Essay: Treading the Untraditional Path

Surprise! Not everyone wants a home with a white picket fence, two-and-a-half kids, and a dog. For those who do, more power to you. You know what you want, and I hope you are well on your way to getting it. For those who don’t, you are not alone. I think of it as “a reaching,” “a stretching,” but “a not quite there yet.” Chasing “a dream,” hoping that “it will all work out in the end” and that the “sacrifice will be worth it.” That your “faith” will “see you through,” and all those things humans say to help ease the uncertainties of life.

The optimistic part of me wants to believe these things, it does. The pessimistic (and probably more realistic) part thinks life might end up being just one big joke, and “the dream” I am working so hard to attain might end up being nothing more than a pipe dream. That girl who auditioned for American Idol because all her life she was told she could sing, and then she gets to the big stage, gives it all she’s got, and makes a complete fool of herself.

downloadOr, more recently, that episode from the Netflix series Black Mirror (season 1, episode 2 called “Fifteen Million Merits”). If you have not yet watched it, spoiler alert! The episode starts off with a guy sleeping in a room, waking each day to the arduous task of working a treadmill. As he works the treadmill, he receives points. At the beginning, we don’t quite yet know what the points are for. He meets someone who catches his eye. She is new to the scene, and gives him hope beyond the hum-drum-dreariness of life. One day, he hears her singing in the bathroom, and encourages her to enter a TV show where she has a chance to become a star and escape the dreariness of her new reality.

1419367850bedroom_still_2_569_0The only problem is that it will cost her 15 000, 000 points that she does not have, the equivalent of 6 months’ work on the treadmill. He has the points, and because he believes in her, “gifts” them to her. She auditions, is told that she is mediocre (which she is), but because she is pretty is offered a job as a porn “star.” While she cannot sing that well, there are other things the male chauvinists on the stage (and the crowd cheering her on in the audience) insist that she can do. She takes the job because, well… what options does she really have? It pays well. And her only alternative is sitting on a treadmill, day in and day out, powering a “machine” that she cannot see and for reasons that she does not know.

The episode was disturbing, to say the least. And it was for many reasons, but it speaks to my point. She really wasn’t that good. She was, in fact, quite mediocre. But she loved to sing, and he loved to hear her sing, so he gifted her in good faith the chance to make something of herself. As a result of his decision, he arguably ruined her life. What are we to make of this?

Life, just one big joke. And she, the butt of it. Of course, we all want to believe we are not that girl. That we are the Kelly Clarksons, Jennifer Hudsons, and Fantasias of the world – true talent and true gift. But we all know at least one person who fits this description. How do we know they are not us?

I suppose the real question is this: If life really is just one big joke, are we prepared to laugh along?

When I think about myself, I almost laugh myself to death. My life has been one big joke. A dance that’s walked. A song that’s spoke. I laugh so hard, I nearly choke. When I think about myself.

Maya Angelou

T. M. G.

Image Credits: