Think about it. You're alive. You didn't kill anyone. You have a job. You're not on drugs. Wait- you smoked what? Okay, but I mean drugs drugs, like "John Belushi Janis Joplin 'I accidentally just bit my own finger off without feeling any pain'" drugs. And there are people who love you and care about you- and okay, they're kind of a pain-in-the-ass more often than not, but remember that time they helped you move your furniture? They wouldn't have done that for a stranger. And you have a dog or a cat that you treat with kindness and, in return, your pet absolutely loves the s**t out of you.
Congratulations. Without even realizing it, you figured out the secret of life. You're a decent human being. You're not blackmailing your neighbors. You don't run a "post nude pics of your ex-girlfriend" revenge website. You're not a skinhead. Nobody is chained up in your basement... I mean unwillingly. (wink)
The most troubling new social trend, aside from funeral selfies and e-Beer, is Americans' misperception over what it means to feel "empowered." Simply being a productive citizen and doing the right thing is no longer enough. Now, we are on a never-ending quest for validation, demanding that others not only accept- but applaud- our face tattoos and our YouTube confessionals and that we're posing naked on a magazine cover while eight months pregnant. (I still have that issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, by the way.) Because it's "empowering!"
College basketball coach Bobby Knight, famous for throwing a chair at a referee, choking his own player, winning a few games, getting fired from Indiana for being a jerk, addressed a crowd of fans in 1994 with a poem. Knight said, "When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass!" Ah, the classic words of Walt Whitman, I believe.
The crowd roared with approval. But Knight just came off as sad and desperate. His critics? Bobby, when you die, your critics aren't going to care. Your critics have all moved on to other interests. They're not talking about you anymore. They're not thinking about you anymore. Your critics won't... Damn, that was 1994? God I'm getting old.
If you think self-empowerment means sticking your middle finger up at your critics, you're sadly mistaken. When they bury you upside down, your critics aren't going to kiss your butt. Instead, they'll say, "Glad it's him down there and not me." And then they'll go out to dinner and enjoy their salad.
And you don't need validation from your critics. You don't need anything to feel honestly, realistically, emotionally empowered. Just don't commit arson. That is the secret of life. That is the true path to empowerment. To quote Patrick Swayze, in Road House, "Just be nice." (And in fairness, near the end of the film, Swayze had no choice but to rip out the bad dude's throat.)
So congratulations. You did it. Go ahead. Brag. You do your own laundry. You're not on the 'sex offender' registry. Yeah, your life isn't perfect. Maybe you hate being single or you regret not having kids or you always believed you could've been a professional singer but you never took the chance. It's okay. You win some, you lose some. Don't cry over spilt milk. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But you're still ahead of the game. You're doing well. You're winning. You're doing what you're supposed to do, with integrity and competence. And that is real power.
(Note: Personally, I don't regret not having kids... at least any that I know about. Wink.)
This is the last pep talk you'll ever need. Copy and paste this essay onto your memory. Because a year from now when you're feeling down about not getting a raise from your crappy boss who only got the job because his uncle owns the company, or four years from now, when you hear from a friend that your college girlfriend just got engaged and now all the sudden you're having break-up regrets even though, judging from her Facebook posts that you "happen" to check out every so often, she is still kind of annoying... these words will remain the same. You're doing it. You're making it in the world. It's not easy. And you're a good person. That's not easy, either.
Stop trying to empower yourself. You're already empowered. Stop wasting your time trying to prove it to others. Why are you posting bathing suit pics to show up the haters who made fun of your appearance? Don't give up your power to these people. Just ignore them. Stop seeking validation from people who are never going to give it to you. Instead, use your free time to do something enjoyable. The new Planet of the Apes movie looks pretty good. Remember the Mark Wahlberg version? Horrible.
Here's a true story, of which I'll keep short and vaginal. One time, an acquaintance named Linda joined a women's art class. For the final class project, each person in the group painted a picture of her respective vulva. This was supposed to be "empowering." I was invited to the gallery show where the dozen or so close-up vulva pieces were being displayed. Eh, I didn't go. I prefer the neoclassicism period of vulva art. But also... there's nothing empowering about hanging your genitals up on the wall. It's just silly. (And, after only five sessions with my dominatrix, I've learned it's also quite expensive.)
The worst thing about social media- not counting terrorist organizations using it as a recruitment tool or that nobody from high school accepts my friend requests- is that people constantly post "inspirational" messages of empowerment. I mean we get it. You live life the way you want and you don't care what all the haters think about you. But rather than constantly reminding us of this, why not just actually live life the way you want without caring what all the haters think about you. See- if you're telling people you don't care what people think about you, then by definition you do.
Life is not about getting your tweet read aloud on the View or posting your weight-loss photos or showing up your frenemies. None of that stuff is empowering. That's all just bells and whistles.
You're doing well. Respect the life you have lived so far. Things will get better. And even if they don't, well, you're rockin' it with class and honor and you're a productive citizen and that ain't nothing to sneeze at.
Just be a good person. There. Doesn't that make you feel empowered?
Oh, and please share this essay with as many people as you can. I'm trying to hit 1000 "likes."
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