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"It All Comes Down to This" is a Horrible Lie

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American Idol is coming back on the air soon. To be quite honest, I have never seen the show, and I really don't plan on seeing it ever. It is not because of some sort of hipster-like urge to dump on a popular show, not at all. I'm sure it's a mass audience appeasing and entertaining show and it is exciting to cheer on a contestant the same way I cheer for my favorite hockey team. Rather, I don't like A.I. because of a something they and other reality competitions push over and over again, and that is the concept of Finality.

Finality: the condition or fact of being final. It is repeatedly expressed in these shows like American Idol, X-Factor, and Last Comic Standing. It is expressed in the phrase "It all comes down to this" when a contestant is up for elimination or the final decision on who will win is about to happen. It is put in to emphasize to the audience that after this, whoever loses is done forever, whoever wins will go on to fame for eternity.

I know that when phrased in this context, that sounds silly, but why do they bother to say it? In our society, the idea of winners and losers is so ingrained that there is a psychological need to say, "Oh no! '15 year old girl from Kansas whose mom has cancer and her cat only has 3 legs as well' could possibly lose and therefore never be able to break into the music business! I need to vote for this person who I have never met ASAP!"

We have this dramatic idea that if we lose in a competition or at something in life, we are done with that pursuit forever. I am here to say that way of thinking is stupid, and we need to stop perpetuating it in our society.

People are beginning to think that they will become famous or break into an industry by standing in line, and winning a competition. What happened to practicing, calling venues, going up in front of hostile audiences, and getting better at being a performer?

Bands that became huge would play wherever they could. The booing, or low pay didn't keep them from going back up again the next night. It was about doing something they loved, and they were getting better each time they went on stage; honing what it was that they wanted to do. Practicing, and getting thicker skin, helped them to become great musicians, not just overnight sensations who won a reality competition. 

Life is made up of a ton of big opportunities. Some of them may seem like they are going to be the only opportunity that you will ever get, but this is simply untrue. If you try and fail, yet stay in the same field, you will find another opportunity, whether given to you by someone, or you create the opportunity yourself. Television producers will have you think that "It all comes down to this" but it doesn't -- it is only the beginning.

Parse this into relationships. How many of us who fall into the category of divorced or single look back at our past relationships and say "I blew it. I think that person was the one and I blew my chance"? Well let me just say in this rare moment of clarity that this is simply not true. 

Relationships are more than just opportunities. People change, they grow, they learn. Sometimes we aren't ready for a deep relationship or we just don't evolve for the levels of maturity a relationship requires, or our partner isn't ready and they leave or they ask us to leave. Sometimes one party messes up, has a moment of weakness or is just selfish, and ruins the relationship. Whatever the reason, sometimes relationships fail, even the closest ones. This leads us to examine, evaluate ourselves, change and grow for the better hopefully, and put ourselves out there once again, probably after a good amount of change and growth occurs. 

"It all comes down to this" is a terrible way of thinking. No matter what the situation, you will bounce back. Losing a job, blowing an opportunity professionally, hell, even losing a marriage is not the end. It is an opportunity to grow and become better, even great in life. Yes it is scary. But every great thing starts out a little scary. Start 2014 by erasing Finality from your way of thinking, and you will become more hopeful and adventurous, and that is a good thing.